A big snowfall is a dog's paradise — all that bounding, leaping, rolling in all the fresh new white stuff. It also mean streets and sidewalks get a blast of industrial-grade salt, which can be hell on a dog's paws.
While all that salt is vital for keeping cars and boots safely on the ground, it can be the bane of a winter dog's existence.
The rough, sharp shards and cubes called rock salt are often mingled with various snow-melting chemicals.
"Most ice-melt products are a skin irritant," Erika Loftin, a veterinarian and critical care specialist at DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, tells The Dodo. "Depending on the materials used, the chemicals can cause dryness, cracking and even burns to a dog's pads."
Here's how to make your own paw balm to help heal and protect your dog's pads:
Even more dangerous than eroding those tender paws, road salt can be inadvertently swallowed by dogs.
"If a dog licks their paws after walking on it, they can ingest the ice-melt chemicals, which can be toxic," Loftin notes.
Symptoms of salt poisoning, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), include "drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, [and] loss of appetite" in severe cases, leading to seizures, coma and even death — which is why Loftin strongly encourages dog owners to clean paws thoroughly after coming in from a wintry romp.
Warm salty water will do the trick. And, if those paws aren't so salty, a wet towel works.
As with just about anything in life, prevention works wonders.
Think dog boots. Snow shoes. Whatever puts a layer between paws and salt-strewn pavement.
Bonus: It's a great look for any dog.
But if your dog is showing signs of sickness or her paws look bad, call your vet.
"It is important to call your regular veterinarian for advice or visit them for treatment, especially if your dog has any burns, cracks or open wounds," Loftin says.