Very few dogs love to sit idle for hours. Most dogs can be found running here and there in the house, the yard or the park. In short, they spend a lot of time on their feet.
Your dog’s paws work as pads on the feet and help provide protection, the way your shoes protect your feet. The soft paw pads protect the bones and joints like shock absorbers while walking or making any other movement. Also, the pads provide protection during extreme weather conditions or while walking on rough terrain.
As the pads are made of living tissue, they are prone to cuts, splinters and other injuries. It is important to carefully examine your canine friend’s paws from time to time. Early detection of any problem can reduce suffering and pain for your pet.
Many of the tips listed below will also help create a strong bond between you and your pet, as you work directly on his paws.
Here are 10 useful tips for taking care of your dog’s paws.
1. Trim the Nails
Your pet’s nails should just barely touch the ground when he walks around. So, if you hear a lot of clicking when your dog walks on hard surfaces, it’s time for a trimming session.
Nails that are too long can get snagged easily, which in turn can cause injuries. Also, if the nails are too long, it can make your dog uncomfortable while walking.
You need to cut or clip the nails about once a week. Also, making your pet walk on hard, slightly rough surfaces like cement can help a lot by naturally wearing down the growing nails.
For trimming your dog’s nails, first make your pet comfortable and keep some treats handy.
Hold your pet’s foot steady but gently, then snip off a small bit of the end of each toenail using either the guillotine or scissors-type clippers.
If you are new to trimming your pet’s nails, consult a veterinarian regarding what type of nail trimmers to use and ask for instructions on using them properly.
2. Trim the Paw Hair
In dogs, hair can grow in between their paw pads as a form of protection. But at times, when this hair becomes longer, it gets easily matted and traps dirt, snow and ice.
Also, the hair tends to remain damp for longer periods of time, which in turn can cause fungal infections. Dealing with a fungal infection can be really tough, so prevent the problem from arising by regularly clipping the hair between your dog’s paws.
Make your pet sit down next to you and pick up his paws, one at a time. Trim any long hair from the feet and pads using a pair of fingernail scissors.
Also, check for pebbles or other debris stuck between the pads while trimming the hair.
3. Moisturize the Pads
While it is important to take care of your pet’s teeth, its also equally important to moisturize their paws. Your dog’s paw pads can crack and bleed if they get too dry, and the problem can be really painful for your pet. Cracks on the pads also increase the risk of an infection.
Dry or cracked pads are a preventable problem. All you need to do is moisturize the pads regularly.
Be sure to choose a moisturizer made specifically for dogs, as moisturizers for humans can soften the pads too much and make them susceptible to injury.
It is always best to ask your veterinarian to recommend a lotion. Apply the moisturizer on your dog’s paws as directed, and massage gently by rubbing between the pads and between each toe.
4. Massage the Pads
Just as massaging is good for your health, it can benefit your pet, too.
In fact, giving your dog a paw massage will help their paws feel relaxed. It will also promote better circulation. Massaging your dog’s paws can be great for the health of several of its body’s systems.
Also, massaging can be great way to build trust between your dog and yourself. Moreover, most dogs like a paw massage and look forward to it.
Start the massage session by rubbing between the pads on the bottom of the paws, then rub between each toe. While you give your dog a paw massage, you can also check the paws for any abnormalities.
5. Do Regular Paw Checks
As a responsible owner, it is your duty to take care of your dog’s skin and coat and also to regularly check your canine friend’s paws. As the paw pads are soft and bouncy in nature, it is easy for small objects to get stuck in them or between them.
But, if you make a habit of checking the paws regularly, you can easily watch for pebbles, foxtails, broken glass or other small objects. In most cases, you’ll be able to remove the object using tweezers.
Also, look for small cuts or scrapes. Minor injuries should be cleaned with an antibiotic wash and covered with a loose bandage. For more serious cuts, always take your pet to your vet.
6. Avoid Hot Surfaces
During the hot days of summer, you must be extra careful when taking your pet for a walk. Remember, just like your feet can be sensitive to hot surfaces, so can your dog’s paws.
Walking on a hot pavement or sand can lead to burns and even blisters. If minor burns occur, use an antibacterial wash and wrap the paw with a loose bandage. For serious burns, visit your vet immediately.
To prevent burns and blisters, avoid walking your dog on a hot pavement or sand. If the ground is too hot, stick to the grass or shady places and limit the walk time during the day. Take your dog for a walk in the early morning or late evening, when the ground is cooler.
7. Watch Out for Snow and Ice
Just like during the hot extremes of summer days, you also need to be cautious during extremely cold winter days, and especially when there is ice and snow outside.
During the winter, the cold temperature can cause your pet’s paws to crack or dry out.
Also, bear in mind that lots of people use salt and other items to melt ice off of sidewalks. This could be toxic to dogs who like to lick their paws. So, when walking your dog in the winter, either wipe down or rinse his paws with warm water after coming home to wash away any chemicals they may have picked up.
Another option is to protect your pet’s paws with booties. Choose booties that your dog can tolerate and that stay on his or her feet well. Your dog may react strangely initially, but give it bit of time to allow your dog to adjust to the feeling of booties on his paws.
8. Watch for Chewing and Licking
If your dog starts licking or chewing at his paw pads, do not ignore it. This sudden change in habit may be a sign that there is some kind of irritant there.
Check carefully for the irritant before your dog causes damage to his pads. Chewing and licking can also delay healing.
Sometimes, chewing and licking can indicate an allergic reaction or fungal infection, which may need a quick trip to the vet.
9. Exercise at an Appropriate Pace
Exercise is important for your pet’s health, but you need to introduce exercise into your pet’s routine in a slow and steady manner.
Too much exercise in a matter of few days can be damaging to the paws. Also, if you dog has spent most of his time indoors, then do not take your pet outside in a park for a long exercise session. Your pet’s paws have not built up a tolerance to the rough surfaces and can become sensitive, chaffed or cracked.
It is recommended to start exercising outside by going on short walks and gradually lengthening the distance and varying the terrains.
10. Keep an Eye Out for Objects that Could Injure the Paws
To reduce the risk of injury to your pup’s paws, always be careful in public areas. In particular, if you are taking your pup for a walk outside, keep an eye out for sharp objects, such as broken glass or untreated wood.
In fact, you should do a quick scan of your own home and backyard to make sure there are no pieces of broken glass or sharp debris that could hurt your pet’s paws.
Remember that preventing injuries is always better than treating them.