Paws are pretty sturdy, making it easy for even the best pet parents to overlook issues that can become pretty uncomfortable for our fur-friends. Torn nails, pad burns, frostbite, chemical and allergy irritation can cause significant problems for dogs. It’s important to learn what to look for and how to protect your dog to keep those paws healthy and happy all year round. Follow these tips to keep your best friend on his toes!
Winter can be hard on anyone’s feet – snow, ice, salt and chemicals can irritate and damage your dog’s feet. Always wipe your dog’s feet after going outside for a walk or to play in the show. Make sure you remove any ice that can build up between toes, and consider trimming long hair in the pads so that ice balls are less likely to form. Use a warm washcloth to remove any chemicals or salt your dog’s feet may have picked up during a walk.
Keep an eye out for ice as well. In addition to the danger of frostbite, there is always the chance that your dog can slip and fall on the ice and injure herself seriously. You can protect against frostbite and give your dog extra traction with paw wax or booties. Look for pet safe products that are made for sled dogs for the most reliable results. Make sure you apply foot wax properly and monitor the product in case it wears off.
The Heat is On
Summer poses certain risks to feet as well. Asphalt and concrete can become very hot and put your dog’s feet at risk for burns. If the pavement is too hot for you to walk on with bare feet, it’s too hot for your dog as well. Avoid walking dogs on paved surfaces when it’s very hot, and consider taking walks earlier in the day, before surfaces have had a chance to absorb the heat of the sun.
Allergies can cause dogs to lick and chew at their feet. If your dog begins to lick his paws when he comes in from a walk, he may have an allergy to grass or other plants. Wiping the feet with a warm washcloth will help to remove pollen and other allergens and prevent itching and discomfort. You can also use booties to protect the feet. You might want to contact your vet to perform allergy testing. They might recommend an antihistamine to reduce the itchiness associated with foot allergies.
Always inspect your dog’s feet after a walk or an excursion outside. Thorns, burrs, and other debris can become lodged in a pad. Not only can this be painful, but it could lead to infection. Check for cracks and cuts as well. Since your dog’s feet are what she walks on, any injury could lead to infection and become a much larger issue, so keep an eye out and address problems as they occur.
If pads seem dry or cracked but are not injured, you might want to moisturize with a pet friendly moisturizer. Do not use human lotions as they may be harmful to your pet or may be ingested. Look for pet specific canine foot moisturizers, and don’t be afraid to consult your vet before using them.
It’s important to handle your dog’s feet regularly so that he is used to it. This will make it easier to remove ice balls or thorns and to address any issues that may arise. It’s also a good idea to get your dog used to having his paws handled so that you can easily tell if a paw hurts when examined.
Keep nails trimmed and inspect them often for torn or broken nails. A split nail can create significant pain and lead to infections and other conditions. Large dogs and dogs who walk on hard surfaces may not need to have their nails trimmed very often, while dogs who are largely indoors or only walk on grass may need more regular trimming. You want nails to have minimal contact with the floor, so that the nail does not affect the way your dog walks and potentially cause discomfort.
Keep your dog’s feet healthy so that he can enjoy many more adventures with you and be “footloose and fancy free”!