Pet Tales: A brief 'paws' for winter walking tips
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When the weather outside is frightful, a dog walk is not delightful.
I view single-digit "real feel" temperatures as the perfect excuse for staying indoors. Pablo, our cocker spaniel, would disagree. He loves walks, snow and cold weather, and is clearly bored and unhappy when walks are canceled.
The veterinarians at Purdue University are on Pablo's side.
"Winter weather is no excuse to avoid outdoor exercise with your dog," says Sandy Amass, professor and associate dean in the School of Veterinary Medicine. "The obesity epidemic has an impact on humans and also our canine friends."
She has tips for winter walking:
• Dogs develop a thicker coat over time as they are exposed to cold weather, but short-haired dogs might need a coat or sweater.
• Dogs need extra water in winter. They can lose water when they pant during exercise, and cold air has very little moisture.
• Chemicals that de-ice sidewalks can burn or irritate dogs' paw pads. Wipe paws with room-temperature water after a walk or use dog boots. Good luck with the boots. Most dogs don't like them, and it's difficult to find boots that fit and stay in place.
Here's something better: Musher's Secret. The manufacturer's website, www.musherssecret.net, says the product is an "invisible boot" made from natural wax. I discovered it last year when it was recommended by Ann Cipriani of Woody's Dog Wash & Pet Boutique in South Park and Jeanie Barrett of Larry's Laundromutt & Dog Spa in Sewickley.
Developed in Canada for sled-pulling dogs, Musher's Secret creates a "breathable bond" that protects paw pads from snow, salt and chemicals. In the summertime, it protect paws on hot sidewalks and sandy beaches.
This stuff is amazing. The white wax becomes colorless as soon as you rub it in. Pablo sits on our taupe-colored leather sofa as I apply the wax. When he jumps off the sofa and walks across the hardwood floor, there are no greasy footprints and no stains.
Rub wax directly on pads, between toes and in those crevices between the pads. Pablo has never had sore or cracked pads from winter walks, but snow forms iceballs between his toes and pads, and that makes walking difficult and painful. The wax prevents iceballs and lasts for at least several walks.
I was dipping my fingers into the wax and rubbing it onto Pablo's paws and pads. Ann has a quicker and better application tip: press the dog's entire foot onto the wax and move the paw around. Use your fingers, if necessary, to even out the wax or remove any excess.
You'll notice it makes your own hands feel good. Mrs. Cipriani said her customers recommend it for human feet, especially dry heels.
Wow! Pittsburgh dog-lovers really are special. More than 100 have applied to participate in "Foster a Lonely Pet for the Holidays."
The Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania put out the appeal earlier this month. Workers at the Larimer shelter asked people to make 12 days of the Christmas season merry by giving shelter dogs temporary homes from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2.
Six dogs have already moved into foster homes provided by people who just couldn't wait, said Cleda Klingensmith, who is working 10-hour days coordinating the program. And, several people who were thinking about fostering decided, instead, to adopt dogs.
Petfinder.com is spearheading the holiday foster program. Nationally, more than 1,600 shelters and rescue groups are participating. Information: www.animalrescue.org or 412-661-6452.
At Animal Friends, more than 150 dogs, cats and rabbits have been adopted since the day after Thanksgiving. They are the beneficiaries of a unique holiday campaign called "Recycled Pets Are Priceless." The special deal is in effect through New Year's Eve: There are no adoption fees for animals 2 years old and older.
There is always great joy when any animal leaves a shelter. Animal Friends is especially anxious to empty cages because staff and volunteers are gearing up for the annual New Year's rescue, when dogs and cats scheduled for euthanasia are rescued from shelters and animal control facilities that cannot keep them any longer.
The Ohio Township shelter also has a gift shop filled with toys and treats for good little dogs and cats. Information: www.ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org or 412-847-7000.
First Published December 18, 2010 12:00 am