Your Dog's Feet in Winter
This winter, with every state in the Union able to claim snow cover and an estimated 70% of the country receiving snow, chances are you have been able to enjoy some snow hiking with your dog. Many dogs love to romp in the snow. If you expect to do alot of winter hiking consider clipping the hair around your dog's paws and lower legs to ease snow removal and help prevent ice balls from forming. When you venture out take a small plastic fork to help scrape some of those ice balls off your dog's feet during the hike. The really tough ones will need to be addressed when you get home. Use warm water and, if you have to use a hair dryer, keep it on the lowest setting to avoid burning your dog's skin.
The ground doesn't need to be covered with snow for you to pay extra attention to your dog's feet on a winter hike. Dogs can get frostbite on unprotected feet in very cold weather - frostbite can also affect ears and tails. And when it is cold and wet and out always take a moment to dry and clean your dog's paws to help avoid tiny cuts and cracked footpads. The rock salt that is used to melt ice on paved surfaces may also irritate footpads which is another reason to keep your dog's paws clean.
And one last thing - like people, dogs seem to be more susceptible to illnesses in the winter so if you notice any suspicious symptoms with your dog put that big cold-weather hike off for a day or two.