12 Tips To Help You Protect Your Dog’s Paws
Unlike their human family members who can wear shoes when walking on rough terrains or hot or cold pavement, dogs can’t do much to protect their paws from uncomfortable roads – at least, not on their own. But you, the pet parent, can and should help your furry companion keep their paws safe and healthy no matter the road or weather. And while winter’s snowy and icy roads and summer’s scorching hot pavements are the biggest paw offenders, rocky and jaggy terrains that you walk on year-round in parks can also be uncomfortable for your pet. So what can you do to help protect your dog’s paws? Plenty, with the following 12 tips being the most effective at protecting your pet’s precious little feet.
Keep Your Dog’s Nails Trimmed
Long nails are prone to splitting and getting torn off, which besides being very painful, can also be dangerous if it leads to infection. To avoid split and torn off nails, trim them regularly, no matter the season. Generally speaking, most dogs should have their nails trimmed once a month or every other month. That being said, exactly how often you should cut your dog’s nails depends on their lifestyle: if your pet walks on asphalt a lot, you may not need to trim their nails very often simply because the pavement itself acts as an automatic nail file. In any case, dog nails should be trimmed when they start clicking on the floor while your pet walks. Long nails can also cause uneven weight distribution, which can negatively affect your dog’s center of gravity – particularly dangerous when walking on icy surfaces. Speaking of ice and winter, unkempt nails will also make your pooch spread their toes while walking, allowing more snow and ice to build up in between, causing discomfort and sometimes even frostbite.
Keep Their Hair Trimmed Too
Besides regular nail trimming, it’s also important to trim your dog’s excess hair around the paws. Very long dog hair can cause painful matting, which, if not discovered and deal with on time, can cause skin infections. This, in turn, can lead to painful limping of your furry friend, which can be especially dangerous when walking on icy surfaces. So, whenever you trim your dog’s nails, check the hair around their paws too – if it appears to be too long, trim the ends so everything looks and feels nice and neat. That being said, not all dogs will actually require hair trimming – short haired breeds most probably won’t need any cutting whatsoever. Also, keep in mind that some hair can actually help protect the paws against rough terrain and very hot or cold pavement. So, short and neat hairs are perfectly fine – even desirable depending on your pet’s breed – but very long hairs are not.
Be Careful When Walking on Hot Surfaces
Most dogs love summer as it means spending more time in the great outdoors. Who doesn’t love walking and jogging on sunny summer days?! Well, your pet’s paws probably don’t. When the temperature rises considerably, surfaces like asphalt absorb massive amounts of heat. To make things worse, asphalt also retains the heat it soaks up for a long time. In fact, it can be 40 to 60 degrees hotter than the surrounding air temperature! Obviously, this is bad news for your dog’s paws. To help protect them from scorching hot asphalt, do not go on walks in the middle of the day, at very high temperatures. Instead, walk/jog in the early morning or wait for the sun to set. Also, try to avoid the asphalt altogether whenever possible – walk your dog on grass or dirt as they don’t absorb or retain as much heat as asphalt does. Of course, most owners simply cannot keep an eye on their pet 24/7. Some dogs will spend too much time on hot surfaces even if you’re careful, so paw burns are often a part of every summer. To help your dog avoid blisters and pain, always check their paws for burns after a day out.
Be Careful During Winter Too
Like hot asphalt, cold and icy pavement can be rough on your pet’s paws. This is because snow, ice, salt and other chemicals can damage paw pads and even cause frostbite. That’s why it’s crucial to be careful during cold winter months. When walking with your dog in winter, make sure you don’t stay out in the cold for too long. While many dogs love snow and playing outside during winter months, it’s not a good idea to let them wander on ice and snow as much as they would like, especially if they’re otherwise an indoor pet. Instead, limit the winter walking to 30-60 minutes at a time (you can, of course, go out several times a day with your pet if you want to, just make sure that each outdoor trip is short). Also, whenever you come back from the walk, wipe off your furry companion’s paws. You want to get rid of all snow, ice and salt as they can be harmful to canine paws.
Examine Your Dog’s Paws After Every Walk
No matter the weather or road you’re taking, always examine your pet’s paws after you’re back from the walk. Snow, ice, hot asphalt, rough terrain – all of these things can be rough to dog’s paws, so make sure you examine them each and every time you come back from jogging/walking/hiking. Sometimes, even when we’re really careful, our pets can walk over glass and other sharp objects which can cut their paw pads. If not discovered in time, this can lead to infection and painful limping, so to avoid potentially serious problems, dedicate just several minutes to careful paw examination after every walk. Besides, glass, snow and hot asphalt are just some of the offenders – simple things such as bugs and thorns can also cause serious problems. If you know you’ll be hiking on rough terrains, it may be a good idea to examine and wipe your pet’s paws every hour or so.
