When our running shoes wear out, we can just get a new pair. Your dog’s tough paw pads are their only defence against rough terrain, and they can never be replaced. That’s why it’s so important to care for your dog’s paws – so they will always be ready for your next adventure.
Most dogs have four toes on each foot, and some are born with a dewclaw on each front leg. Some breeds, like the Great Pyrenees and Norwegian Lundehund, are bred to have extra toes to help them better excel at the jobs they were born to do.
Below your dog’s toe pads is a metacarpal pad on the front paws. The pad on the rear paws are known as metatarsal pads. These thick pads are naturally rugged to provide traction and to prevent injuries from walking over rough terrain. Even so, your dog can suffer from paw-related injuries if their nails are too long, if they walk over incredibly hot surfaces, and if they walk over toxic or dangerous substances.
Ideally, your dog’s nails should just be long enough to touch the ground. It’s normal for their nails to click when they walk across the floor, though this clicking sound will be less pronounced after a fresh trim. If your dog’s nails are too long, it can become painful for them to walk, and they may take on an altered posture, which can negatively affect their body over time.
Many dogs have chronically long nails because trimming them regularly becomes too stressful for both dog and owner. Ideally, you should clip nails yourself with a nail clipper or grinder, because having it done by your vet or groomer will be more stressful for your dog. It will take some practice, but you can learn to safely trim your dog’s nails with minimal stress.
Injuries From Hot Pavement
One of the most common causes of paw injuries is hot pavement in the summer. At 25 degrees Celsius, the pavement can be as hot as 52 degrees, hot enough to cause severe burns to your dog’s paw pads. It’s best to avoid walking your dog between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. When it’s hot, stick to shady and grassy areas. Always check the temperature of the pavement by placing the back of your hand against it; if it feels hot to you, it’s going to be too hot for your dog.
If you must walk your dog on pavement in the heat, protect their paws with All Weather Boots.
Dry, Cracked Paws
It’s normal for your dog’s paws to feel dry to the touch. If they are too soft and conditioned, they will not be well suited to protect your dog from rough terrain. However, if your dog’s paws are too dry, they can become cracked and may even bleed.
If your dog’s paws are slightly cracked, but not bleeding, you can condition their paws with Medipet Paw & Ear Balm, which has antibacterial properties to prevent infection while the skin heals. You can cover your dog’s paws with a sock secured with medical tape to protect the skin. If your dog’s paw is bleeding or has lesions or loose skin, you should contact your veterinarian.
Winter Paw Care
Your dog’s paws are equipped with a close network of blood vessels that keep them from freezing. So, you do not have to put shoes on your dog just to protect them from the cold. They can usually handle short walks without freezing their toes. In extreme temperatures, and in areas covered with ice melter, you can protect your dog’s paws with booties.
There are pet-safe, non-toxic ice melter products, but you can’t be too sure if the ice melter used in public areas is safe for your dog. Some ice melter products can burn the skin on your dog’s paws, or can be toxic if ingested when your dog licks their paws.
When your dog’s paws are itchy between the toes, they’ll typically lick them, and you may see reddish brown discolouration on the fur between their toes. Itching can often be attributed to food or environmental allergies. If the cause of the allergy is obvious, symptoms should cease within a few days of you minimizing your dog’s exposure. When you are unsure of why your dog is itchy, you can see your veterinarian for a diagnosis.