Boots and Shoes for Pets

(boots and pants and boots and pants and…boots and shoes!)

Due to limited time in my schedule and my wanting to post about boots for over five years and NOT having made a time slot for that post…

I’ll put a few bullet points on here:

I really like one brand of boots that I have recommended overwhelmingly for about 9 years, and they now have a couple of styles. Some of their styles are slightly difficult to put onto the foot/paw, yet they all have substantial traction to help a pet with nerve and strength issues. They don’t make small enough boots for some smaller feet/paws, but I have other solutions for those furry kids. Also, fyi, numerous attempts to contact the company for their support with my rehab practice went unanswered years ago, and I haven’t had time to pursue their collaboration since then, so as of this writing, I am not a paid sponsor or rep of the company…jus so’s you know. Regardless, they remain my favorite choice to solve the traction issue, and they are fairly widely available, plus it’s not their fault I’m too swamped on many fronts to query them to do more work with me.

There is another brand with great customer service and also with great traction, out of Canada. Those boots are more expensive and are “high tops”. They work better for some pets than the low-top version. The high-top version isn’t really suited for lots of pets I have worked with. Overall I think they are best for snow and mud and for some few pets with long, skinny legs (small pets, too). I don’t think this boot is great for trail hikes or rocky hikes, in general, but they are better than nothing in a lot of cases and better than other products for the traction solution.

The low-top version tends to slide around on the foot because the person putting it on the pet has to very firmly tighten the velcro tarsal strap. If you follow my use recommendations, below, making the strap tight shouldn’t pose a long-term problem.

I have noticed some other boots on the market that will work to assist with traction on slippery floors, and I have seen, as have most of you, probably, MANY boots and shoes that are NOT helpful with traction and function.

Don’t waste your money on the slippery sole shoes and boots unless the leg to be protected is dragging all the time or unless you are using them to protect the toes and tops of paws while a dog drags around in a cart. Better yet, suspend those dragging hind legs in stirrups behind the dog in the cart 🙂 Here is a pic of a boot/sock that is good for a foot that is dragging behind a cart but not good for traction:

NO for traction, YES for a foot/paw on a paralyzed leg dragging behind a cart.

Don’t waste money and time on the toenail gripper plastic thingys.
Some veterinarians in my area began selling them to mutual clients, and when I encountered them at my visits, I was gently able to explain why they don’t solve the traction problem plus don’t help with functional improvement. I say that because dogs will try to claw and grip their way across a slick floor or other surface. This is a behavior that is truly meant for mud and ice and the like. If your dog is trying to grip concrete or tile or wood to walk in her/his normal habitat (your home or office or the vet clinic), then I will bet your dog has a neuromuscular function problem or an orthopedic one or all of it. When dogs lose function in the hind end and I introduce traction boots or shoes or socks (in some cases), and I put them solely on the hind feet if the majority problem is in the hind legs, that works on solving the problem. The hind paws, which are attached to the hind legs with weak muscles and neurological problems, are then able to gain purchase on the ground, get a grip, so to speak. When the dogs also begin my foundational strengthening program (here), they work on core and foundational muscle strength…and the boots assist in going forward. They need better n-m strength to get a footing to rise off the floor. For some pets, some few, this will never be possible because they are already paralyzed without recourse. For the remainder, which is the majority in my experience, the right traction boot/shoe/sock will only complement the foundational work program and dogs improve little by little. The toenail traction plastic dealies encourage gripping and pulling, especially in the front end, and that is NOT what will improve overall, longer-term function. Your dog is already pulling up steps and off the bed and in various other ways that you have likely not noticed because their slower dysfunction is a process that sneaks up over time. Understand what I’m saying so far? Toenail grippers won’t help unless claws are trying to grip, and gripping claws are not helping overall functional improvement for a dog with neurological problems and muscular wasting or strength deficits. Traction boots/shoes/socks only on the hind feet for a hind leg deficiency is the best way I’ve discovered to passively help improve function. If the front end doesn’t work well, then boots there, too, but otherwise, dogs with hind-end problems are already overusing their front end and not working on fixing their hind end, unless we are really focusing on helping them with that. So, no additional help for the front in most of the cases with neuro problems in the legs (because most cases are predominantly hind-end issue cases). Good? Good.