Use Paw Wax
If your pup has seriously gentle paws, consider using paw wax before going out for a walk, whether that’s a summer or a winter walk. As mentioned, hot asphalt, as well as ice, snow and salt can damage the skin on paws, leading to burns, blisters and other injuries. But if you use a quality paw wax, you’ll help protect your dog’s paws against harmful chemicals and rough surfaces. So how do you use this stuff? It’s really simple – similar to how you use your hand cream before going out in the winter/summer. Just apply some paw wax onto your pet’s feet, let it absorb and off you go. If you don’t want to buy a specialized product, some regular Vaseline will do the trick, although it’s not as nearly effective as a proper paw wax.
Consider Dog Boots
If your winters are freezing or you and your dog frequently go on hikes, consider purchasing some comfortable dog shoes. While canine paws are quite tough and can withstand a lot, they’re far from being indestructible. Snow, ice and very jaggy and rough terrain can damage even the toughest of paws if you’re not careful, so to avoid painful and potentially serious injuries, it may be a good idea to make your furry friend wear shoes. They can be particularly useful in freezing winter months as they not only provide protection against snow and ice, but provide traction too, allowing your pet to stay firmly on the ground no matter what (although, it’s worth mentioning that not all dog boots actually provide traction – it depends on the model). But that’s not all dog shoes can help with – for those scorching summer months, disposable dog booties can be a godsend. They provide good protection from heat and are very comfortable, so most dogs don’t mind wearing them at all.
Dog Socks Are Great Too
If your pet is not a fan of shoes, boots and disposable booties, but their gentle paws cannot stand the summer heat, consider using dog socks. They’re very comfortable but offer nice protection against heat. There are various dog socks available on the market nowadays, which will not only offer some protection, but will actually elevate your pup’s style! And if these are not your cup of tea? You can just take a pair of your own old socks, or, even better, baby socks and see how they work. Some dogs wear socks not only when they’re walking outside, but while they’re in the apartment too – this can be helpful if you have hardwood floors and your pet keeps slipping on it all the time. However, it should be said that not all dogs actually like wearing socks, or any other piece of footwear equipment for that matter. Of course, you can’t know until you try.
Wash and Moisturize Your Pet’s Paws
If you’re doing a good job at protecting your dog’s paws from external damage, they probably have very little to no foot pains and injuries. But to keep things smooth and pain-free, it’s a good idea to invest a little time in preventative care too. Besides washing your dog’s paws regularly (ideally, this will be after every walk), you may want to moisturize them too. This is particularly helpful if your animal companion struggles with dry and crackly paws. Use moisturizing paw pad cream, coconut oil, or even regular foot cream every time you wash your pet’s paws, making sure you spread the product evenly across the entire pad. Some dogs may benefit from daily moisturizing, although this is typically the case for pets suffering from extremely dry paw pads.
Toughen Their Paws
After all that pampering, it’s a great idea to actually help your dog toughen their paws. How is this done? It’s actually really easy – just take your pup on daily walks and jogs until their paw pads become stronger and tougher, capable of withstanding rough terrains without much problem. You do want to start this slowly though, especially if your furry friend is an indoor pet. Don’t walk on extremely rough terrains immediately – daily walks and jogs on grass, dirt and asphalt are perfect, as long as the weather is nice. So don’t walk on scorching hot asphalt or icy road without any protection – that’s simply too much for paws of indoor pets. Instead, try daily walks in parks and on asphalt. If you have a yard and your dog has a favorite spot there, consider covering that ground in pea gravel – it should greatly help in toughening their paws.
Be Careful With Floor Cleaners
If your dog spends most of their time indoors but suffers from sensitive paws, you may want to take a look at the cleaning detergents you’re using to clean your floors. Some floor cleaners contain really harsh chemicals that can damage paw pads. This becomes especially dangerous if your pet already has some cuts and cracks on their paws as there is a greater risk of absorbing these harsh chemicals. Not to mention, most dogs like to lick their paws, which is another and more dangerous way for them to absorb (in this case actually ingest) chemicals from floor cleaners. Some of the ingredients you want to avoid in cleaning solutions include ammonia, bleach, formaldehyde and glycol ethers. For your pet’s better health (and yours, if we may add!), switch to green, eco-friendly cleaning products.
Consider the Supplements
Sometimes, no matter how much we try to protect our pets from harm and disease, we seem to be unsuccessful. If you’ve tried everything but your dog’s paws are still overly dry, cracked and painful, consider giving them supplements. Some experts believe that certain dietary deficiencies can lead to extremely dry and cracked paw pads, so to reverse this condition, you may need to supplement your dog’s diet. Zinc and selenium deficiencies in particular seem to negatively affect dog’s paws, so adding these minerals into your pet’s daily diet may help. Of course, before giving any sort of supplements to your furry friend, consult with your vet. Not only can they advise you about the correct dosage, but they can recommend the right brand for your pet.