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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bloody Footprints

It seems to happen every year around this time.  The snow gets crusty.  You break through a sharp skin of ice with every step you take across the yard or field  It's awkward, but at least it doesn't hurt your feet because you're wearing boots.  Your dog, on the other hand, is running barefoot across the same icy snow. His toenails dig into the glass-like surface, and every so often his feet break through too.  When he returns the ball you threw for him, you notice that his footprints are bloody.  Like you, your dog needs boots if he's to negotiate this snow and ice without injuring his feet.

This past week, both Angus and Lizzie have left bloody footprints atop the crusted snow in our yard.  The bloodiness is at the base of several of their toenails, front and back.  When they run to chase a thrown ball, they put everything they have into it, digging into the icy shards with their nails and abrading  the tender cuticles raw.  They don't even notice any discomfort till they get inside.  That's when they start licking the sore toes.  If left unchecked, the licking is enough to further aggravate the situation and lead to even larger sores.  These, in turn, can take forever to heal because of the constant irritation and wetness caused by licking.  It's a vicious cycle that need never start if we take proper precautions to begin with.

That means boots.  You wear them.  If your dog is primarily an indoor dweller like you, he should probably wear them too.

Dog boots are easy to find on the internet these days.  Just Google the subject and you'll find dozens of links to various dog boot manufacturers.  To find the boots best for your dog's breed and activity level, you can consult a vet or a doggy day care provider.  (Many doggy daycares now put disposable boots on their canine clients' paws to protect them from the rigors of all-day dog play with their chums.)

Don't expect your dog to love his boots the first time you put them on him.  He'll high-step like a cartoon dog whose feet are stuck to flypaper.  He may even try to chew them off.  But keep him diverted, get him interested in something else, and within minutes your dog will be running and playing, oblivious to the foreign objects on his feet.

The boots need not stay on all day if your dog spends most of his time indoors with you.  But do boot him up if you're planning an extended romp in the snow and on the ice.  Besides protecting his feet from ice cuts, the boots will also be barriers between his feet and salty snow-melt chemicals  on the sidewalks and roads.

If your dog does experience some cutting/ abrading, and other minor injuries from walking barefoot in the snow and ice,  get him back inside and use a warm water rinse or soak to clean the bloody areas.  Next, pat dry and apply a small amount of triple antibiotic or Panalog ointment to the affected areas.  Then let your dog rest somewhere in the house, within sight of you.  If he should start to lick his paws. try putting socks over the sore paws--or boots, if you have them--and help him forget about his feet by giving him a loaded Kong or other goodie to occupy his mind.

Meanwhile look for ice-clear areas where you can walk or play with your dog.  Contain your fetching games to parks free of snow, or to large indoor areas open for dog play.  And of course, Doggy Day Care is a great boredom reliever this time of year, when weather keeps us dogwalkers inside.

If your dog has boots, on the other hand, neither of you has an excuse to not enjoy the late-winter weather.  Just ask your dog, and he'll tell you how much fun you both can have with a rousing game of fetch off the icy snowbanks!


Virginia said...

In Alaska in the winter (which lasts about 6 months or more in many areas) dog boots are sold at the grocery stores and Walmart.

They are considered standard fare for shoppers, just like selling heavy duty socks to humans are during that time.

Mommy Holiday said...

We love our boots like this. We got the hard soled ones. I got the booties and a dog coat ans my pity gets so excited he looks like super dog. Its quite funny. But it keeps him from tearing his paws up. My pit is a good boy so he will let us put them on. My lab he's not down with the booties.