Save time and money and make more improvements with the right tools for the problem 🙂

I do not like to use the balloon shoes, the paste-on-the-pads grips, or the toenail grippers. I am after ease of use and functional benefits. Those products are either too hard to put on, compromise overall function, and/or don’t tackle the deeper issues of function. Already noted that the boots are often hard to put on; the others in this paragraph are harder or less functional or both.

I use the boots on the two most affected limbs, usually the hind, inside if the floor is slippery, only on during the day, only on when the pet caretaker is home. Take them off at night. Take them off when going outside for drill walking or pee/poop. Take them off when you leave the house. Taking off the boots allows for the feet to breathe and taken off using these parameters usually thwarts sores from forming.

You don’t need boots on most carpet, but some carpet is as slippery as a tile floor, so use them on that carpet.

I prefer for my client animals to feel the ground outside, generally speaking, and nerve conduction can benefit from this action as well. If the ground is not too hot nor too cold, is not dangerous and the pet has traction, they may walk on the ground without boots. There are many exceptions to this rule of mine, but I will have to discuss them at a later date.

I think I can guarantee if you leave on the boots for extended periods, not following the least protocol I mention above, you will create sores and stinky feet. I’ve had plenty of veterinarian clients use loose interpretations of my recommendations and end up with stinky-feet-sore-and-ulcer dog toes and legs, so don’t think it couldn’t/wouldn’t happen to you and your pet 🙂 If it does happen, then you cannot use the boots at all, usually for about 2 weeks, while the sores and/or fungus/bacteria issues resolve.

Just say “no” to boot overuse.

Other boot points:

There is no need to use traction boots on a dog that does not have enough strength or nerve conduction to walk once assisted upright.

There are “easier” and “better” ways to assist a dog that is knuckling or dragging one or both hind, yet is able to advance both hind legs. Boots only encumber efforts in these cases and the pets need to build strength and nerve conduction using dynamic action first…then we will concern ourselves with working on correcting knuckling. Build strength using land and gravity. See my homework(s).

If you do create a sore by leaving on boots too long, or by other means, do NOT put topical antibiotic cream on it for the pet to lick off. I have yet to see a pet that doesn’t lick its sores doubly when topical treatments are applied. The way to stop licking is by using an e-collar. Yes, I know we all “hate” the e-collar, the cone of shame, so let’s start by considering it a party lampshade, the one your drunk cousin puts on their head just before the shirt comes off and table dancing begins…

See? Now it’s more fun to use the e-collar and get the healing over with and hopefully avoid infection. Licking will cause infection…I have yet to see more that .05% of cases where it didn’t. Yes, I’m guessing at the number. It’s taken me years to just put up this post; I’m not going to read through hundreds of case files to find out how correct that number is. Try to trust me on this one 🙂

If you are running your pet on rocks or walking on hot pavement or doing search and rescue, then buying four boots, as they are commonly sold, will suit you. Do know, though, that the front paws are almost always slightly larger than the hind paws. You may purchase boots two at a time from some sources.

The measurements for the boots that are given and the instructions about measuring are not really complementary to the actual size of the paws when the boots are in hand and fitting them ensues. That means that very often the size you thought you measured doesn’t fit. Do your best to get a standing, weight-bearing, measurement and/or find a local source for boots with good traction that you may fit and return. I’ve gotten some clinics in my area to carry them, and peeps may purchase one at a time or 100. I doubt they have 100 in stock, but, you know…

I don’t advocate using the socks that are often sold separately from the boots. They cause additional friction.

Wash the boots and make sure they dry very well before using them again. You will cause stinky funk if you don’t wash and if you don’t completely dry. If you have a dog that frequently pees on or otherwise soils the boots, then you are better off buying four at a time.

There is more to say, but I’m out of time, and this suffices for the basics!


Orig post, 11/8/14
Updated some on 2/19/17

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