Dog paws are as vulnerable as human feet, and like ours, they need to be taken care of and pampered. An owner wouldn’t walk across a hot parking lot or a snow related field without the proper security on their feet. A paw pad needs to be terminated for a myriad of issues that should be addressed, including nail length, cracked pads and different objects wedged in between paw pads.
Must-Know Tips for Taking Care of Your Dog’s Paws
Dogs use their paws constantly throughout the day. Because of this, your dog’s paws must be considered for to keep up with how active your animal might be. The paw pads are soft and help protect bones and joints from shock while they move.
When my Australian Shepherd, Sisko, tore two toenails on a camping trip this season I got a quick refresher course on how the buildings of the law work together and how serious a dog’s toenails are. Sisko tore out (from the nail bed) the two middle toenails on his right rear paw. I carry a well-stocked first aid kit and after I cleaned his paw, I liberally used a pain relieving, antibiotic ointment and created a padded bandage for the paw.
He had surgery the next day. His paw was painful for a couple of weeks but as time went by and he was able to use that back paw again even though the nails were still growing out, I saw that the toenails protect the pads. Sisko ended up slightly burning the two pads of the toes without nails. Plus, once he was running again, I watched that paw slip and slide; the nails normally grip and dig in, giving the dog stability, and without those nails, Sisko wasn’t as stable as he normally is.
Tips to Keep Your Dog’s Paws Healthy
Sisko’s accident was truly an adventure; I saw it happen. He pivoted while running hard and those two nails got caught and tore out because he was moving so fast. However, even though accidents do happen, it’s necessary to maintain paw health as much as feasible and regular care can help with that.
If a dog’s nails are a click, click, clicking when she walks or get snagged easily, then she is in need of having them clipped. The nails should barely skim the area. Most vets offer this assistance if the owner is too anxious to do it themselves or the dog is unwilling to have it done. The hair in between the pads does cause painful matting if not trimmed regularly. Comb hair out and trim so they’re even with the pads. Check for pebbles or other debris while trimming.
Pads do crack and bleed if they get too dry. Don’t use human lotion on the dogs’ pads, it may soften pads too much and lead to more issues. Instead look into pad moisturizers specifically designed for a dog’s dried out paws. While massaging in the lotion give the dog a paw massage by rubbing between the pads and up in between each toe.
Dogs’ paws feel the heat as much as humans’ do on the bottom of their feet. Keep this in mind while out walking during the heat of the summer. To avoid blistering and burning, avoid walking on hot surfaces (such as parking lots or sand). If blistering or burning occurs, wash with an antibacterial soap and loosely wrap with gauze.
Extreme exposure to cold weather could cause paw pads to dry out. This will lead to pads becoming chapped and cracking. Another thing to keep in mind during the long, cold winter months is that lots of people use salt, de-icers and other items to melt ice off of sidewalks. This could be toxic to dogs who like to lick their paws or could even cause burns on their feet. When coming home from a daily walk, either wipe down or rinse the paws with warm water to wash away any chemicals they may have picked up. Another option is to slather the dog’s paws with Vaseline before a walk, which will keep salt from getting on the pads, or get canine snow boots for your pup.
Cuts and scrapes.
Hardly dogs will cut the pad of their paw and require some first aid. Clean the cut out with an antibacterial wash, put some antibacterial cream on the cut, and wrap the paw. Of course, that is easier said than done. If the dog is unwilling to have their paw tended to, the owner should do the best they can under the circumstances. As always, seek veterinary care for any symptoms or injuries that concern you or grow worse.
Check Them Often
Create a system so you check your dog’s paws often. You can do so every evening when you groom your dog (as I do with all three of my dogs) or after dinner when you both relax in the maintenance room. When isn’t as important as the schedule is; check your dog’s paws often. Check each paw gently but firmly; many dogs have ticklish paws and a light touch is too much like tickling. Feel between each pad and check for thorns, burrs, foxtails, clumps of dirt or dried mud, pebbles, sand or other debris. Remove anything that shouldn’t be there.
Pay attention to your dog’s reactions as you handle his paws. A wine might signal a bruise, cut, scratch or another injury that needs care. Plus, as you handle your dog’s paws, day after day, you’ll learn what’s normal and when there is a problem; you’ll feel it right away.
Trim the Hair
Dogs with evidence to long coat on their body often also have more hair on their paws than do short haired dogs. Unfortunately, this extra hair can catch burrs, foxtails, mud and other debris and create problems. Hair that bunches between the pads is uncomfortable and hair that folds under the pads can cause the dog to slip and slide.
If your dog has hair that grows among his pads, trim it when it gets long and folds under his pads or when it bunches up between his toes. You can do this by gently combing the hair between the pads so it’s not folded over or packed in between the pads. Then keeping the scissors so they are flat against the pads (and not poking in towards the foot) trim the hair so it’s level with the pads. Comb the hair out a second time and trim anything that was missed the first time.
On the top of your dog’s paw, do the same thing. Comb out the hair between the toes from the top and with the scissors flat against the paw, trim that long, excess hair.
