It's unseasonably warm in Chicago right now (a balmy 45 degrees), but theoretically, 'tis the season for snow and ice. And since we as a species unfortunately do not hibernate until mid-May, we're going to be encountering some salt.
Salt has been, you know, kind of important in history. With food preservation possible, one's diet didn't depend on what was available that season. Roman soldiers may have been received part of they pay as salt, which is where the word "salary" comes from. You can be "the salt of the earth" or "worth your salt."
You know all those town in England that end in "wich"? They're associated with brine wells. Just think, without salt, you might be eating a sandhill for lunch instead of a sandwich.
When it comes to walking your dog, though, you're probably not thinking about any of that. (Except maybe the sandwich part.)
The kind of salt used on sidewalks and roads is laden with chemicals that are brutal to your skin and your dog's feet, and if you live in a region with seasons, it's pretty much unavoidable. Maybe I worry too much, but what can I do if Prada's foot starts cracking and bleeding? Getting around on three legs isn't a problem, but if she's down to two...
Well, I recently learned that sidewalk salt can be roughly divided into two categories: the rocky kind, and the beady kind. The rocky kind has lots of chemicals and can hurt your dog's feet. The beady kind is way, way worse. If you look down the sidewalk and the entire block has beady salt, you might want to consider crossing the street.
I have written about my thoughts on dog boots--a good idea for athletic dogs who tend to get snow balled painfully in between their paw pads, but dogs don't tend to be a fan. Prada wouldn't move in them at all. Paw wax is one option, to give a thin layer of protection, and I've discovered there is such a thing as paw balm, for soothing already irritated pads. (All natural ingredients are non-toxic, so if your dog licks at it, no big.) You can also use a damp washcloth the wipe off the worst of the salt and chemicals. I've also heard good reviews about this product for messier paws, though I haven't tried it myself.
This isn't exactly a life-or-death situation--dogs' paws are made to handle all kinds of terrain, after all--but it's a good idea to be aware of the environment, and pay attention that their feet aren't getting too abused over the winter months.
Trapper's story is a very sad one. He was found with his leg caught in an animal trap, and the first shelter he was brought to, where he spent a week, wasn't able to give him proper vet care. He developed tetanus, and still needed a proper amputation. He has since had that surgery. His leg has now been entirely removed--no stump for an athletic dog to beat up, and no more tetanus, either. With lots of care and love, he is finally ready to be adopted. Even if you can't consider that, you might consider donating a small amount to help cover his medical bills. This happy, loving guy is lucky to have a second chance, and with our help, he'll hopefully find his happily ever after.