Have a paw-some winter with these vet-approved tips and tricks.
Jack Russell Terrier on walk with owner; how to protect dog paws from snow, ice, salt
Credit: Eva Blanco / Shutterstock

Winter has officially arrived—which means so have the chilly and slippery elements that come along with it. With things like snow, ice, and salt in full swing, it's important to know how to protect your dog's paws in the winter to keep those brisk winter walks safe and fun for all. Here are seven tips from a vet that will keep winter walks fun—and safe—for both of you.

1. Booties

Dog booties aren't just stylish—they also help keep paws safe. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, says cement and asphalt can be rough on the paws any time of year, however, it's especially important to keep paws protected in the winter from snow, ice, and salt that can irritate paws. Ice getting stuck in your pooch's paw has the potential to cut and cause abrasions, and salt can cause dry and cracked paws. Pendergrass says boots are probably the best option when it comes to avoiding issues like these this winter. 

"Even though it can look a little pretentious and froufrou to put essentially the equivalent of mittens on your dog's paws, they're actually very important to ensure that a dog's paws stay protected from injury and extreme cold temperature in the winter," Pendergrass says. 

2. Paw Balm

Another way to keep your dog's paws protected this winter is by using paw balm or petroleum jelly on their paw pads. Paw balm not only provides moisture and relief from irritated paws but can also provide an extra layer of protection if your pup doesn't have boots. 

Pendergrass advises that if you live somewhere with mild winters, paw balm or petroleum jelly alone might be enough to protect paws. However, if you live somewhere that gets a lot of snow and ice, boots are probably your best bet to keep paws fully protected. Even if your dog rocks booties all winter long, paw balm is still a great way to keep paws moisturized and avoid discomfort from cracks and dryness. 

3. Pet-Safe Ice Melt 

Ice melts are a convenient way to make your driveway slip-free fast—however, store-bought ice melts can have adverse effects on our pups. Skin irritation along with digestive issues if ingested can be a real danger to dogs. However, if an ice melt is a necessity, it's super easy to make your own pet-safe ice melt (you only need three ingredients!) that will keep you and your furry friend safe. 

4. Keep Walks Short

Even if your dog is pretty tolerant to the frigid weather, in many winter situations it might be best to keep walks brief. Keeping your walk short will allow for less ice, snow, and salt to build up on your dog's paws, and also allow your pup to stay safe in dangerously low temperatures

Pendergrass says dogs, especially smaller breeds, lose body heat quickly—so bundling up and keeping walks quick can help them stay safe and warm and avoid dangerous conditions like hypothermia

"If it's super cold outside, if you think about yourself, you don't wanna be outside for a long time if it's super cold, well your dog probably doesn't want to either," Pendergrass says. 

5. Clean Paws Immediately After Walks

Wiping down your dog's paws right after walking ensures you get out any snow, ice, or salt that could cause irritation. To clean off ice and snow, simply wipe off your dog's paws with a towel, and make sure to do a more thorough cleaning if your pup trudged through ice melt to ensure all potential toxins are removed. A warm bath focused on the paws or a paw washer can help remove any dangerous chemicals that might be on your dog's paws post-winter walk. 

6. Keep Paws Well Groomed 

Regular grooming is always important—and regular grooming of the paws is especially crucial during the winter months. Trimming paw hair allows for less snow and ice to accumulate on your dog's fur, making them more protected from the winter elements, not to mention making your life easier by not having to scrub chunks of ice and snow out of their fur.

7. Clear a Path for Potty Breaks

When it's time for your dog's nightly potty break—shoveling out a path and yard space for them to do their business can help protect their paws from snow buildup. If the path is slick, use a pet-safe ice melt to keep everybody safe. 

Pendergrass says it's always best to consult your pet's veterinarian for personalized recommendations on how to protect your dog's paws in the winter—especially if your pup has any health conditions like arthritis that might make winter walks painful or tricky.