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Top 10 Paw Care Tips for Dogs

ASPCA logoYour dog’s feet sure are made for walking, but did you know they are also made for protecting? Pads provide extra cushioning to help protect bones and joints from shock, provide insulation against extreme weather, aid walking on rough ground and help protect tissue deep within the paw. With all that work to do, it’s no wonder your pooch’s paws often take a bit of a beating. Keep a spring in your pet’s step with our top 10 paw care tips:

  • Pamper With Pedicures: Your dog's nails should just about touch the ground when she walks. If her nails are clicking or getting snagged on the floor, it's time for a pedicure. Ask your veterinarian or a groomer for advice about what types of nail trimmers are best for your dog and how to use them properly.
  • Clean In Between: Foreign objects can become lodged in your dog’s pads. Check regularly between toes for foxtails, pebbles, small bits of broken glass and other debris. These pesky items can usually be removed with a pair of tweezers.
  • Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize: A dog’s pads can become cracked and dry. Ask your veterinarian for a good pad moisturizer and use as directed. Avoid human hand moisturizer, as this can soften the pads and lead to injury.
  • Deep Paw Massage: Similar to giving a human hand massage, a paw massage will relax your dog and promote better circulation. Start by rubbing between the pads on the bottom of the paw, and then rub between each toe. Your dog will be forever grateful for the extra TLC!
  • Slow and Steady: If you’re about to begin a new exercise program with your dog, start off slow. Paws may become sensitive, chaffed or cracked, particularly when starting your dog out on hikes and runs.
  • Apply First Aid: It's not unusual for dogs to suffer cuts or other wounds from accidentally stepping on glass, debris or other objects. Wounds that are smaller than a half inch in diameter can be cleaned with an antibacterial wash and covered with a dog bootie. For deeper paw cuts, see the vet for treatment.
  • Summertime Sores: Imagine stepping barefoot onto hot pavement. Ouch! It is important to remember your dog’s paws feel heat extremes, too. To prevent burns and blisters, avoid walking your dog on hot pavement or sand. Signs include blisters, loose flaps of skin and red, ulcerated patches. For minor burns, apply antibacterial wash and cover the paw with a dog bootie. For serious burns, visit your vet immediately.
  • Wintertime Blues: Winter is hard on everyone’s skin, even your dog’s! Bitter cold can cause chapping and cracking. Rock salt and chemical ice melts can cause sores, infection and blistering. Toxic chemicals can also be ingested by your dog when he licks his paws. After outdoor walks, wash your dog’s paws in warm water to rinse away salt and chemicals. You may wish to apply Vaseline, a great salt barrier, to the foot pads before each walk-or make sure your dog wears doggie booties.
  • Practice Prevention: To reduce the risk of injury, keep your home and yard clear of pointy bits and pieces. Be conscious to avoid hazards such as broken glass and other debris when walking your dog. And keep this simple tip in mind-if you wouldn’t like to walk on it barefoot, neither will your dog!

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.

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