You may have wondered whether your dog needs boots to protect her feet from the cold and ice. Really, it depends on the individual dog's cold tolerance as well as her breed and how long she will be outside. My own dog has sensitive paws, and he tends to lift them up once it dips below 10 degrees Fahrenheit or so. On the other hand, some dogs act like they don't even notice the cold on their feet.
So how do you know when your dog might need some extra paw protection?
Protection from ice and snow
While I worked as a professional dog runner in Fargo, N.D., I noticed the majority of my dog clients didn't need boots for cold protection as long as we kept moving at a quick pace. This was true even in brutal temperatures below zero.
However, when the temperature was closer to 30 degrees, the long-haired dogs would get clumps of wet snow stuck between their toes as it clung to their fur. This was very annoying to them, but it could also become painful if I didn't stop to clear their paws before the packed snow turned to ice. For those dogs, boots were sometimes necessary.
I asked a couple of experts for their thoughts on when dogs should wear boots in the cold, and they agreed that melting snow can be an issue.
Snow can become more of a problem in warmer temps vs. colder temps, according to Dr. Cathy Alinovi, a veterinarian with Hoofstock Veterinary Service in Pine Village, Ind.
"When temperatures are 20 and below, the snow is cold and going to stay cold so the dogs don't have as much discomfort," she said. However, if the dogs stand in one place, the snow will start to melt and could become uncomfortable if it sticks to their paws.
I thought of my own dog and how he will lift his paws in the cold if he's waiting outside by the door.
Dr. Amber Andersen, a certified veterinary journalist, believes most dogs will be OK without boots except under specific conditions. Those conditions could include walking in extreme heat when hot pavement could burn a dog's paws or in extreme cold when paw pads could become frostbitten in sub-zero temps.
Protection from chemicals
Even if the cold is not too extreme, dog boots will offer your dog protection from de-icing products.
Sometimes people use salt to melt the ice and snow from sidewalks, but salt is not healthy for dogs to walk on, according to Alinovi.
"It becomes stuck to their feet, and then they lick it off," she said. "Some of those products can be dangerous, especially to older dogs with kidney issues."
She also said people will sometimes use poisonous antifreeze to melt the ice.
"By using boots, your dog doesn't have to walk in those dangerous substances," she said.
Thankfully, some of the more modern snow melting products are made with the safety of pets in mind and Alinovi hopes more people will choose to use them.
Dog boots from dogIDs
There are several types of dog boots available through the dogIDs web site. The cold weather dog boots (pictured top) are perfect for dogs who need protection from the cold or from the melting snow. These boots are water resistant so the dog's paws will stay safe and warm. A lot of dogs don't like to have anything over their paws, but these boots are lightweight and easier for dogs to get used to.
My own dog loves to play fetch, but when he stops too quickly on rough ice or snow, he will scuff up his paws enough to make them bleed. Of course, he doesn't even notice until we head inside, but then the poor guy has sore paws. For him, a good option would be the rugged dog boots (pictured right). These are designed to stay on when a dog is running on rough surfaces, and they offer protection from the elements no matter how severe the terrain is.
Finally, if your older dog needs some extra traction control, there are dog boots that stay on for that purpose as well. I could've really used these when I was fostering a 12-year-old black Lab.
Of course, whenever you introduce your dog to wearing boots, you should do so gradually and use lots of positive reinforcement. It usually takes a dog some time to get used to having something on his feet.
What about the rest of you? Does your dog wear boots in the winter?