Dog paw care: what you should know

understanding dog paw care

They use them to run, jump, play fetch and even hi-5. Yes, we’re talking about doggy paws, and although adorable, they are not invincible. This week we’re looking at why and how you should be caring for dog paws.

What are paw pads

Paw pads, that soft spongy part under your dog’s feet, are made up of fatty tissue covered by a layer of skin. These pads help your pet maintain balance as well as aiding stability, shock absorption and traction on surfaces among other things.

The type of terrain your dog’s paws are usually in contact with, whether it’s grass, gravel or regular ground, will have an effect on the toughness of their paw pads. Dogs that aren’t subjected to harsher terrain are more likely to have softer, less calloused paw pads, making them more likely to get hurt if they happen to walk on harsher ground like gravel.

Paw care and maintenance

Check their paws

It’s recommended that you do regular checks of your pup’s paws to ensure that they stay healthy and injury-free. Carefully check between their toes for potentially harmful objects. These include splinters, thorns, glass or pebbles. Use tweezers to carefully remove anything that has managed to lodge itself into the paw or toes. Also be sure to check for signs of injuries, swelling or discolouration. While inspecting between their toes, keep an eye on their behaviour to monitor for signs of pain or discomfort. It is recommended that minor cuts or wounds be cleaned with a disinfectant solution like VetMed, and that deeper or more serious wounds be checked by a veterinarian.

Watch for excessive chewing and licking

If your dog licks their paws once in a while, it may just be part of their grooming routine and therefore no big deal. However, if licking and chewing behaviour becomes constant or excessive, it may be a sign of something bigger. This could indicate the following:

  • Allergies or dermatitis, which some dog breeds are prone to.
  • Indication of an irritant like a splinter or small injury.
  • The presence of parasites like ticks or fleas.
  • Behavioral issues like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or anxiety.

Clean paws regularly

Make a habit of regularly cleaning your pet’s paws after they come in from a walk. During the winter, this will remove any ice or objects that may have been trapped by furry feet. During the summer, this action will help you keep an eye on paws that may have become burnt or cracked due to hot pavements. The easiest way to clean your pet’s paw is with a warm, damp cloth. For added disinfectant action, consider using a pet-friendly product like VetMed.

Trim nails

Nails that are allowed to grow too long can become snagged on objects or surfaces, leading to injuries. Long nails may also hamper your pet’s ability to walk or stand comfortably. Your dog’s nails should barely be touching the floor, and may need to be trimmed more often because of their activity level and the surfaces they walk on. Dogs regularly walked on surfaces like asphalt are less likely to need their nails trimmed as the rougher terrain wears the nails down.

Consider a moisturizer

Dry paw pads are prone to cracking and bleeding if they are allowed to become too dry. Using a moisturizer is a good way to prevent dry paws from becoming a problem. However, it is not suggested to apply human-grade lotions and moisturizers on your pet as this often leads to the paw pads becoming too soft. Dogs overly soft paws run the risk of tearing or ripping of their pads. This is especially the case if they are allowed to walk on rough surfaces like gravel or asphalt. Consult your veterinarian for appropriate pet-grade moisturizers for your pup.

Check the terrain

Summer months

It’s important to remember that asphalt and pavements become dangerously hot during the hotter summer months. This could lead to your dog’s paws burning or blistering as a result. Check if the ground is safe for them to walk on by placing the back of your hand on it and try holding it there for a few moments. If it’s too hot for you to comfortably keep it there, then it’s too hot for your pet to walk on.

During hotter weather, try to walk your dog early in the morning or later in the evening when the temperatures aren’t as high. Always remember to keep your pet hydrated.

If your pet does end up with burnt paws, cool their pads by running water over them, and consult your veterinarian for next steps.

Winter months

As with hotter months, the icier winter months can lead to paw problems as well. The drier and colder environment can lead to paws drying out, cracking or even freezing in severe cases. There are a few solutions to the colder weather, such as dog booties, paw wax or paw balm. Don’t forget to check their paws after a walk in the cold outdoors.

Keep an eye out

While out walking with your pet, always check the ground in front of and around you. Keep an eye out for signs of thorns, glass, wire or metal pieces, and other debris that your dog could get injured on. If you’d be unwilling to walk barefoot through the area, then it’s probably not safe for your dog either.

Stinky paws

Yes, chances are you know exactly what we mean by smelly pet paws. Luckily, in most cases it’s nothing to be concerned about. Dirt and debris caught in the fur or skin around their toes or paw pads can cause dog paws to become odorous. If this is the case, you can easily fix the issue by wiping or washing their paws.

On the other hand, an overgrowth of bacteria, fungus or yeast can also be the cause. Microorganisms like these are picked up in the dirt or outdoor surfaces, and grow well in warm, damp places. If you’d like to avoid stinky paws, carefully trim excess fur around toes and paws to minimise the amount of dirt they pick up, and wash dirty paws as mentioned further above in the article. Make sure to towel dry doggy paws correctly, paying attention to areas around toes.

As ever, VetMed is here to help, so if you feel the need to stock up on our products, you can get in contact with us here.