Dog Paw Care 101
A dog’s paws are tough – they run over rocks, skate along the ice, stand up to the summer heat and dig through sand and dirt. These paw pads see a lot during a dog’s lifetime, so do your canine best buddy a favor. Check out our seasonal guide to paw health, and help him keep those feet running safely and comfortably all year ’round!
The hazards of winter can be dangerous to your pup’s paws. Dogs’ paws are naturally thick and leathery and offer some protection against hard surfaces and the elements, but all the salt, sand, snow, ice, and de-icing chemicals can cause dry paws, cracking, irritation, injury, and even infection.
If your dog spends a lot of time in the snow or walks on sidewalks or streets that see a lot of salt and de-icers, then consider preparing your dog’s paws before going outside in the winter months. Cloth or rubber dog booties are a great way to protect your dog’s paws and prevent slipping on ice. There are many options and sizes available. Putting the booties on the dog can be a challenge, so here’s a helpful how-to video. However, not all dogs will tolerate booties. If you need a laugh, check out this video of dogs trying them on for the first time.
In that case, another option is a paw wax like Musher’s Secret, which was developed for sledding dogs. Paw wax forms a protective coating over the paws and protects them from direct contact with harmful surfaces or chemicals. If you can’t find a dog-specific paw wax, try Bag Balm or even Vaseline.
Good grooming habits can also help maintain good paw health in the winter. On his website, Cesar Milan advises to trim the hair around the paws of long-coated dogs to make sure that none of the hair comes into contact with the ground. This proper grooming will “prevent ice balls from forming between and around the paw pads which can be painful and result in trauma. It also makes it easier to apply the [paw wax] to the pads.”
It is also important to clean up after winter walks. When you get back inside, make sure to thoroughly clean off your dog’s paws with a towel and warm water to remove all traces of paw wax, debris or chemicals she may have picked up on your walk. We suggest keeping a towel by the door to help establish a routine. This quick cleaning will keep your dog from licking her paws and potentially getting sick from de-icing chemicals. Plus, it helps keep the floors clean, too!
Summer may be snow-free, but it still poses some potential hazards to a dog’s paws. Summer means trips to the beach and lots of outdoor time (yay!), but it can also mean hot sand and even hotter asphalt. A good rule of thumb is – would you stand here barefoot for more than a few seconds? If not, then avoid walking on those hot surfaces with your dog. Morning or early evening walks are best to avoiding peak sun hours.
Dogs also spend a lot more time outside in the summer months, so summer is a good time to check your dog’s paws for any signs of injury, such as cracks, blisters or punctures. Make it a habit after long walks, and always examine them if you dog is licking his paws more than usual, or is limping. Minor cracks or cuts in the paws can be treated with a wash in antibacterial soap and a soothing balm or a dog-specific pad moisturizer (just don’t use your own moisturizer – according to the ASPCA it can soften the paws and lead to injury). Any severe burns or deep cuts should be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
If your dog spends a lot of time in open fields, keep an eye out for foxtails, a weed that can log itself in the skin between paw pads. If this happens, the foxtail should be removed immediately, for it is irritating and painful for the dog, and can lead to infection if untreated. Try to remove it gently with tweezers, but if the area is red or swollen, bring the dog to the vet as soon as possible. The vet can also check your dog thoroughly for more foxtails, as they have been known to lodge in dogs’ ears, eyes and noses.
Here’s to a year a good health, strong paws and lots of outdoor fun for your dog!
“Hordeum murinum disarticulating spikelet cluster.” Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.