Dog Paw Problems And How I Avoid Or Repair Them

Four type of dogs sitting in the forest
As a long time dog owner, I can personally tell you that a dog’s paws are his second most important and used tool, only second to the nose. While the dog’s nose is a truly remarkable tool that can allow him to explore and discover the world, the paws offer similar attributes and properties. Just imagine how much your dog walks, runs, plays, and jumps. He is doing all of this with the use of his paws. And, they are bare most of the time, exposed to the harsh elements. While their paws might be designed for situations like this, could you imagine running around all day without socks and shoes? The thought alone is enough to send pain soaring through my feet.

At the end of the day, when I consider just how over-utilized these paws are it really doesn’t come as a surprise to me that my dog is always curled up at the end up the bad licking and chewing on his feet. It also doesn’t surprise me that certain accidents and issues can arise with a dog’s paws. To me, it seems like there would be more common issues than there are, given that a dog so heavily relies on his paws for pretty much everything that he does. Whatever the situation is, you can see just how important it is to regularly inspect your dog’s paws and make sure that he or she is free of issue. It also doesn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with some of the potential issues and what you need to do if they arise.

What Exactly Are Paw Pads?

Before you start learning all about the potential issues that can arise in paw pads, it is pertinent to get a better understanding of the paw pad itself. What exactly is it? You obviously know that these pads are your dog’s representation of feet. However, what you might now know is that they are made up of a layer of pigmented skin, usually pink or black, covering fatty tissue. The fat inside the paws is actual insulation that helps protect your pet’s paws from colder surfaces in the winter, while the pad itself will be the last point of protection. The pad is an integral part of your dog’s overall foot structure, as it helps with balance, traction, stability, and shock absorption. In addition to this, the pads also work in conjunction with the nails and provide them with protection as well. 

If you were to look at your dog’s paws right now, you’d either see a surface that is calloused or smooth and soft. This all really depends on the type of terrain that your pet is exposed to daily. Do you commonly take your dog for walks around the neighborhood? Maybe you have a built-in dog door and just let them roam in and out of the garage to the back yard. Whatever the situation is, these are all circumstances that would describe the condition of your dog’s paws.

Just like humans can build up calluses through repeated exposure to rough surfaces, so can dogs. If you are taking your pooch on constant hikes or walk around the neighborhood, you might think that you are doing them a world of good by giving them some exercise, but you could be hurting them. You’ll most certainly want to start with shorter walking periods and exposure to those rougher surfaces. At least give your guy time to build up the protection in his feet so that walking on these surfaces will later become a breeze.

Paw Maintenance And Care

By now, you already likely know that it is more than pertinent to constantly inspect your pet’s paws. This will not only alert you of any potential issues, but it could help prevent major issues that might arise in the future. That aside, you’ll want to perform a proper inspection by not only checking the condition of the pad itself, but you’ll always want to spread the dog’s toes apart and inspect the sides of their pads between their toes. Look for injuries or foreign objects like burrs, pebbles, or dangerous foxtails. While doing this, you’ll also want to keep a keen eye out for swelling and discoloration. It is also important to pay attention to how your buddy responds during the inspection. If you see him wincing or trying to jerk away, this should be a good indication that something is going on with the area that you are inspecting.

You also have to be extremely careful when it comes to temperature. Both cold and hot surfaces can wreak havoc on your pet’s paws. You’ll always want to avoid walking your guy when the temperature is just too hot. A good alternative is to let in play in the grass if that option is available. If not, you might have to exercise him in the home. That being said, you’ll know when the pavement is too hot for your dog because it’ll also be too hot for you. All you have to do is place the back of your hand on the pavement for a few seconds. If you find it difficult to keep your hand in place for more than 7 seconds, this is probably a good indication that it is too much for your dog.

If the pavement is this hot, it’ll more than likely be too hot for other outdoor activities as well. Your best option will probably be to tackle the exercise another day. That aside, the colder weather can be just as brutal, maybe even more so thanks to ice-melt products like salt. These items can dry out your pet’s paws and cause them to crack and burn. They can even be potentially lethal to your dog if he or she ingests them. This is why it is pertinent to make sure that you are always washing off your dog’s paws after bringing them in for a winter walk. A dog will tend to his paws every day, especially during those colder months, so you’ll want to make this a priority.

A paw injury alone can be painful enough for your pet, but if he or she has an injury and is exposed to salt or some similar melting agent, it will only enhance the pain and potential for more serious problems. Such problems could eventually lead to burning and blistering.

