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How to care for your dog's paws

Two dog paws with a heart shape

Owners should get into the habit of checking your dog’s paws.

© Shutterstock

Your dog's paws are durable pads designed for running and walking across all types of terrain. They provide protection and work as shock absorbers to protect from wear and tear on the bones and joints, and provide some insulation from cold surfaces on feet!

By Dr Holly Graham BVMedSci BVMBVS MRCVS

Updated on the 22/02/2021, 11:17

Paws are exposed to the elements and harsh surfaces, so they can be prone to damage and injury. Here’s how to keep your dog’s paws in perfect condition!

Dog paw problems

Dog’s paws are tough, but should be checked regularly for any damage - especially after walks! Most dogs will let you know if there’s an issue. If a paw is sore your dog might limp or chew at their foot. Check your dog’s feet carefully after walks - especially if they’ve been around any objects like broken glass that could cause damage! Examine between the toes and between the pads, and around the nails for anything that could be stuck or any wounds or grazes that might be present. If your dog enjoys running through long grass check for grass blades, and any pesky parasites that might be hiding! Ticks and other parasites, like harvest mites, can find themselves a cosy home on your pets feet. Preventative spot-ons or tablets are available for parasites, but you might need a hand removing these critters from your vet or veterinary nurse.

If cuts or grazes aren’t noticed they can become infected. Keep an eye out for any red, moist, swollen or smelly areas. And always check the surface of the keratin layer, particularly on hot days! This might look tough but can be damaged too.

Is it common for dogs to hurt their foot pad?

Dogs often injure their paws on walks. Sometimes this is from skidding across the ground, or it could be a cut or something stuck! Thankfully most injuries are easily treated, but should always be checked over by a vet. Keep an eye out for signs of discomfort, like licking or chewing. Sometimes problems aren’t that obvious - particularly on fluffy feet!

How do dogs keep their paws warm in minus degree weather?

Extreme weather conditions pose a real threat to your dog's paw pads. During scorching summers, walking your dog on a hot pavement or tarmac can quickly lead to burning and blistering of pads. Cold weather and salt or grit on icy surfaces can dry out your dog's paws, causing painful cracks. Rock salt, used to melt ice on our pavements might be helpful but it can be dangerous to dogs. This material can be irritating and cause skin problems and itchiness, but can be dangerous if ingested. If you’ve taken your dog out for a walk in the snow or in the cold weather, wash their feet down with warm water and ensure they’re sparklingly clean.

Dog’s don’t need socks or boots! The thick fat layer present under the keratin layer helps to insulate their feet, and the fur covering their toes acts like our own socks and shoes. Some dogs might tolerate a booty, but they aren’t necessary to keep your dog warm.

If your dog isn’t keen on walking in the snow and ice, don’t force him out into the cold. Walks can wait if your dog isn’t happy to go out!

A close up of a dog's paw, it's important you take care of them ©Shutterstock

How to get a piece of glass out of your dog's foot

Glass in feet is very painful! After a walk you might notice a chunk sticking out, and it’s tempting to remove this yourself. If the glass is very loose and easily removed, you can attempt to gently pull it out. Be careful, even the sweetest natured dog might snap if this hurts! Be aware that once the glass is removed the wound might bleed, be prepared to apply pressure to the area and call your vet. Gently rinse your dog’s foot with clean water, never apply any antiseptic creams or preparations without veterinary instruction. These can sting and some aren’t suitable for pets.

If the glass is too deep, or you’re worried there might be small fragments that you can’t get - call your vet and never attempt to pull this out yourself.

All wounds should be checked over by your vet - they might need pain relief, antibiotics, or even surgery to stitch the wound shut!

What is the best and safest antiseptic to use on my dog's paws?

When it comes to paw care, you should always use vet-approved products suitable for dogs. Don't risk using human antiseptic creams or lotions. Some of them will contain chemicals that may be harmful. These preparations can be painful to apply to sore areas, and any issues with paws should be checked out by a vet - not everything can be treated successfully at home.

There are pet safe balms available to buy from many pet stores now, that act like our moisturising hand creams. These are great to nourish dry pads. But remember - never apply anything to cracked or broken skin!

 How do you treat a cut paw on a dog?

Never attempt to treat a cut yourself. Always get this checked over by your vet. Small cuts might be hiding bigger problems, there could be infection or even something tiny stuck in there! Most cuts aren’t anything to worry about, but cuts on paws can be painful and become infected, so they might need some medication from the vet to help heal. Wounds should be kept clean and dry.

How to bandage a dog's paw?

Dressings are complicated and difficult, and take years of practice to get good at. These are best left to veterinary staff. Different wounds require different dressings, and if applied incorrectly you can do more harm than good. It’s easy to apply a dressing too tight and cause damage. Call your vet if you’re worried your dog has a wound that needs a dressing or stitches.

You can protect the paw until your appointment by using a child’s sock and a plastic sandwich bag. This should keep the wound clean and dry, and prevent any chewing! Buster collars, or ‘the cone of shame’ can be used to stop your dog getting to the area. Leave bandaging to the professionals!

What are the benefits of moisturising your dog's paws?

Moisturising your pup's pads regularly can help to prevent lots of potential issues, including cracked and dry paws. This will help keep your dog’s feet in the best condition they can be, but don’t worry if your dog isn’t keen on a pedicure! Regular foot checks are enough for most dogs.

Care for your dog's paws! ©Shutterstock

What are the best lotions to moisturise my dog's paws?

There’s no need to use your favourite face cream on your dog’s feet. Human products aren’t safe for canine paws. There are plenty of great moisturising options available, designed with our canine pals in mind. These are available online, in store and from your vet. Find one that suits both you and your dog, and pamper your pooch!

Prevention is always better than cure, and early detection of problems is vital in resolving issues quickly and successfully! Check your dog’s paws after walks and give them a rinse if you’re worried they’ve been walking through anything irritating. Wounds, itchiness or redness should be checked over by your vet. Enjoy your walks and keep those paws in check!

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