Dogs feet have evolved with protection from the elements in mind, but there are still things owners can do to help protect paws from unnecessary damage.
- Nail trimming and grooming
Nails that touch the ground when walking are too long and can get snagged or broken. Nails should be regularly trimmed to a length where they almost touch the ground. Dew claws (on the side of the foot) are at risk of curling onto themselves causing pain and infection. Once the correct method has been demonstrated by a professional, nail trimming is easy to do at home.
It is also important to groom and clean the feet, checking the areas between the toes where foreign objects and dirt can get stuck. For dogs with longer fur, there is a risk of matts forming if the hair between the paw pad is not trimmed to an appropriate length.
- Pad care
Paw pads are prone to cracking and bleeding when dry. Moisturising with a veterinary formulated lotion can help. Paw pads should be massaged in a circular motion to promote circulation. Start from the largest pad on the foot (and between the paw pad) and work outwards towards the toes.
Minor cuts and scrapes are common on paw pads due to thistles, gravel, and other debris on the ground. Small wounds can be cleaned and protected with a dog bootie, while larger wounds may require treatment by a veterinarian.
The different seasons contribute unique hazards to a dog’s paw.
In summer, hot pavements can cause burns and blisters on the paw pads. Before taking your dog for a walk in the heat of summer, touch to check the temperature of the pavement. It may be best to wait until a cooler time in the day to walk your dog.
In winter, the ground can be too cold leading to cracking and chapping of the paw pads. There is also a risk of your dog stepping on rock salt or chemical ice melts, which can lead to infection and blisters. For protection in winter, paw pads can be rubbed with Vaseline before walks or dog booties used.
Preventing paw pad issues is easy. Keep nails trimmed, paw fur groomed, be cautious of the walking surface, and always keep an eye out for hazards such as ice, sharp stones, or glass.