Of course, we humans use shoes to protect our feet. We insist on it! But dogs usually don’t have that luxury, and routinely walk over ice, rock, grass, cement, and soil on their bare paws. Their paws’ thick pads give them protection we don’t have, and that’s why they’re less susceptible to cuts and grazes. But this doesn’t mean a dog’s paws are indestructible. In fact, the areas between the pads are very sensitive and can suffer from cuts, burns, and other ailments.
One of the clues to a paw problem is when your dog comes back limping or favoring only one of its legs. The only way for you to narrow down the issue is to check his paw for any visible and physical signs of bleeding, swelling, redness, or blisters.
Some dogs are very protective of their paws and don’t like people touching them — and they’ll let you know! Keep persisting. One of my dogs, who just hates having her paws touched, will usually relax when I gently reassure her that I’m only trying to help. Although dogs don’t understand many of our words, they do just fine at detecting our emotions, and sometimes intentions, from our actions and tone of voice.
If your dog has a cut, wash the wound with an antiseptic solution and apply a layer of antiseptic cream. Check the wound again the next day to see if it’s getting better. If it looks infected, you should bring your dog to the vet. I was once shocked to discover maggots wiggling inside a paw wound on my dog — ugh. Needless to say, we went to the vet immediately (she was fine after treatment).
In certain breeds, hair mats may grow between the pads, which can cause irritation. In these breeds, it’s essential to trim regularly between the mats to keep the paws in good shape. Even in other breeds, dogs that run outdoors can get mud trapped between the pads. Again, this will irritate the paw, so it’s best that you clean up with soap and water when you see mud between the toes.
Just as we humans get dry and cracked heels, dogs also experience dry and calloused paw pads. The solution for them is similar to ours — apply moisturizers. In fact, you can even use your hand moisturizer on your dog! But there’s a challenge involved: stopping your dog from licking it away after you apply it. A good trick is to apply the moisturizer right before your dog has his meal. This way, you can allow a little time for the moisturizer to settle in. Otherwise, you can play with your pooch to keep him occupied and restrain him if he starts licking his paws.
Finally, you probably have seen dogs in dog boots and wondered if these boots would effectively protect your dog’s feet. But your dog may be better off without them, as they can easily walk out of these boots — active, athletic dogs in particular. In the end, your dog will enjoy himself more walking on his own paws, with some occasional care and maintenance from you.