A majority of the time, dogs use their paws for walking, fetching and running, thus, it is imperative that you take care of your dog’s paws. The paw pads provide insulation for a dog’s feet, provide grip, help with balance, slowing down and stopping, as well as act as shock absorbers for the bones and joints that make up the dog’s feet and legs.
Even though they are durable and designed to withstand a large amount of activity and wear, they do encounter some problems.
It is necessary to regularly check your pet’s paws for any issues, and take steps to keep them healthy and protected.
Symptoms of Paw Pad Issues and Injuries
- Licking and chewing the affected paw(s)
- Lameness or limping
- Red and inflamed paws
- Lesions and discharge
- Hair loss
- Ulcers with scabbing and blisters
- Cuts, abrasions, and tears
- Cracked and torn nails
- Dry/cracked pads
- Loose flaps of skin on paw pads
- Refusal to walk or bear weight on paw(s)
- Cysts and growths
- Foul smell coming from paw
What Causes them
Dry and cracked paw pads: Pads are meant to be rough, so that they can get traction on smooth surfaces. However, factors such as hot pavements, dry air, chemicals, exposure to rough surfaces and excessive licking can cause dry, cracked paws, which can be painful and can put your pet at risk for infection.
Allergies: Pets suffering from allergies will be itchy, especially in the paws, and typically will bite, lick, or chew on them to attempt to relieve the itching. In some cases, excessive licking can cause irritation or injury, and may make the paw more susceptible to secondary fungal and bacterial infections.
Fungal and Bacterial Infections: Normally, many different species of bacteria and fungi live on your pet’s paw pads. Occasionally these organisms can go out of control and cause infection. Bacterial and fungal skin infections are common in dogs and often involve the paws.
Parasites: Ticks cause all sorts of problems, in addition to pain and infection. They are notorious for hiding between your pet’s paw pads. When removing ticks, make sure the head is detached along with the rest of the body. Mite infestation between the paws can also cause scaling, swelling and hair loss.
Cuts and Abrasions: Cuts, abrasions and lacerations may occur at any time and are common since dogs run and play on a variety of terrains. It is important to keep an eye out for sharp objects on the ground when walking your dog.
Cysts and Growths: Lumps, cysts and growths commonly occur on your pet’s paws or between the toes. If you spot one, take your pet to the vet so that it can be treated and removed in time.
Burns and Blisters: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, if it’s too hot for you to walk outside barefoot, then it’s too hot for your pet too!
Pets can and do suffer burns on their paw pads from walking on surfaces that are too hot. Burned paw pads may look swollen, red, or blistered. Burns to the paws are a serious medical issue and require prompt attention from a veterinarian.
Nails: Long toenails, ingrowing nails and torn nails can cause your pet a lot of pain and difficulty in walking. It is best to keep your pet’s nails trimmed and clean as regularly as possible.
Care and Prevention
Pedicures: Your pet’s nails should be trimmed when it is long enough to touch the ground, while walking. How often should you trim your pet’s nails varies from dog to dog. Some breeds may not need to be trimmed much at all.
Weather conditions: During the summer months, it is important that you avoid walking your dog on the hot pavements, road or sand. This can cause blisters. Ensure you wash/rinse your pet’s paws with warm water after a walk and apply dog approved moisturizer to prevent dry and cracked paws.
Paw checks: Timely paw checks are important, especially after playing outside or doing strenuous activities, as those are the most likely times for injuries to appear. It's also when your dog is most likely to get something stuck in their pad or between their toes. Look carefully and clear any debris and watch out for injuries or blistering.
First Aid: It’s important to have a dog first aid kit for minor injuries. If you do happen to find a minor cut or blister on your dog’s feet, clean it out with anti-bacterial wash and bandage the area as best you can.
Protect them furry paws!