Caring for Your Pooch’s Paws

Lots of pet owners overlook their dog’s feet when they think about health and maintenance. Sure, they may consider a nail trim when they hear the constant clacking on the hardwood floors, but there’s a lot more to be done when considering your dog’s paw health and comfort.

Just like you, your dog relies upon his feet to bear his weight while walking and playing. The biggest difference between the two of you, other than the fact that he has twice as many to think about, is that most dogs don’t have the luxury of socks and shoes. Your dog’s paws see the icy conditions of winter, the cold and wet mud of spring, the boiling pavement of summer, and the brittle sticks of autumn. Can you imagine waltzing through all of those conditions with your bare feet? The pads of your dog’s paws need a lot of protection since they provide the first line of defense and insulation for his joints and bones against extreme weather and everyday exposure.

  • Pedicures for Pooches: Keep your dog’s nails trimmed for her health and comfort! If you can hear them hit the ground when she walks, that means they are too long. If you are not comfortable trimming them at home, a vet or groomer will be happy to do the job for you. You can even take your dog’s nail clippers in and have them teach you how to do it at home!
  • Toe Hair? Yes, even the cutest little doggie feet get overrun by hair! To prevent mats and debris from collecting and tangling between pads, keep that foot hair trimmed evenly with the pads.
  • Spread those Toes! Regularly check between your dog’s toes to make sure nothing is stuck there. Between-toe culprits include foxtails, pebbles, glass, and burdocks can easily become lodged between pads. If you spot something, carefully remove it by hand or with tweezers.
  • Moisturize. I have yet to see a dog more than a couple of months old that doesn’t have dry and cracked pads. That must be pretty uncomfortable! Ask your vet about moisturizing cream for dog feet. The kind that is made especially for them is best since human cream can make them too soft and prone to injuries.
  • Massage. Massaging your dog’s feet will relax him and induce circulation, both of which are good things! Rub between each pad and then between each toe.
  • Exercise Caution! Exercise is a great, beneficial, and extremely necessary thing for all dogs to engage in but be careful not to do too much, too soon. If your dog is not used to pounding the pavement, the shock to his feet could cause serious discomfort. Start slowly and pay attention to his tootsies.
  • Antiseptic Wash. If your dog gets something lodged in his foot or gets a cut on his pad, be sure to treat it immediately. He can’t tell you something hurts so you need to watch for excessive licking or limping. Wounds that are small can be treated at home with antibacterial wash and wrapped in gauze. Neosporin is a miracle for pets and for people!
  • Blistering Temperatures. Your dog enjoys walking on hot pavement almost as much as you do. Don’t take him out on summer tar, pavement, or sand unless he has his shoes on. His feet can burn and blister which will cause excruciating pain for him.
  • Cold Extremes. In the winter, be sure to keep your pups paws enclosed when he goes outside. Dogs with long hair often come inside with ice balls hanging from their feet and limp or whine until they melt. Pads can easily become frostbitten or damaged from rock salt and chemicals on the roads. You can coat them in Vaseline, cover them with shoes, and rinse them in warm water during and after wintertime walks.
  • Doggy-proof the Yard. To avoid any injuries around the house, keep his yard free from branches, broken glass, and thorny plants. If you wouldn’t want to go barefoot there, neither would he!

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