Cut the Nails Often
When your dog is standing on a flat surface, such as the floor, his toenails should not touch the floor. Ideally, they are slightly above the floor; how much depends on the size of your dog, the shape of his feet, and the angle of his toenails. If his toenails hit the floor when he’s standing still, they will be uncomfortable and even painful when he’s walking or running. Nails that are too long for a long time can even deform the paw or curve around and grow into the paw.
Trimming the nails once per week can help keep them at a good length as well as make sure your dog is comfortable with the process. If you don’t know how to trim your dog’s toenails, ask your veterinarian, one of her veterinary technicians, or a dog groomer to show you how.
The Pads Protect the Feet
The pads of your dog’s paws are designed to protect the bones of his paws. The pads are tough, cushioned, and can take a lot of punishment. That doesn’t mean they can’t be hurt, though, and if they are hurt, sometimes healing is slow. When you check the pads, look for punctures or cuts from thorns or sharp objects. One of the most common injuries, however, is when a layer or two of the pad is peeled away when the dog runs and slides, or slips, on a rough surface.
If you find an injury, clean it, use an antibiotic ointment on it, and then bandage the paw to keep it clean until you can get your dog to the veterinarian.
Check the Pavement
The sun heats everything it shines on, but in the summer it can be especially deadly. Asphalt, concrete, sand, gravel, rock, and even some dirt can heat up rapidly and to temperatures that will burn your dog’s paws. Some dogs are so willing to do what we ask they will continue with us even as their paws become terribly burned.
I have a small pocket-sized digital thermostat that will tell me the temperature of a surface and I carry that with me. (These can often be bought at your local reptile supply store.) Otherwise, place the back of your hand where you would ask your dog to walk. Don’t use the palm of your hand as you have some thicker skin and calluses. If you can comfortably keep your hand on the road or sidewalk, then it’s probably fine. If you have to pull your hand away, don’t ask your dog to walk there.
Boots Protect the Paws
My dogs don’t wear dog shoes often, but I teach my dogs to wear the boots and have them available should they be needed. I’ve had my dogs wear them when asphalt is very hot and might burn their pads, and on a camping trip where we needed to walk on a path with rough sand and crushed rock that would have torn up their pads.
There are many different types of dog boots available and I’ve tried a few. Ruffwear’s single grip Trex boots fit all three of my dogs well and are easy to put on. In addition and perhaps most importantly, my dogs accept these boots and they seem to be comfortable for the dogs to wear.
If you’d like to include your dog to boots, call the customer service number for the company and find out how to measure your dog’s paws. While you’re at it, measure all four paws as some dogs have paws that are larger or smaller than others. My oldest dog, Bashir, wears two sized boots as his front paws are a size larger than his back paws. The boots must fit correctly and be comfortable; otherwise, they could rub sores on your dog’s paws and your dog will fight wearing them.
How to Take Care of a Dog’s Paws Video
How to Take Care of a Dog’s Paws. Part of the series: Dog Health Answers. A dog’s paws can require a bit of extra care, such as keeping the toenails cut short, making sure the paws dry out after getting wet, checking in between each digit and trimming the excessive hair between the toes. Make sure a dog’s feet are not susceptible to infection with helpful information from a practicing veterinarian in this free video on dog health.
A digitigrade (pronounced), is an animal that stands or walks on its digits, or toes. Digitigrades include walking birds (what many assume to be bird knees are actually ankles), cats, dogs, and many other mammals, but not plantigrades or unguligrade. Digitigrades generally move more quickly and quietly than other animals.
There are anatomical differences between the limbs of plantigrades, like humans, and both unguligrade and digitigrade limbs. Digitigrade and unguligrade animals have relatively long carpals and tarsals, and the bones which would correspond to the human ankle are thus set much higher in the limb than in a human. In a digitigrade animal, this effectively lengthens the foot, so much so that what is often thought of as a digitigrade animal’s “hands” and “feet” correspond only to what would be the bones of the human finger or toe.
Humans usually walk with the soles of their feet on the ground, in plantigrade locomotion. In contrast, digitigrade animals walk on their distal and intermediate phalanges. Digitigrade locomotion is responsible for the distinctive hooked shape of dog legs.
Unguligrade animals, such as horses and cattle, walk only on the distal-most tips of their digits, while in digitigrade animals, more than one segment of the digit makes contact with the ground, either directly (as in birds) or via paw-pads (as in dogs).
Introduce your dog to the boots at home, asking him to wear them a few minutes at a time at home, long before he needs to wear them on a walk, hike, or camping trip. Use lots of praise and some good treats to help him accept the boots.
Your dog’s paws are amazing and most of the time your dog won’t have any issues at all. Just get into the habit of checking his paws often, keeping the nails trimmed and the feet healthy, and he’ll be able to accompany you on lots of walks and adventures.
It’s always smart to use precautionary measures to avoid damages to the paw. Also, make sure to clean up any debris at home or in the yard. Try and keep this tip in mind, if you wouldn’t want to walk around barefoot, your dog wouldn’t both! Get a quick quote today, and learn more about coverage for your dog.