Pet Tales: Foot wax can protect dogs' paws in winter
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I've just about had it with daily snowfall, icy sidewalks and bitterly cold temperatures. Pablo is climbing the walls and I'm getting cranky because for the first 14 days of January we missed our daily walks.
Our 4-year-old cocker spaniel loves snow and cold temperatures, but the sidewalks on our Mt. Lebanon walk route have been a real problem. Many stretches were covered with unshoveled snow and ice. Others were blessedly clear but slathered with various kinds of chemical de-icers, which are not so good for dogs.
Pablo put his front paws on the dining room window sill and watched sadly as tougher, fearless neighbors walked their tail-wagging dogs.
But winter walks are a mixed blessing.
Thanks to the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society for sounding a warning: "Recently we have seen many dogs limping from the lack of proper foot care in these harsh weather conditions."
"People just don't understand what damage salt and cold weather can do to pets," said Marsha Robbins, a dog trainer and "humane educator" at the Humane Society.
"I even saw one owner laughing at his dog who couldn't walk any farther," Ms. Robbins said. "The poor dog had fallen to the ground in pain." The long-haired dog "had rock salt wounds where ingrown hair was packed with snow between his pads. When I explained this to the owner, he felt pretty bad."
At the very least pet owners should keep the hair between the dog's pads clipped short, so that snow and iceballs don't build up, said Lee Nesler, executive director at the Humane Society.
If you've got one of those that hate to have their feet touched, have a professional groomer clip the toenails and trim the foot hair.
After any winter outing, thoroughly wipe the dog's feet, legs and stomach to make sure he or she doesn't lick rock salt or de-icing chemicals, the Humane Society says. There are some "pet-safe" sidewalk de-icers, but others are potentially toxic, and you don't always know what your dog has stepped in.
Northern breeds are not immune to cold weather foot pain, Ms. Nesler said. "Even the huskies and malamutes that run in Alaska use mushers wax or wear boots to protect their feet."
That may be the best tip of all.
It's called Musher's Secret. The manufacturer Web site www.musherssecret.net explains it's an "invisible boot" made from 100 percent natural wax.
Wax applied on paw pads and between dog toes prevents the ravages of ice, snow and salt and prevents the formation of iceballs between the toes.
Musher's Secret gets glowing reviews from customers of two local shops: Larry's Laundromutt & Dog Spa at 201 Ohio River Blvd. in Sewickley and Woody's Dog Wash & Boutique at 5843 Brownsville Road in South Park.
"I've been selling it for two years and using it on my own dogs," said Ann Cipriani of Woody's. That would be beagle-shepherd Daisy, 3, and beagles Sammi, 11, and Jasmine, 6. "I can't tell you how soft their pads are now, and they used to be so cracked."
Jeanie Barrett of Larry's just got Musher's Secret in last month. At a foot clinic last week, groomer Linda Dettlinger clipped toe nails, trimmed foot hair and applied Musher's Secret. The product was quickly sold out, and more was ordered.
Her own dogs use Musher's Secret -- shop namesake Larry, a big black and white mix, and Sam, a Rottweiler mix.
"The wax is white and becomes colorless when it's absorbed into the paws," she said. There's nothing left for the dogs to lick off, and the product is nontoxic anyway, according to the manufacturer.
When dogs trot back into the house, the foot wax does not rub off onto carpets or furniture, Ms. Barrett and Ms. Cipriani say.
Instructions say the wax should be applied once a week. For Ms. Cipriani's dogs, the wax is applied every two weeks. Ms. Barrett applies wax every two or three days because her lucky dogs are walked for at least an hour every day.
The cost is $14.50 for a 60-gram jar.
First Published January 16, 2010 12:00 am