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Caring for Your Dog's Paws

Your dog’s feet do a lot of work; the foot pads are the toughest part of your dog’s skin, and they have to absorb the shock and pressure on his joints as he walks, stands and runs. Wearing on the pads of the feet is common, as they are exposed to so many surfaces on a daily basis, so it’s important to include them in your regular care routine. Here are some considerations when it comes to caring for your dog’s feet, including how to treat common injuries.

Keeping Your Dog's Paws Healthy

There are a few things you can do to keep your dog’s feet in good shape. Your dog’s nails should just touch the floor; letting them get any longer can cause them to get snagged and break. Ask your vet if you need guidance on trimming your dog’s nails. You should also trim the hair on your dog’s feet if it’s shaggy, it’s painful if it becomes matted. Frequently clean in between your dog’s toes to get rid of any foreign objects that have become trapped there; you can gently use tweezers to remove anything you find. Remember that the pads of your dog’s feet are skin and need to be moisturized; you can ask your vet to recommend moisturizer suitable for your dog based on his environment and lifestyle. Be especially aware of moisturizing if your dog goes on frequent hikes or runs with you.

Treating Injuries

Even with the best care, a dog’s feet can still get injured when he steps on something sharp or bumps into something. Symptoms may include bleeding, limping, holding the injured paw off the ground, discoloration of the pad and excessive licking and/or chewing of the paw. 

Cleaning

The foot pad contains a lot of blood vessels, so cuts and scrapes tend to bleed a lot. The bleeding usually stops once you apply pressure; however, if it does not, contact your vet immediately. If the injury seems relatively minor, you can take steps at home to treat it an alleviate you dog’s pain.  Remember to be careful and very gentle when dealing with an injured dog. You might even consider temporarily putting a muzzle on your dog as you treat the injury; even a mild mannered dog can behave unexpectedly when he is in pain. Soak the wound in warm water and Epsom salts or antibacterial wash for about ten minutes. This will clean the wound and soften the skin, helping to remove any debris. Afterwards, examine the injury for any remaining debris and remove it very carefully with tweezers, being observant of your dog’s reaction to ensure you are not causing too much pain. If there is an injury to the nail, trim back the broken nail before soaking the foot. A nail broken at the base will require veterinary attention.  

Bandaging

When caring for a larger wound, using an antibacterial ointment is important. Consult your vet on what kind is best. Once you have applied the ointment, cover the wound with a gauze pad, and wrap the paw gently with rolled gauze, making sure the bandage is not so tight it will interfere with circulation. You can then cover the dressing with a plastic bag to prevent the bandage from becoming soiled. Repeat the cleaning and bandaging process daily, and if you have any doubts, contact your vet.

Special Concerns During Cold Weather

If you live in a place where the winters are cold and snowy, take this into consideration when caring for your dog’s paws. Bitter cold can cause chapping and cracking on the pads. Rock salt and chemical ice melters can cause sores, infection and blistering. Toxic chemicals can also be ingested by your dog when he licks his paws. After outdoor walks, wash your dog’s paws in warm water to rinse away salt and chemicals. You may wish to apply Vaseline, a great salt barrier, to the foot pads before each walk or even better, invest in a pair of dog booties. Our store carries ice-melting products that work well and are not harmful to your dog’s paws.