10 Tips To Protect Your Dog’s Paws
Your dog’s paws may look tough but as they exercise, play and go about their day, they take a lot of the strain. Especially during the summer and winter when the temperature, weather and terrain go more extreme, their furry feet can need a little more care and protection.
To help prevent a paw injury in your pupper and ensure their pads are in tip-top condition all year round, we take a look at the top 10 things you can do to keep your dog’s feet happy and protected.
The Lowdown on Your Dog’s Paws
While your pooch is effectively walking around barefoot, his paw pads are designed to keep him on his feet. Each fleshy pad is made from fatty tissue, covered by a layer of pigmented skin, which is why your pet’s paws are usually pink or black, or a mix of both. The fatty tissue provides insulation and helps to protect their paws from colder, rougher surfaces, especially during the winter. Working with their claws, paw pads also help with your dog’s balance and work to provide shock absorption as well as traction with the ground.
All in all, your dog’s paws are well-equipped to support your dog and protect their feet. However, there are ways you can give your dog’s paws an extra helping hand. Here are our 10 tips for dog paw care:
Toughen up Their Pads
Take a look at your dog’s paw pads and they may look a little calloused, rough and crackled and this is actually a good thing as it means their feet have been acclimatized to walking outdoors. However, if your pet is young, not that active or exercises on grass and softer ground, their pads are likely to be more fleshy-feeling and smoother, which can make them prone to injury.
Your dog’s paws need to be able to cope with the rigors of weather, heat, cold, hard surfaces and rough terrain. So, if you are wanting to up their exercise, or get your new puppy walking confidently, then you can help to toughen them up without doing their feet any harm. And all you need to do is gradually up their regular walking time on pavements or cement surfaces to build a toughened layer of skin on their pads before you move to rougher, ‘off-road’ dog walking terrains. This is one of the best ways as to how to protect dog paws.
Clean Their Paws
This is an important routine to get into if you want to keep a spring in your pooch’s step. As much as you may watch where your dog is stepping as you go out for exercise, it’s possible for small pieces of ground debris to get caught inbetween their pads or in their paw fur. And especially during the winter, rock salt that’s used to keep the ground ice-free can actually ‘burn’ your dog’s paws. To prevent any lasting damage, always clean your dog’s paws at the end of their daily exercise session – paw wipes are a quick and easy way, or a wet cloth will work just as well – before drying their feet with an old towel.
While you want your dog to have tough, resilient paws, you don’t want them to become so dry or calloused that they start to develop sores, infected cracks or peeling skin. So how do you soften a dog’s paws without leaving them too vulnerable when walking on rough ground? The solution to keeping the right balance between toughness and comfort in your dog’s paws is to introduce a little moisturizing to their routine. Just as we moisturize our dry hands, then adding some soothing moisture to your dog’s paw pads is going to help prevent painful cracked skin. Make sure you buy a moisturizer specifically formulated for dogs as it needs to be pet-safe if they lick it, then simply rub into their paw pads as needed, particularly during the winter.
Keep Their Nails and Foot Hair Trim
Long claws or overgrown paw fur can cause foot pain for your dog and lead to longer-term health issues such as arthritis if not dealt with in time. If your dog’s claws are allowed to get too long, they can twist their toes outwards, making walking uncomfortable and put strain on their joints. And if they grow backwards, they can actually grow into your pooch’s paw pad skin. If you’re walking your dog regularly on a variety of ground surfaces, their claws will need less trimming, but it’s essential their claws are kept at a length that ensures their feet are comfortable and healthy. Many dogs also have fur that grows between their paw pads that can affect their traction on smooth or slippery surfaces if it’s left to grow too long. If you are unsure how to trim your pet’s claws or paw fur, chat to your vet or make a regular appointment with the dog groomer.
Protect with a Paw Wax
Another way to give your dog’s pads an extra layer of protection is to use a paw wax. Formulated for dogs and pet-safe, these waxes offer protection from ice, chemicals such as rock salt, rough surfaces, sand, gravel and rocks. A paw wax is also a good solution when it comes to how to protect dog paws from hot pavement or sidewalks. A lot of paw waxes include natural ingredients such as honey or essential oils which have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties to soothe and heal cracked, sore skin.
Avoid Walking Them on Ice
Protecting dog paws in winter is an important consideration for all pet owners, especially when walking in snowy or extreme cold weather conditions. As well as rock salt which can damage their skin, ice can actually ‘burn’ your dog’s paws, and can cause them to slip and loose grip, potentially leading to further injury. And ice can also build up into small balls that clog their paws as they collect around their fur, making walking very uncomfortable indeed. The best way to prevent ice damage is to avoid walking your dog on icy surfaces. And keep them away from any sidewalk salt that has been laid down to melt surface ice as it can be poisonous if he then licks his paws.
Stay on the Grass if it is Hot
The heat of the summer can also damage and even burn your pupper’s paws, especially if they are walking on sidewalks that have been heating up all day. Choosing when you take your dog for their daily exercise in the summer is key to good paw health, walking early morning or later on in the evening is a good choice as the ground has had time to cool down. Another good tip to protect their paws is to swap hot ground for cooler grass, so if the day is shaping up to be a scorcher, head for the shade of a grassy park.
Dog Boots, Socks or Shoes
Protective footwear is a good idea if your doggo is prone to injury, has softer paw pads or you need to exercise them in very cold, snowy conditions. Dog socks can help around the home if you have an older, arthritic pooch or your dog has a tough time walking on hard wooden floors. Dog shoes which have neoprene or rubber soles are a step up from socks and can be used on their everyday walks to protect more sensitive or sore feet from rougher ground as well as heat or cold. And for those more extreme winter conditions, including ice and snow, or for outdoor hikes off the beaten track, dog booties provide more hardcore protection as well as helping to keep their feet warm.
Get Into a Regular Paw Routine
To keep your dog’s paws healthy for the long-haul, you need to get into the habit of regularly checking their pads as part of their care and maintenance routine. As well as cleaning their paws after every walk and keeping their claws and paw fur trimmed and neat, checking for any other early warning signs can help you nip paw problems in the bud. Not only should you be looking for signs of small foreign objects like thorns that may be lodged, you should also know what your pet’s feet look like healthy and check that all is on track. Simple things to do include pressing gently on the pads and make a note of any discomfort and looking for signs of discoloration in the skin, small injuries or abnormalities. Knowing your dog’s paws and acting early on anything that doesn’t look right will keep you pooch healthy, happy and on their toes.
Get them Used to Having Their Paws Handled
And finally, to ensure your dog’s paws are in good condition, he needs to be happy to have them handled and inspected. Having a foot shy pooch can cause potential problems in the long run, as a dog that retracts their paw during a check or nail trim could end up with a quick nail or a nick on their paw pad, which can become infected. And you may pick up on mixed signals when they do actually have a paw injury if they are always reluctant to let you have a look. To get your canine happy to have his paw held, take your time and gently hold his paw for a few moments, then reward with praise. Gradually build up the time you hold his paw until he is relaxed and happy. Then together you can both put your best foot forward in keeping those paws protected.