Petnet Health Series: Caring for Your Pets Paw

Your pet’s paws take a beating, just like your feet do. Humans protect their feet with shoes, but your pets go around barefoot all the time. That can take a toll on their paws and a wise pet owner recognizes this and gives their pet’s paws some extra attention to keep them strong and healthy.

Nails: Depending on the pet and the conformation of their paws and the amount of time they spend outside, they may naturally wear down their nails from their daily activities. Less active dogs and cats will likely require a nail trim. Most cats and dogs dislike having their nails trimmed, so you might want to defer the duty to your vet, or a trained groomer. If you choose to do it yourself, make sure you have the right tools. The clipper you use on your own nails will not work on your pet.  We previously provided some tips on trimming your pet’s nails. You can read it here. 

Pads: The pads of your pet’s feet are tougher than your feet which allows them to go barefoot. That doesn’t mean they are impervious to heat, cold, glass, rocks, etc. Be aware of the temperature of the ground or pavement when you walk your dog. If it’s in the 80’s with the sun beaming down, that pavement is going to get hot. You’ve heard the expression “hot enough to fry an egg”, well, it’s hot enough to fry your pet’s paws too. Stay indoors or on the grass. The same caution goes for winter when the ground is frozen and then the melting slush is mixed with harsh chemicals that can burn their paws. Many pet companies are now making winter boots for your pet which is a good investment if you live in the snow belt.

Cleaning & grooming: You should be mindful of cleaning your pet’s paws after an outing, especially if it was in dry grass or mud as foreign objects can easily get lodged between their toes and cause irritation or even infection. Just warm soapy water and a washcloth should suffice – be sure to clean between their toes and inspect for foreign materials.

If you have a long-haired pet, you need to keep the area around their paws and toes free form overgrowth. If that hair is allowed to get too long, it can easily become matted and develop into a hard mass that then impacts your pets ability to walk freely.

Licking: A pet who constantly licks their paws may have an injury or an allergy. Clean their paws thoroughly and inspect them. If there is a cut or irritation you might want to have it checked by your vet. If you see no signs of injury, it might be an allergy, maybe a food or likely an environmental (e.g. grass) allergy. Talk with your vet about allergies and what medications might help  or dietary adjustments you might want to make in their diet to alleviate the itch. 

Medical Issues: There are some diseases that may manifest symptoms in your pet’s paws. For instance, liver disease may lead to cracked paws or a zinc deficiency may lead to hardened pads that may then become dry and cracked. There are other diseases that may impact the pad including Pemphigus, an autoimmune disease where the pet may develop blisters and sores on their feet. Dogs that live outside and spend most of the time on pavement may develop calluses which may become hard, dry and cracked.

Proper care of your pet’s paws is a fairly simple process but will make their life happier and more comfortable.


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