Do Dogs Need Boots in the Snow?

little dog with snow boots

Searches for ‘dog boots’ have increased by 182% in the past 24 hours, as the UK braces for a wave of plunging temperatures and a barrage of snow. But do dogs need paw protection in the snow?

Dog owners may be wondering whether their dog needs boots to protect their paws from snow and ice, as well as other hazards such as road salt during the chiller winter months.

Head Vet at Sean McCormack is advising dog owners to use alternative methods of protecting their pet’s paw pads, as this trending product can cause discomfort.

Are Dog Boots Safe For My Dog?

In general, dog snow boots are safe for your dog to wear. However, they can be very uncomfortable for your dog. In fact, most dogs do not require any form of footwear, they will simply try to take their boots off.

Sean McCormack explains why: “Generally, dog boots will not cause your dog any pain, however, they might feel uncomfortable, which is why I advise against purchasing them. Dogs find it extremely difficult to adapt to wearing boots, as they make their paws heavier and restrict movement.”

One of the most common problems with dog boots, is that pet parents find it difficult to recognise when they don’t fit their dog correctly. This can cause a lot of discomfort for your pet and make walking very challenging for them.

If your vet recommends for your dog to wear dog boots in the snow, then it will take time for them to get used to them. Follow this process:

  1. Make sure the dog boots fit correctly. If they fall off when your dog moves or your dog is limping they are not fitted correctly.
  2. Build up the amount of time your dog wears the boots. Start at 5 minutes and gradually increase the amount of time they are wearing them.
  3. Only use them when your dog needs them. Often this is only for their regular walks, so for smaller dogs 30 minutes a day.

Remember that dog paws are not designed for footwear so speak to your vet if in doubt.

husky puppy in the snow with owner

The Science Behind Dog Paws

A dog’s paw pads are tough enough to withstand the snow, ice and frozen ground. They have adapted to the cold and are designed to survive the outside. Body temperature plays a big part in this, as the pads draw warm blood to the skin to keep them warm. The tissue on a dog’s paw pad is built to protect them from temperatures as low as -35 degrees.

Read More: Signs of Cold in Dogs & How to Keep Your Dog Warm in Winter

Sean expands on this and why dog boots may cause additional problems: “The tissue on the dog’s paw is the toughest skin on the entire body and the gripping texture allows them to maintain traction and balance. When boots are worn, dogs lose grip and the surface becomes slippy, making it harder to walk for your pup – it’s a similar experience when a human wears socks on a slippery floor.”

“But while paw pads are tough, they’re not indestructible. When walking in winter dogs are more susceptible to cuts and cracks on their feed, which is why dog owners need to be most cautious. If your dog keeps picking up their paws when walking, or if they are excessively licking their pads then this could be a telltale sign that your dog’s paws are sore.”

Alternatives To Dog Boots

We recommend two alternatives to dog boots for the snow, paw balm and good grooming!

Paw Balm

Paw balm or petroleum jelly-based products can help to keep your dog’s paws safe in winter. Before you head out on a walk, coat the balm on your dog’s paws to create a barrier that will help to prevent snow, ice and other road chemicals from getting in their paw cracks.

Sean notes the effectiveness of paw balm: “This will help to keep their pads hydrated, which is particularly important during winter when the air becomes dry. When you return from your walk, wipe it off!”


Grooming plays a huge role in protecting your pup’s paws during the colder period. Trimming the long hairs on your dog’s paws will make it harder for ice, snow and de-icing products to cling and dry on their skin causing irritation. Be extra careful when trimming these areas, or take your pet to a professional grooming service.

Risks to Dogs During Winter

When walking during winter, dogs are exposed to road salt, which can be extremely dangerous, as it can irritate the skin, causing dryness, cracking and even burns to the pads. Even more dangerous for dogs, if they lick it from their paws or fur, they can ingest the chemicals, which can be toxic. These harmful products sit on their fur and paws, so it’s important that when you return from walking your dog that you clean their paw pads to remove any chemicals.

Many car owners will use antifreeze to clear the ice from their vehicles. As the ice melts from your car, the antifreeze will mix with the water, which can be harmful if your dog likes to drink from puddles. The dangerous chemical in antifreeze is ethylene glycol, which has a sweet taste that dogs enjoy.

Sean explains the problems antifreeze can cause in dogs: “Antifreeze can cause damage to your dog’s kidneys, even after a small amount has been ingested. So it’s important that if you see any liquids leaking from your car, keep your dog away and clean them up straight away.”

Frostbite and hypothermia are risks dogs face when the temperature drops. When it’s cold outside, avoid taking your long winter walks, break these down into short walks more frequently, as exposing your dog to cold temperatures for a long period can be dangerous.