  1. Paw Trimming And Toe Nail Cutting

    Speaking of maintenance and care, there will come a time when you have to cut your dog’s nail. Or, at the very least, you’ll have to take him or her to the parlor to have them trimmed. When you do this, it provides the perfect opportunity for hair trimming as well. Keeping the fur or hair that grows between your dog’s paws pad nice and short is essential to helping them maintain healthy paws. Not only this, but it’ll provide them with more traction on slippery surfaces. When the pads are trimmed it also makes your job of inspecting them regularly easier. You’ll now be able to see fully to the pad and to spots between the toes that you likely couldn’t see before.

    Regular trimming also can help prevent matting, which is a common issue that you’ll see with dog pads. That’s right, the hair on your dog’s paw can mat just like the hair on his body can mat. When this occurs it’ll be extremely painful for your little guy and cause them to chew constantly at their feet. This will only eventually lead to hot spots as well as the potential for other unwanted skin issues. There are some breeds of dogs that might not have to worry about hairy paws as much as others, but medium to thick-coated dogs tend to have fuzzy feet that can always benefit from a good trimming.

    It is ideal to prevent mats before they occur. Preventing mats is much easier and better than having to shave or trim the later. This is because they’ll not only already have your dog in pain, but they’ll likely be painful during the shaving and trimming process. The easiest way to prevent matting is by keeping their coat thoroughly brushed. If you one a pet with a coat that is prone to matting and tangling, you’ll want to make sure that you are brushing out the legs, feet, and between the toes as frequently as possible. This will be especially important after your guy gets wet, and moisture is a huge contributor to causing the hair to curl and twist.

    All that aside, if your dog is experiencing matting or tangling, you don’t immediately have to reach for the trimmers. It is possible that’s where the situation might lead, but you can try untangling it first. And, the best way to do exactly this is by utilizing olive oil and trying to comb it out. It is possible that your dog might not even let you do this, but it is worth a shot.

  2. Should You Add Moisturizing Into Your Maintenance Routine?

    Some pet owners will even go as far as adding moisturizing into their pet’s maintenance and care routine. That’s right when cutting the hair and trimming the toes, they will also use wax or balm on the dog pad. This is always a great option, as this was a product that was specifically designed for sled dogs. Most manufacturers make wax or balm that is easy to apply and moisturizers the pad thoroughly. Doing so creates an invisible barrier around the dog’s foot that allows it to repel ice, salt, dirt, and all the while also protecting against potential burns and blistering.

    If you notice that your dog’s paw as cracked, peeling, or too dry, it would be a good idea to moisturize. However, whatever you do, you want to make sure that you are avoiding human lotions and moisturizers. Only stick with the products that were specifically made for pets. Human moisturizers and lotions just might be too harsh for your little guy. Another good tip is to be extremely careful when applying. You never want to overdo it, as moisturizing can make the pad more susceptible to some level. Moisturizing loosens up the pad and make the skin more flexible, so it’ll also make the pad more prone to tearing and ripping. Especially when they exposed to rougher surfaces.

Common Dog Paw Issues

If you thought your little guy was already a lot of work, you can clearly see that you now even have more work cut out for you. Maintaining and caring for your dog’s paw is nearly like a full-time job. Heck, you throw in these maintenance and care routines with everything else that you do for him and you’ll easily be looking at a full-time job. However, doing so will bring your dog true joy and happiness, unlike anything he’s ever experienced before. On another note, maintaining and caring for your dog’s paws is just the start. You now need to familiarize yourself with some of the common problems found in dog paws.

  1. Chewing And Licking Of The Paws

    Your pet will probably do a fair amount of chewing and licking on his or her paws throughout their life. However, it is when you start to notice it excessively that you need to be worried. When you see this taking place more often than it should, it could be a good indication of paw inflammation. This could mean several things, but it will mean two things in particular. First, it will mean that your dog is suffering from some kind of pain or ailment that is driving him crazy. Secondly, it will mean that his nervous system has reached the point where he can’t calm down. It is like a nervous habit.

    Excessive licking can and will eventually become a major problem because it’ll open up the wound even further, making it the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and infection growth. If you see your pet licking and chewing on one paw this can only mean one thing. It will likely mean that the issue at hand is localized to only one place. In situations like this, the dog has usually got bitten, stepped on something sharp, got into some kind of harmful chemicals, or has a cut. A quick inspection of the area should reveal what you are dealing with and then you’ll be able to decide how to proceed from there.

