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By Sigrid Olson

Preventing Icy Toe Jam


February 8, 2018

Sigrid Olson, Pathfinder

Equine hooves can collect snow, manure and ice during certain temperatures and snow conditions. Special snow pads, borium, and/or keeping hooves trimmed short and unshod can help with snow buildup.

During extreme conditions, snow and ice can impact the feet and hair of domestic animals and can cause more than discomfort. When the temperature drops and rises and the snow melts and clings, livestock and pet owners troubleshoot icy foot issues.

Cloven hoofed animals like cows, sheep and goats can collect snow, frozen manure pieces and ice in the middle of their hooves. Single-toed hoofed animals like horses and mules can collect snow in and around their frog (on the underneath of their hoof) that builds up and causes stumbling and slipping. Haired paws belonging to dogs and cats can also collect ice and snow on the hair that grows between the pads of their toes.

Prevention against ice balling and snow build up in hooves for cattle and goats includes soft footing under shelters like sawdust or straw that can help the frozen snow plugs fall out.

Some equine owners use special shoes to prevent snow build up during the winters. Pop out bubble pads and borium fit between the horseshoe and hoof, and horseshoes with corks can provide traction and help reduce snow ball buildup.

Some horse owners find keeping shoes off their horses help prevent ice balls. Others use spray or liquid vegetable oil to slick the rim of the hoof surface which can prevent the snow adhering to the hoof.

Ray Woodside of Potomac takes care of his mules' hooves in winter by trimming them short and running them barefoot. For riding stock that need traction during winter, Woodside uses bubble pads and borium. "In this weather they need as much traction as they can get," he said.

In severe cases of snow and ice packing hoofed animal feet, if the animal allows it, the icy jam can be picked out with a standard hoof pick or small screwdriver.

Sigrid Olson, Pathfinder

Cattle and equine owners should also watch for moisture collecting along spines which can create rain rot on hairy backs. Some equines' backs create a small valley between the muscle, leaving a perfect place for moisture to collect and create fungal and epidermal issues. Prevention includes providing a dry place for the animal and grooming the hair so it fluffs up to insulate the animal's back during weather.

Dog and cat owners take certain precautions as well to protect paws. Trimming paw hair on dogs helps prevent snow from making uncomfortable ice balls. Cats may benefit from shoveled trails so snow fluffs don't collect and freeze on their paws and bellies.

Potomac resident Penny Kukuk raises working Kelpie dogs. She said the most effective things a dog owner can do is to keep the hair trimmed in-between the dog pads and to keep their nails trimmed.

"In the winter, dog nails do not wear down like they do in the summer," said Kukuk.

Trimming nails regularly throughout the winter keeps dog feet at the correct angle, like with hoof trimming. According to Kukuk, dewclaws may also become ingrown if not trimmed and can put the toes out of alignment, causing arthritic conditions and lameness.

Products include pad thickening and toughening and cold protection. These are available with dog mushing supplies. Special dog booties protect dog pads from ice buildup in between toes.

On furry and icy feet, bare hands and blankets can melt out ice on the foot hair as well as snuggling up to a warm fire.

For more information on winter animal foot care contact your local veterinarian.


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