Dog paws are truly the unsung heroes of our furry friends’ lives. Paws are incredible things, and they deserve a lot of attention from dog owners. Unfortunately, we don’t always acknowledge our dog’s paws, so they might not get the treatment they deserve.
This article will discuss how to take care of your dog's paws.
There are three key reasons that paw care for dogs is essential:
- Paw hygiene is integral to your dog’s overall health
- Paws indicate various health concerns that owners could otherwise miss
- Sore or injured paws are painful for your dog
So, not only do paws set the stage for your dog’s overal health and wellness, but they can also alert you to internal issues your dog might be having. This article offers a simple guide to examining and caring for your dog’s paws regularly.
I’ll make it as straightforward as possible, stripping away anything that’s not essential for a care routine. If you’re interested in learning some of the interesting facts about dog paws, this article does a great exploration.
How to Take Care of Dog Paws
1. Check Your Dog’s Paws After Walks
Your primary task is to inspect your dog’s paws after any outdoor excursion. That means walks—even short ones around the block.
Sidewalks, roads, forests, and beaches are all full of small objects that could damage your dog’s paws. The paw has folds and crevices, both of which are covered up by a warm blanket of hair. Those factors make it easy for debris to enter and stay put.
In serious cases, sharp debris can pierce the skin and produce a bacterial infection. The easy way to avoid this is to look over your dog’s paws whenever you get back inside and remove the debris you find.
On these post-walk inspections, you’re mostly looking for large debris that could cause damage (by “large,” we mean things like small rocks and pieces of metal.) You don’t have to spend a great deal of time here, but the simple fact that you’re looking will eliminate a large percentage of serious threats.
2. Deep Clean Paws Each Week
Once per week, sit down with your dog and do a legitimate cleaning. Daily inspections will ward off large foreign objects, while weekly cleanings will get rid of the dirt and bacteria that could lead to a serious infection.
All of the microscopic germs debris that naturally collect in your dog’s paws need to be cleaned out regularly. You can wash these things out with water, dog-safe cleaning wipes, or specially designed paw cleaners.
Address each paw, get between the pads, and wipe clean all cracks and crevices. If this is a difficult task for your dog, a few calming treats might help to distract them while you’re getting between the pads.
Trim paw hair once per month: on your fourth paw-cleaning of the month, check to see if your dog’s paws are getting covered up by hair. Hair could seem like a comfortable padding for your dog as they walk, but excessive hair around the paws can actually cause problems.
A little hair is necessary as a small buffer between the paws and debris. Once paw hair gets to the point where it’s dragging on the ground, though, it becomes a health hazard. The excess hair mops up and traps debris, making it more likley to stick around and negatively impact your dog’s health.
3. Trim Your Dog’s Nails at Least Once Per Month
You may need to trim more often if the claws start to get overgrown. Make note of nail length each time you deeply clean your dog’s paws.
Trimming nails on time is extremely important. If we forget to trim their nails, walking becomes difficult, infection can occur, and your dog’s overall health and confidence can suffer greatly. It’s simple to avoid those outcomes, and all it takes is some dedication to the process we're talking about today.
The tricky thing is that dogs generally don’t enjoy getting their nails trimmed. Our article on trimming offers some excellent advice on keeping them calm and getting the job done.
4. Stay Up on Visits to The Vet
The last aspect of your paw care routine is vet examinations. No need to make special appointments with your professional because paw care is a part of their job.
If you’re taking your dog to the vet regularly, you can sleep a little easier knowing that no stone (or paw) has been left unturned. Healthy adult dogs should go in every six months or so, whereas puppies and aging dogs might need to see the vet more often.
You and your vet should decide on the length of intervals between visits.
Bonus: Option for Relief
If your dog is experiencing paw pain or cracking, paw balm can be extremely effective. There are plenty of options on the market, and many of them contain pain-relieving agents.
Balms are an excellent option for many dogs.
Paw Symptoms to Watch Out for
1. Swollen Pads
If your dog’s pads are swollen, odds are that something's a little off. It could be that a small piece of debris has entered and caused an infection.
It could also be the result of an insect bite, an allergy, unusual inflammation, or something else. In any case, swollen pads warrant a call or a visit to your veterinarian.
2. Cracked Pads
Cracked pads, just like dry or cracked skin, are uncomfortable. Fortuantely for us, we don’t typically have to spend a lot of time walking on our bare feet.
Dogs, on the other hand, might have a difficult time walking comfortably if their pads are cracked and dry. There are dog-specifc pad moisturizers and creams that you might consider rubbing into your dogs paws, especially if you live in a colder climate.
If cracked pads don't clear up or they seem like they're getting worse, it's time to contact your veterinarian.
3. Limping, Licking Their Paws
Excessive licking, biting, or even limping are all signs that your dog might have something unusual happening in their paws. Biting and chewing are common signs that your dog is having an allergy, or that their gut health is suffering in one way or another.
If left untreated, biting and chewing on the paws will produce new issues like open sores, infections, and worse. So, if your dog licks, gnaws, or paws excessively, talk with your veterinarian.
4. Cuts or Abrasions
Small cuts and scrapes causing your dog pain should be cleaned out with an antiseptic soap and treated with an antibiotic or antibacterial cream. It’s recommended that you talk with a veterinarian now to see which types of antibiotics and antibacterial creams will be healthy for your dog.
That way, you don't have to scramble for the right product when an injury happens.
Neosporin, for example, is designed for humans and includes the chemical bacitracin which was linked to hearing loss in intravenous use for dogs. That's why it's best to get dog-approved health products rather than chancing the ones you already have in the pantry.
Signs of Good Paw Health
1. Consistently Normal Paws
The best thing any owner can do is to familiarize themselves with their dog's healthy paws. When you’re aware of what your dog’s paws look like when they’re healthy, you’ll be much more aware when things go wrong.
All dogs have unique paws, so it’s important that you have a good idea of what your dog’s are supposed to look like. If your dog's paws are consistently the same, that's typically a good sign.
2. Soft Paws (With Exceptions)
Paws should generally be soft and smooth. If things start to dry out and toughen, this could be a sign of a deeper issue. If your dog’s nose and paws start to produce hardened or “crusty” exteriors, this could be a sign of hyperkeratosis.
Hyperkeratosis isn’t curable, but it is treatable and dogs who have it can maintain a high quality of life. If you notice hardened, crusty exteriors on your dog’s paws and nose, contact your vet.
The key exception for the “soft & smooth” rule is for dogs who do a lot of walking on hard or difficult terrain. Just like human feet, dog paws develop callouses when they repeat behavior on challenging ground.
If you were to walk on gravel to get to work, it would be excruciating at first. Then, after a few days, your feet would develop callouses and the walk wouldn’t be as bad.
The same thing happens for dogs. If you’re walking on gravel, asphalt, rocky terrains, or some other rough surfaces with any regularity, your dog will develop callouses. These are natural, and they’re nothing to worry about.
3. A Pain-Free Dog
So long as you’re keeping up on paw cleanings and your dog is looking healthy and pain-free, odds are that their paws are in good shape.
Paws are a double-edged sword in that they’re vulnerable, but symptoms of their ailments typically present very clearly. In other words, you’ll likely notice a change in your dog’s behavior if something is up with their paws.
When your dog displays strange behavior, there’s a decent chance their paws will offer some clues about why.
Need More Canine Care Tips?
Paws aren't the only things that require attention. Our site is full of informational guides on how to treat your dog properly and give them the happiest life possible.
Many of our articles are written by veterinarians, and the rest are produced by people who dedicate their lives to pets. Explore our blog for more key insights into raising and owning healthy, happy dogs.