Dog Paw Pads- What Are They and How Can You Take Care of Them?
These thick and rubbery parts of your dog’s foot are there to help them when they walk. Dogs and other four-legged animals don’t naturally have shoes to protect their sensitive feet. Nature gave them another type of defense with their footpads.
The pad are designed to cushion their steps as they walk. This layer of padding also limits the shock damage to their bones and joints that comes from running and walking.
But if the pads aren’t taken care of properly, they can become damaged over time and with exposure to extreme temperatures. When that happens, your dog’s behavior will likely show you that they’re hurting.
We know you care about your pup as though they were your child, so of course, you want to take care of them. Part of that includes knowing about dog paw pads, what they do, and how you can help your pup keep them in good condition. This guide will explain all the details that go along with proper pup paw preservation.
Understanding Your Pup’s Paw Pads
Most of us don’t realize how important our own feet are in the overall health of our bodies. Yet, just as our feet impact the entire spinal system and other processes, a dog’s pads have their own jobs to do to keep the animal safe and healthy.
The obvious functions are visible to us, such as holding down a bone or toy as they gnaw or playing games with you and other pups. What you might not realize, though, is that those pads do so much more.
Paws are a complex mix of muscle, collagen, fatty tissue (adipose), collagen, tendons, ligaments, and bone.
Think of them as your own hands. Your hands are made of a lot of miniature bones, connected by ligaments and tendons, and responsible for muscle movement. They are cushioned by layers of fat to keep your body warm and covered with skin for protection.
The same concept applies to a dog’s paws. But unlike humans, dogs walk on these important body parts and rarely have protection from harmful elements.
What Are the Parts of a Dog’s Paw?
When Fido limps up to you in obvious pain, you might feel helpless at first. But when you know the parts of the paw to check, it’s easier to narrow down the problem. Between you, your groomer, and your vet, you can take care of your pup’s paws to prevent issues and to solve them if they do show up.
The structures of a canine paw include claws, dewclaws, carpal pads, metacarpal pads, and digital pads. What are all these terms, and how on earth can you remember them? Here’s an overview of each part. You don’t have to know the names, as long as you know what to look for.
The Five Parts of Your Pup’s Paw
Claws are the sharp nails your dog has. Made of keratin like ours are, claws have a purpose beyond scratching you at just the wrong time. Dogs use claws to help them dig, provide traction, and hold their prey. Your pup may be super gentle and would never use their paws for harm, but they could need to defend themselves.
Claws, also called nails, grow from the bone in a dog’s foot. They have nerves and blood vessels, so if you trim them wrong, it can hurt, just as if you broke your nail too close to the quick.
Dewclaws, on the other hand, are the little extra claw on the lower part of a dog’s foot. Typically, they are on the front legs, but some breeds will have dewclaws on the rear legs, too. This “extra” claw doesn’t have a purpose for most pups, but some will use them to grip or hold things with extra stability.
The pad is a combination of digital, carpal, and metacarpal parts. The digital part includes the four small pads that are on the digits, or toes, of your pup. These help your dog support their weight and reduce pressure on the joints.
The carpal pad is right above the dewclaw, but you’ll only see this in animals that walk directly on their digits. The metacarpal or metatarsal pads are the soft, heart-shaped pad that you love to stroke when you pet your pup. It’s the part of the foot that supports most of the dog’s weight.
How to Take Care of Your Dog’s Paws
For the most part, animals have an innate ability to take care of themselves. But there are some things you can do to help prevent paw problems.
To begin with, make sure your pup has good hygiene. If they aren’t cleaning themselves regularly, you can have them groomed. When the paw pad isn’t cleaned well enough, it can cause the nails to grow wrong. This will then cause your pup to slip and fall more often.
Without proper hygiene, it’s also possible for the paw pads to become cracked. You’ll see this if it’s gone too far as little spots of blood on your floor. Cracked paw pads are common in dogs who go outside on hot, cold, or uneven terrain, or those who run a lot.
Dog walking shoes are a good way to prevent cracked paw pads and keep your pup’s paws clean. If you’re outside a lot, shoes that go up the legs, like those found at Walkee Paws, are a good idea. These kinds of shoes are the best when it comes to avoiding parasites and bug or snake bites.
If it’s too late, though, and the paw pads are already chapped, you can help your pup recover faster. Use a cream like Musher's Secret Paw Protection Natural Dog Wax daily, and you’ll see those cracks heal fast.
Reading the Signs of Your Pup’s Paw Pad Health
Watch your pup’s paw pads to get an idea of their overall health, too. Smelly paws, long nails, or a lot of unnecessary hair growth in the paw pads are signs of a problem. If you notice these symptoms, or if your pup is acting like they’re in pain and you don’t see a visible reason, head to your vet for the next step.
Caring for your pup includes lots of love, affection, and a healthy diet. But they need you to be aware of the important things they can’t tell you, like their paw pad problems. With this knowledge guiding you, you’ll be able to speak your dog’s language without them saying a word.