  2. Symptoms Of Stinky Paws

    Have you ever seen a dog kick when he goes to the bathroom outside? Maybe you’ve seen your dog just kicking around and thought he was digging? Maybe you made the assumption that he was just trying to cover up his mess. Well, what most pet owners don’t know is that dogs have what is known as sweat glands in their feet. These sweat glands serve two distinctive purposes. First, they can provide your little guy with the decrease in temperature that he needs during those hot, summer months. Secondly, they contain scent glands that give off pheromones so that others know they were there. This is why your dog kicks after going to the bathroom. It’s not because he or she is trying to conceal the mess. It is because they want others to know that they were there.

    Have you ever noticed your pet’s feet reeking like corn chips or something similar? If not, then you are in luck because it means that your dog isn’t experiencing any issues as of right now. The first thing that you need to know is that your dog’s paws will contain certain amounts of yeast and bacteria. Yeast and bacteria on your dog’s paws might sound like an issue or something disgusting, but it is actually considered a normal occurrence.

    Causes Of Stinky Paws

    The dog’s immune system works to keep the yeast and bacteria at manageable levels, but when it starts to smell like corn chips or something similar this could be a good indication that something is wrong. It is more than likely an indication of some kind of infection and you’ll want to get your little guy over to the vet as soon as possible.

    Take Care – Prevention

    Sometimes these infections and similar ones can be caused by food or environmental allergies. The best thing that you can do is immediately wipe and dry the paws after taking them outside to help prevent an overload of yeast and bacteria.

  3. Symptoms Of Hyperkeratosis

    Are you looking at your dog’s paws and they look rough? Almost thick and crusty looking? Does it look like they have hair or fur growing out of the actual pad, rather than between the toes? If this is the case, you’ll want to look at your dog’s nose if you haven’t noticed it already.

    Causes Of Hyperkeratosis

    If you see such conditions on both the nose and pads then it could only mean one thing. It means that your dog is dealing with hyperkeratosis. This is a condition that can be genetically passed down or it can be the result of some underlying medical condition.

    Take Care – Prevention Of Hyperkeratosis

    The best thing that you can do in these situations is to get him over to a vet for proper medical inspection. In the meantime, you’ll want to make sure that you are keeping the dog’s paws moisturized and protected with some kind of balm. This will not only help reduce the excessive chewing and licking, but it’ll go a long way to reducing your dog’s overall discomfort.

  4. Symptoms Of Torn Toenails

    Torn toenails are without a doubt one of the most common dog paw problems. Just speak to any vet and they’ll tell you that they see several cases of this each month. And, this is because it is such an easy occurrence. Just imagine walking around all day without your shoes and socks. You’d probably end up with a torn toenail is two days tops. Heck, if you sleep without socks, you can nearly tear your toenail straightening out the cover.

    Causes Of Torn Toenails

    While dog’s toenails are no doubt tougher and stronger, torn toenails are usually the result of wrestling or fighting with other dogs, snagging on carpet or other material, or excessive digging.

    Take Care – Prevention

    While it will be hard to completely prevent this from happening ever, the best thing that you can do is start by keeping the toenails trimmed to an acceptable level. That being said, if your dog does get a torn toenail, the vet will have to cut the nail down past the tear and prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection. Pain medications might even need to be used.

  5. Symptoms And Causes Of Ingrown Toenails

    Just like torn toenails, ingrown toenails are a condition that usually occurs when the toenails are too long, to begin with. Ingrown nails result when the nails grow so long that they actually start curling around under themselves and growing back into the pad.

    Take Care – Prevention

    Unfortunately, correcting this issue isn’t just as simple as cutting past the torn toenail. In some of the more severe cases, it might take surgery to remove the toenail from the pad. In these situations, the dog will be prescribed antibiotics along with pain medication.

  6. Symptoms And Causes Of Burns

    Unfortunately, the majority of paw burns come from doing the thing that dogs love the most- going on walks. Summer heat can be detrimental to your little guy and his poor feet. You learned a little about this topic above and how to check to see if the pavement is too hot. The only problem is that most pet owners don’t think of this when walking their dog. Often times when this problem occurs you won’t even know it until later down the road. And, you notice it by excessive licking and chewing on the paws. You might also notice limping, bleeding, and holding the injured paw off the ground. The pad will likely be discolored and it’ll be hard to see the bark pigmentation.

    Take Care – Prevention

    A dog needs exercise and he needs to get out, but sometimes it is just too hot out there for them. Even a simple walk around the block in the heat could be too much. The best treatment for this issue is antibiotics and pain medications along with bandaging the affected area. This means that you more than likely have to pay a visit to the vet. If you must take your guy for a walk in the summer, pet shoes along with quality paws and nose balm might be your best option. Not all dogs take to these shoes right away, but they can become adjusted to them after a few uses.