Paw Protection: How to Take Care of Your Dog's Feet
A little extra paw protection is always a step in the right direction. Our four-legged friends spend a lot of time on their feet, which exposes them to potential dangers both inside and outside of the house.
While dogs’ foot pads are sturdy enough to help them traverse through rough terrain, issues like cracked nails, frostbite, and paw burns are a painful experience for even the toughest of pups. Let’s break down different dangers you need to watch out for and what you can do to protect your canine companion’s feet.
Dog Foot Pads: What are They and How Do They Work?
While you’ve likely looked at your dog’s feet, you might not know exactly how these adorable appendages support your furry friend. Dogs have special cushions on the bottom of their feet call foot pads or paw pads. These pads work along with your dog’s nails to help them balance and move around with ease.
These pads have a special outer layer of extremely durable skin that protects an insulating layer of fatty tissue. This insulation helps protect your dog’s feet from colder surfaces, while the tough skin allows them to traverse tough terrain that would typically hurt human feet.
While paw pads are normally sturdy, dogs can develop even tougher paw pads. Canines who regularly go out for walks or hike in tough terrain can develop calluses just like their human counterparts. As such, dogs who don’t go out as much may prefer gentler surfaces since their foot pads are likely to be smoother than more adventurous pooches.
Dog Paw Protection Tips and Tricks
Your dog’s foot pads are built to withstand regular wear and tear, but they’re not indestructible by any means. Different environmental factors or other hazards can cause discomfort and serious injuries, so you’ll want to take measures to protect those precious paw pads.
Train your dog to be comfortable with paw touching
Some dogs are more comfortable with people touching their paws than others. Unfortunately, a lot of paw protection measures require you to touch or hold your dog’s feet. If your dog isn’t a fan of paw touching, you’ll want to take some steps to normalize this behavior.
To start, you’ll want to calmly pick up one of your dog’s paws for just a second or two before setting it back down. Once you set it down, reward your dog with a Little Jacs Treat and some praise. When your dog is comfortable with this step, try holding a paw for longer periods of time. Once you build up to 10 seconds, you can start moving your dog’s paw around – just remember to reward your dog after every try to reinforce positive feelings about the experience.
Avoid extreme conditions
The weather can wreak havoc on your poor pup’s paws if you’re not careful. Both extreme heat and cold, wintry conditions can pose problems for paw pads, so it’s best to limit exposure and be on the watch for specific danger areas.
In the summer, hot pavement and other scalding surfaces are a big issue for your dog’s feet. In general, if the ground is too hot for you to walk barefoot, it’s not safe for your furry friend. These surfaces can burn paw pads if dogs spend too much time on them, with bad enough cases leading to blistering. If you’re out on a hot summer day and notice your dog limping or licking at a paw, it’s time to head inside and call your vet.
Winter weather also poses a few problems. Temperatures below 32 degrees can start to cause frostbite, especially in puppies, small dogs, dogs with short hair, and senior dogs. If your dog is picking up a foot or two, that is a sign that they are starting to feel the effects of the cold and it’s time to head to a warmer environment.
Ice patches are just as slippery for dogs as they are for us. Dogs can slip and fall on the ice, hurting a paw or leg. Prolonged exposure to de-icing chemicals can cause chemical burns and increase the odds of frostbite on paws. Chunks of ice or rock salt can even have sharp edges that can gouge your dog’s foot pads. Consider having a dog-safe ice melt on hand for the snowy months or avoid using harsh salt products altogether.
Wipe off paws
Regardless of the conditions, it’s never a bad idea to clean off your dog’s feet on occasion. Everything from small rocks, ice chunks, and other harmful debris can wear down your dog’s paw pads over time. Wiping everything off will not only help prevent future nicks and gouges, it will also remove unwanted bacteria found in leftover debris.
Take some time to wipe your dog’s paws when you come back inside to remove anything that may pose problems. Ice melt can again be an issue here if your dog licks their paws once they are in the house, ingesting those chemicals. For lighter paw cleaning jobs, you can use soft rags of dog-specific wipes found at your local pet store. Dirtier paws may require some towels, lukewarm water, and dog-safe soap. Depending on your dog’s tolerance for paw touching, you’ll want to gently spread out the individual paw pads, thoroughly check for foreign objects, and wipe away dirt and other substances.
Keep nails trimmed
The paw pads aren’t the only important part of your dog’s feet. Regular nail maintenance will not only help your dog protect those paw pads, but also prevent other issues. When dog nails grow too long, it can make it uncomfortable for your dog to walk around. Long nails also have a higher chance of breaking or tearing off by accident.
Regular trims will help protect your best friend’s feet from the problems. The frequency of these trims can vary – some dogs will naturally file their nails down by walking on pavement and other rough surfaces. The ASPCA recommends trimming your dog’s nails when they’re just about to touch the ground as they walk. If you haven’t performed a paw pedicure before, check out our blog post on how to trim your dog’s nails or visit your local groomer for a trim.
Avoid harsh floor cleaners
It’s good to clean your floors every now and again, but it’s important to make sure your actions don’t hurt your pooch’s paws. The chemicals in some household cleaners can irritate your dog’s skin and even make your dog sick. In addition to absorbing these chemicals, dogs are more likely to lick wet paws and accidentally ingest more chemicals.
Fortunately, typical over-the-counter cleaners should be safe when used according to the label’s instructions. However, both bleach and ammonia are not safe for use around our furry pals. Even if you use a dog-safe cleaner, you may want to keep your canine companion outside of any recently cleaned rooms until your floors are dry.
Consider dog boots or paw wax
While foot pads are naturally sturdier than people feet, they can still benefit from extra protection. Both dog boots and paw wax can help give your best friend an extra layer of protection and some added traction. Of course, these methods will depend on your dog’s tolerance for wearing clothes or having something spread on their feet. Some training time might be needed to help your dog get used ot wearing boots. Once they are comfortable with the sensation, that extra protection just gives you another way to keep your buddy safe.
Regular paw examinations
Sometimes it’s best to make paw examinations a regular habit. Dogs are resilient creatures, so you may not be able to tell if they have something wrong with their feet without close inspection. Make it a regular routine to look for red paw pads, cracked nails, or any other issues just to make sure that everything is alright.
When it comes to your dog’s health, it’s always important to start off on the right foot. Want to learn more about what you can do to support your dog? Join our Best Friends Club today to receive our exclusive email newsletter full of articles on grooming tips, healthy habits, and members-only discounts on Bil-Jac Dog Food, Treats, and health enhancers.