the city dog
Winter safeguards for city dogs (c) 2009-2018 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights
New York City winters can be serious; all that ice, snow and blustery weather, keeping
streets and sidewalks clear and safe to navigate takes some heavy duty doing. That
means tons of salt, sand and chemical deicers which can harm and irritate paw pads and
can be dangerous if ingested. Keeping warm indoors means dry heated air which can
create dry skin in both human and canine. Here are some tips to help you and your dog
make it through to spring:
- Chemical deicers are mostly chloride salts which may contain magnesium,
potassium, calcium or sodium. These salts are engineered to melt ice and snow as
quickly as possible and are frequently heavily applied to city sidewalks. Contact
with these caustic chemicals may be a source of great discomfort for most dogs
and can make winter walks truly uncomfortable for both you and your dog. (The
uses of these chemicals are also problematic for urban birds, squirrels, feral cats,
groundwater and storm runoff.)
Your dog may express overt discomfort on contact with salt and deicers. For
example, my dog, Daisy, will stop, whimper, hold up an affected paw and then
proceed to attempt to lick off the offending material. Or your dog may appear
more reluctant to take walks and more eager to return. If at all possible, chemical
deicers should be avoided. (Bathing your dog’s feet in a bowl of warm water on
return home is always a good idea, no matter what the weather.)
- Booties are one way to protect the feet of your dog. When shopping for booties
make sure to purchase a set which have actually been designed to fit dog paws
appropriately. If your dog refuses to wear them or balks at the sight, think either
novelty or fit. And while you can get your dog used to the idea of wearing booties
(offer treats before, during and after trying on and wearing), you surely do not
want to get your dog to accept wearing shoes that hurt. A popular brand of doggie
galoshes are rubber booties that resemble balloons. Disposable, reusable and
affordable, these paw coverings do work but must be put on carefully to avoid
catching a dog’s sensitive dewclaw. Again, practice beforehand with feeding
treats at the same time to create positive associations with winter footwear.
Removing them without the elastic snapping your dog’s paw in the process also
takes some focus. If you do use booties for your pet, remember to rinse them off
- Caught in the latest snow storm without paw protectors? Carry one moist
washcloth in a plastic bag and another dry one in a separate bag. If your dog
reacts to deicers you can remove them on the spot. Make sure to wipe and dry as
thoroughly as possible.
- An emollient protectant that is applied directly to your dog’s paw pads is another
product that promises to protect from winter sidewalks as well as hot asphalt in
the summer. While this may be effective against the driven snow, chemical
deicers seem to penetrate despite the product’s claims. Advantages to using this
type of product are in the ease of use and the added benefit of conditioning paw
pads along with protecting them.
- Leaving your dog tied outside while you run an errand inside is never a good idea
in any kind of weather, and now it can be illegal. The City Council passed a law
last month banning owners from tethering dogs wearing choke or pinch collars.
The law also prohibits leaving a dog without food, water or shelter for more than
15 minutes while tied up.
- When it comes to coats, it comes down to what your dog is already wearing and
what type of breed you have. When purchasing a dog coat look for something that
will also protect your dog’s underside, the part most exposed to the sidewalk. Also,
try and get something fitted for a dog and not a human; better dog coats are
modeled more along the lines of a horse blanket and not a parka.
Puppies typically have less body fat than adults so they would most always
benefit from a coat. Huskies, Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain Dogs, etc., are
probably not going to appreciate any extra clothing in this weather, but most
other breeds might. Also, if your dog sports a show cut such as a cocker spaniel’s
where most of the dog’s upper coat has been shaved off, you definitely want to go
for the dog coat.
- Indoors, the dry heated air found in most NYC apartments affects both you and
your pet. Try and pay extra attention to grooming your dog in the winter season.
Brushing your dog can distribute oils throughout the coat and benefit the skin by
stimulating blood flow. Brushing also controls matting, which can be a source of
harmful bacteria. Remember, your dog only needs to be bathed once a month.
And you can use conditioner after you shampoo your dog(and which reduces
static electricity) as long as you rinse extra thoroughly.
Copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
"Booties are one way to protect the
feet of your dog. When shopping for
booties make sure to purchase a set
which have actually been designed to
fit dog paws appropriately. If your
dog refuses to wear them or balks at
the sight, think either novelty or fit.
And while you can get your dog used
to the idea of wearing booties (offer
treats before, during and after trying
on and wearing), you surely do not
want to get your dog to accept
wearing shoes that hurt."
copyright Frania Shelley-Grielen
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