There are a few camps: the people who believe dogs never need boots, the people who believe dogs always need boots when temps fall, and the people who believe the need for boots depends on the circumstances.
Guess what? Camp three has it right.
To assess whether or not your dog needs boots to stay safe on those less-than-toasty walks, ask yourself these questions:
1. Is melting snow a problem for my dog?
Your main objective with dog boots should be protection. But protection from what?
There are multiple potential hazards for dog feet lurking in the cold weather, so you’ll want to clarify whether or not those hazards require a boot for protection. One such hazard: Melting snow.
Long-haired dogs may get chunks of snow stuck between their toes when temperatures are just below or just above freezing. That snow can turn to ice if you aren’t able to clear the paws quickly enough, which means it can become painful. If you have a long-haired dog and notice snow in the paws, make a mental note – boots are required.
Similarly, in colder temps and a snow covering, dogs shouldn’t stand still for too long, as snow can melt with their heat and then stick, causing discomfort.
2. How cold is it, really?
In sub-zero temperatures, when dogs may actually get frostbite on their pads simply from road or sidewalk contact, boots are required.
3. Does my town use salt on the road or in areas we’ll be walking?
Salt is a great de-icer, but not such a great substance to introduce to a dog’s paws. If it sticks to their feet and they lick it off, that can create both external and internal danger.
Some salt products can be dangerous for dogs with kidney issues, and any dog should be monitored when walking on salty sidewalks.
Are boots required? The jury is out. Too much salt isn’t good for their feet or internal organs, and some of it has harsh chemicals that will cause discomfort. If your answer to this question is yes, your town uses salt, but you truly feel like you can monitor your pup for licking adequately, you might opt to leave the boots behind. Still, we’re fans of “better safe than sorry.”
4. Is there a chance my dog will encounter anti-freeze?
If you’re someone who walks your dog in the mountains of Alaska or the woods of Vermont, you probably don’t need to worry about boots for anti-freeze protection.
But anti-freeze substances are a serious issue in most towns and cities. If the answer to this questions is a definite yes, boots are required. The good news: more and more, de-icer manufacturers are considering pet safety as they formulate their products.
5. What kind of activity is your dog going to engage in?
A quick trip to the bathroom or a short jaunt to work out energy might not require boots. But a long game of fetch, wherein your dog comes to a nearly screeching halt on ice, runs, and repeats, probably requires some boot protection to avoid serious pad wear and tear.
Assessing the type of activity and the length of time outdoors can help determine not only if a boot is needed, but which type. A dog just going out for a pee in the parking lot might need some anti-freeze protecting light boots. A dog who’s playing for hours will probably need rugged boots –and a coat, maybe, too.
How do you protect your dog from the elements? Check out our skin and coat products here.