Monday, 27 February 2012

Protecting Your Dog's Paws

Are your dog's ... uh ... "dogs" barking? 

When was the last time you took a good look at your dog's feet? In case it's been a while, let's take a peek at this neat structure.  The bottom of your dog's front foot will have six distinct pads: four digital pads, one metacarpal pad, and one carpal pad (See image). Abrasions on these pads are fairly common, especially if your dog does a lot of running around on hard surfaces.

A. claws B. digital pads C. metacarpal pad D. dewclaw E. carpal pad
Originally, we were going to post about this earlier in the season, but it actually makes more sense to discuss your dog's foot pads now that snow is melting. Why? When the snow starts to melt, you'll likely begin to notice tons of sand and debris along the edges of the road and on sidewalks. Simply having the pavement make an appearance can mean injury for your pup's feet!
Fortunately, you have a few options for keeping your dog's pads in tip-top shape.

There are commercial products available to coat the foot pads before exercise. Many contain natural wax and are a safe choice for dogs. The wax provides a barrier between your dog's pads and the surfaces on which he walks. It won't however, moisturize the skin.

When you return from a walk with your dog, you may want to rinse his feet in warm water to remove any sand, chemicals, salt, or ice from the surface of his feet and between his toes. Mild soap isn't necessary, unless your dog stepped in something undesirable - just be sure to rinse off the soap well. The fur between the toes often collects a ton of debris. With clean feet, your dog will also have a better chance to avoid ingesting harmful things when he licks his feet clean afterwards.

Once your dog is at rest (for most, this is at night), give his feet a good once-over. Check for missing pieces of pad - these spots will appear smooth and pink. You might even notice some blood. Often, you'll find an abrasion when your dog is walking on snow and you see blood on the snow. Be sure to check the regular skin between the toes, too. Sometimes, a claw can nick the skin when a dog plays. If your dog still has his dewclaws on the front paws, look at those, too. Dewclaws can be torn (or completely removed) during boisterous play. While this isn't life-threatening, it can become a source of infection and will bleed quite a bit.

Again, while the dog is at rest (hopefully, ignoring you!), apply a thin coat of a moisturizer. Creams are best because they are thick. A word of caution: whatever you put on your dog's feet will likely be licked at some point - so choose only natural products. It may sound strange, but olive oil works well. You can also crack open a vitamin E capsule and apply its contents. Once moisturizing is complete, applying the wax will help lock the oil in place.

After a few pampering sessions, your dog's feet will be the envy of the dog park!

Have you found any unconventional or cost-effective ways to keep your pup's feet in fabulous shape? Drop us a line - we'd love to hear it.

{I originally posted this over at the Sault Dog Blog, a co-authored blog.}

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