By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
Dogs’ paws are an often overlooked part of the animal’s anatomy, which is unfortunate because their continued welfare is vital to the overall health of the dog. Dogs with paw pain may not be inclined to exercise as much, leading to joint issues, obesity, excess nervous energy, muscle atrophy, and other problems.
Fortunately, once one understands that it cannot be overlooked, paw care is neither time consuming, nor difficult. It is one more way to cement your bond with your dog by spending time together. Follow these general care tips and you’ll have a happier, healthier dog.
From puppyhood, you should handle your dogs paws daily. The more you handle your dog’s paws under benign circumstances, the more comfortable your dog will be with that kind of contact. If your dog is accustomed to having his paws handled it will be easier to clip his nails, and trim his fur; it will also be less of a hassle to treat any paw injuries that may occur down the road.
Your dog’s nails should sit just above the ground when your dog is standing on all fours. If you hear a clicking sound when your dog walks on hard surfaces, the nails are too long. Running your dog regularly on concrete can help keep his nails filed down so you won’t have to trim them as often.
If you do not keep up with your dog’s nails, they can curl under and grow into the pad, which is extremely painful. Also, as the nail grows, so does the quick, which is the extremely sensitive vein that grows through the nail. You must not cut the quick when you trim your dog’s nails or your dog will experience severe pain and bleeding. Trimming your dog’s nails regularly will cause the quick to recede into the nail so you can cut them shorter each time. Read our article on Nail Clipping for trimming techniques to protect the quick.
Many dogs have long fur that grows between their toes. This fur can help trap debris and irritants that can lead to paw pain and injury. It can also mat which also causes irritation and pain. Dog owners must pay extra attention to this fur in the winter because ice, salt and chemical deicers collect between the pads and get tangled in fur. This can irritate the paw, and since dogs lick their paws, they may ingest the chemical deicers, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
When you walk your dog, you probably wear shoes, which means you might not notice the quality of the terrain, but remember, your dog is basically barefoot. Pavement can get extremely hot in the summertime, and can burn your dog’s paws. You may also run across sharp rocks, sand spurs, thorns, or broken glass. Try to be aware of the ground on which your dog is walking and whether or not it is suitable for his paws. Adjust your pace for uneven, harsh terrain. After, and periodically during long walks, check your dog’s paws for burrs, pebbles and other foreign objects. If you’re traveling on particularly hot, sharp, or rough terrain, consider outfitting your dog with a pair of dog shoes.
Chapped, Cracked Paws
Walking on hot pavement or being exposed to large amounts of salt or chemical deicers can cause your dog’s paws to grow irritated, raw, chapped, and cracked. This can lead to pain and infection. You can care for this condition by rubbing your dog’s paws with Vaseline or All Natural Paw Rub, Paw Wax, Tuff-Pads, or Paw Guard.
If your dog is constantly licking his paws, it could be a sign of irritation or allergies. Paw licking can be what is referred to as a “self propagating cycle”. This means that your dog licks his paws for one reason, like allergies or irritation, and that licking causes further irritation, which causes more licking. Consider placing an Elizabethan-style collar on your dog until his paws heal to break the cycle.