Vail Pet Talk column: Keep an eye out for snowballs between pads, ACL injuries and overexposure |

Vail Pet Talk column: Keep an eye out for snowballs between pads, ACL injuries and overexposure

Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM
Pet Talk
Special to the Daily
Getty Images |

Winter is here, and as the temperatures drop, snow falls and weather gets worse, we begin to see an increase in the number of weather-related pet emergencies. Common winter maladies in pets include orthopedic injuries, lacerations and frozen extremities, as well as soft-tissue injuries secondary to trauma from ice and snow.

Paw Snowballs

Riva, a golden-doodle, recently came into the office with the complaint of limping after a long snowshoe. At first, we thought the worst, and then upon examination, Riva had developed large “snowballs” between her pads, a common problem in the wintertime.

Through careful trimming and fitting with protective snow boots, Riva was on her way to happier trails and, luckily, did not have one of the more severe weather-related injuries. With furrier breeds such as doodles, poodles and retrievers, it’s important to trim those snowballs from between the toes and to keep protective boots handy.

Sledding Safety

Scout, a chocolate Lab, presented an emergency after running along his owner’s snowboard. Being a very anxious and excitable pet, Scout wanted to be very close to his owner, and subsequently, his paw was run over by the snowboard. Skiing and snowboard injuries are very common in pets this time of year, especially the active sportsters like the Labradors, as the sharp metal edges can quickly lacerate tendons.

This particular injury will require immediate surgery and casting up to eight weeks, so please, don’t wait, call your veterinarian immediately, and more importantly, be careful if you are going to ski or board with your pet, knowing the consequences can be detrimental to your pet.

Torn ACLs

Lucy, a Bernese mountain dog, was having a terrific time in the deep snow on her recent hike and came home holding one hind leg up. Lucy presented with swelling and movement in her knee are,a which subsequently was found to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Cruciate and meniscal tears are as common in dogs as they can be in skiers on the mountain. Just as with their human counterparts, pets need regular controlled exercise and need their weight to be maintained, or injuries such as Lucy’s can happen. ACL tears are common in the larger, more athletic breeds such as Labradors, pit bulls, boxers, Bernese mountain dogs and Chesapeake Bay retrievers. All, like Lucy, require ACL surgery with an orthopedic surgeon and result in a minimum of 12 weeks of rehabilitation.


Finally, Roscoe was a Jack Russell terrier that presented for hypothermia after an afternoon hike. Unlike malamutes, huskies and Chesapeake Bay retrievers, Jack Russell terriers, among other shorthaired breeds, are very susceptible to hypothermia due to their shorthair coats. If they are able to keep moving, they will stay warm, but exposed and poorly insulated areas in their body can be prone to damage from the extreme cold.

The most important thing to remember is to get your pet warmed up immediately, have a digital thermometer handy to monitor body temperature and see your regular veterinarian immediately if he or she is not responding quickly.

So, during these long winter months ahead, just think ahead. Be smart about where you go and when you go, and have the appropriate protective gear for your pet. Most importantly, be safe and have fun!

Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, owner of Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center, submitted this column. You can reach her at 970-328-7085.

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