With an extended cold wave across the Northeast and other parts of the country, dogs have their own particular challenges when going outside. A recent New York Times article on the subject called “Don’t Make Me Go Out There” with some fun photos – described how city dogs have the added burden of dealing with the ice-melting substances sprinkled on sidewalks. When it’s really cold underfoot, you’ll see even country dogs hold up their paws after only a few minutes outside because the frozen ground is that painful. Beyond that, de-icers pose a health challenge to city-dwelling dogs.
De-Icing Materials Can Hurt
Some big buildings use chemical de-icers on their front pavement, substances which are good at removing the ice (and the possibility of a lawsuit from pedestrians who might otherwise slip and fall), however they are not pet-friendly. Many of them contain ethylene glycol – the antifreeze liquid, which is known to be fatal to dogs who lick it up. Some urban buildings use rock salt, which has rough edges that can cut a dog’s paws and also cause a burning sensation. In both cases, contact with your dog’s paws is painful – and then if she licks her paws back at home, she can get sick from swallowing either one.
Blue Pellets Are the Dog Safe Ice-Melter
If you’re able to see the residue of any ice-melting substances on the melted sidewalk, look for salt that has a bluish tint. This paw-safe de-icing substance is one of the ways to de-ice the sidewalk, while keeping dogs safe. If you live in an apartment building, try to convince the powers-that-be to switch to this dog-friendly product, which usually contains propylene glycol, (rather than the potentially deadly ethylene glycol). It can be costlier than the other chemicals de-icers but your dog (and those in the neighborhood) will thank you for lobbying for it!
Remedies for City Walking
- Get your dog to wear booties, if you can – ones that have a rubber tread on the bottom so they give her some traction. Try the boots indoors at first since most dogs have a hard time accepting boots. Use positive reinforcement and encourage your dog to walk without looking down at her feet. Get her used to the boots by giving lots of top notch treats while she’s wearing them.
- Before you go out, spread a generous layer of a thick cream called Musher’s Secret all over the underside of your dog’s paws. This will form a protective layer. Petroleum jelly can also work but not as effectively.
- As soon as you come back indoors, wipe your dog’s feet and chest and belly area with a warm, wet towel.
- You can also use a deep bowl and fill it halfway with warm water and dip your dog’s paws in one at a time, to rinse them off – then towel dry.
- Check the paw pads for any cuts or reddened areas.
Tracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.
Tracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.
Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.