4 easy ways to prevent painful paws
With the arrival of National Walk Your Dog Week, this is a great time to review with animal guardians some tips on caring the paws of their canine companions.
The fur between your dog’s paw pads is an area that is often neglected. By trimming the paw hair regularly, this will avoid painful matting that can occur in the areas between the digits of the feet.
Correct Toenail Length
Careful attention to the toenail length is very important, and trimming nails back will be needed; however, the interval needed between nail trims will vary, depending on the size and breed of dog, as well as the degree that the pet walks on hard and/or cement surfaces. In general, the dog’s nails should just about touch the ground when walking. If the nails are clicking or getting stuck on the flooring of the home, then it is time to trim back the nails. This is especially helpful for aging dogs, who may commonly have degenerative joint disease, which can lead to unsteady gaits and dragging of the nails. It is important to check with a groomer or veterinarian about which types of nail trimmers are best for the dog, and how to use them properly.
Caring for the Paw Pads
It is also important to clean the areas between the pads, which is a common place where foreign materials can become lodged and cause pain and secondary infections. Small pieces of broken glass, pebbles, foxtails and other debris can often lodge in these areas, but can be easily removed manually with the fingers or a pair of tweezers.
One of the more common problems, especially in colder and drier winter months, is the development of cracked and dry pads, which may lead to secondary peeling and painful, ulcerated pad surfaces. I have found that natural moisturizers such as topical vitamin E, aloe vera gel, and calendula gel to be especially helpful in relieving discomfort, as well as preventing secondary pad infections.
Another common set of ailments seen in the pads of many dogs are the development of secondary yeast and/or staph bacterial infections due to excessive licking and/or biting at the foot areas because of inhalant/contact allergies and/or food allergies. The interdigital areas will often present with red and/or inflamed lesions, with occasional development of pus and odor. In these cases, prescription antibiotic and/or antifungal medications may be needed and prescribed by veterinarians, as well as addressing the underling allergic causes; otherwise these lesions will tend to persist or recur. Topical benzoyl peroxide soaps and/or chlorhexiderm rinses can be immensely helpful in these circumstances, to help dry out and disinfect the areas.
Cold Weather Concerns
As the winter season approaches, this time of year can be especially hard on the dog’s skin and paws, with increased risk of development of cracking and chapping. Rock salt and chemical ice melters may cause sores, blistering and infection. Toxic chemicals can also be ingested by your dog when they lick their paws. During the colder months, it is important to wash the dog’s paws in warm water to rinse away salt and chemicals. Doggie booties can help protect the food pads, and Vaseline can help act as a barrier to salt and other irritants to the pads.