How to protect?
All sportsmen can be hurt. They can twist a joint and get a sprain, tear a muscle, have footsore when they run and sometimes have stress diarrhea (well known for marathon runners).
The dogs can suffer the same small problems. Fortunately, some veterinarians have focused on these aspects. With their help we can better prevent these unexpected and better protect the dogs.
No paws, no dog
It is very important for the musher to take care of her dogs paws. Indeed, repeated contact with the snow and ice can be destructive.
One goal: no wound at the paws
During the training, the footpads are check several times in a day.
To prevent problems, we also use special ointments. These ointments are made from lanolin (grease derived from sheep's wool, oil, tar plant). Other products allow to harden the pads during training. Then, they are more resistant to snow and ice.
During the race, the most surprising for the spectators is the dogs’ boots. It’s the better thing to protect dogs' paws.
But the boot, for fun it is, is a necessity, and reached a high technical level. The size is adapted to the dog’ paw. His material (thick nylon, polypropylene, Cordura, fleece, woven Kevlar, ...) depends on the type of snow. The use, finally, is the result of long experience. An unsuitable boot can hurt the dog and compromise his race.
1 000 to 2 000 boots for a race!
On a race like the Iditarod, a musher uses between 1,000 and 2,000 boots. He has to change them frequently, because the ice can be very abrasive when it’s very cold.
Other working dogs have become adept of the boots. For example, the dogs of firefighters are also using this system to protect their paw from broken glass.