Dog Paw Care:
Tips to Keep Your Dog's Tootsies
in Tip-Top Shape

Maintaining good dog paw care for your furry kid isn’t difficult or time-consuming, but it can make a huge difference in the health and comfort of his canine tootsies.

dog paw care - dog paws

Imagine if you walked barefoot everywhere you went, exposing your feet to everything from scorching asphalt in the summer to chemical de-icers in the winter, as well as rocks, sand, burrs, broken glass and a host of other potential hazards. Given the demands made on dogs’ paws, it’s easy to see how they are vulnerable to a host of injuries that can end up requiring dog first aid .

Fortunately, there are simple dog paw care steps you can take to maintain the health of your pooch’s feet. Some of them vary by season, and some apply all year-round. Here’s a list of some of the most important dog paw care habits to follow:

Year-Round Dog Paw Care

Keep the fur on the bottom of the paws neatly groomed.
This applies more to longer-haired breeds than to shorter-haired breeds. It’s important to keep the hair in between the paw pads neatly groomed since longer hair cat mat and also cause dirt to accumulate. In the wintertime, long hair on the paws can attract snow and ice as well as hazardous salt and chemical de-icers (see below). Use grooming scissors or grooming clippers to trim the fur under between the footpads so that it is even with the pads.

Keep nails properly trimmed.
My dog, Chase, get his hair cut at the groomer every month, but he has never had to have his nails trimmed. This is because the normal activity of walking on the pavement keeps Chase’s nails “naturally” trimmed. However, this is not the case with all dogs, especially those that are less active. In such cases, you want to make sure that you keep your dog’s nails trimmed.

Allowing your dog’s nails to grow too long can cause a host of paw health issues, from catching and tearing the nail (which causes a lot of bleeding and pain) to splaying of the feet to preventing his paw pads from achieving proper traction. Dogs also need to have their dew claws (sort of like human thumbs and located high up on the inside of each foot) trimmed periodically. Even though dew claws have no function, if they’re not properly trimmed they can snag and curl around into the foot, obviously causing a great deal of pain.

Cutting your dog’s nails takes skill. If you cut the nail too short you will cut into the quick (the blood vessel that runs down the middle of the nail). This will cause bleeding and is very painful. Dogs with white nails are easier to deal with because you can see the quick, whereas it is not easily seen in dogs with dark nails. If you can, consider leaving this tricky task up to your veterinarian or groomer. If that’s not possible, then you might want to take a lesson from a groomer or vet before you take over to do it yourself. Always keep a styptic pencil on hand when clipping your dog’s nails, to help stop the bleeding in case you ever do cut the quick. Here’s a link to an article from Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine on how to clip a dog’s toenails.

dog paw care - hand holding paw

Inspect your dog's paws nightly.
Check between your dog’s toes for imbedded objects such as foxtails, thorns, burrs, splinters, stones, gravel, broken glass, or any other foreign object that can become lodged in the pads of his feet. See our article on dog paw injuries for how to remove such objects. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this or the object is deeply lodged, make sure your dog receives prompt veterinary attention.

Winter Dog Paw Care Hazards

Rock salt and chemical de-icers
Rock salt and other chemical de-icers can lodge between dogs’ paw pads, causing cracking, burning, irritation and pain. These products can also cause snow, ice and gravel to lodge in the paws.

If your dog has walked near salt or other chemical-based de-icers, be sure to check his paws for cracks, irritation and snow, ice or salt lodged between the pads. Also be sure to thoroughly wash his paws, removing all traces of the de-icer. Not only are these products irritating to the paws, they are toxic if ingested. You definitely don’t want your furry kid licking his paws and swallowing any of these dangerous chemicals.

Snow and ice
Along with salt and chemical de-icers, snow and ice are hazardous to dogs’ paws. Snow and ice can clump and lodge between dogs’ toes. In addition to being very painful, if large enough the clumps can obstruct blood flow to the toes.

dog paw care - chihuahua wearing boots

For the ultimate in dog paw care, dog boots such as Muttluks Hott Doggers Dog Boots Muttluks Hott Doggers Dog Boots Itty Bitty/XXSmall Color: Red Size: XXSmall are a great way to protect your pooch’s paws from toxic, irritating salt and chemical de-icers as well as snow and ice. Their tough leather soles are great for rough terrain and provide extra traction. An added benefit is that the cold weather styles are lined in fleece to keep your dog’s feet warm and toasty when the weather is frigid.

Summer Dog Paw Care Hazards

Scorching pavement and sand
Never force your dog to walk on hot pavement or sand, as this can severely burn the bottoms of his feet. Be sure that your dog has a cool surface to walk on, such as the grass. If walking your dog on a hot surface is unavoidable, protect his paws with all-weather Muttluks Dog Boots Itty Bitty/XXSmall Color: Yellow All Weather Size: XXSmall, which feature waterproof fabric and salt- and heat-resistant leather soles to protect your dog's pads as well as soft knit cuffs that can be pulled up or folded down.

If your dog refuses to wear boots, you can apply a paw wax such as , which acts like a boot by forming a dense, breathable barrier on your dog’s paws, helping to protect them from summertime hazards like hot pavement, sand, sand burn and rough terrain as well as wintertime paw perils such as salt, chemicals, ice and snow.

As a regular part of your dog paw care routine, it's also a good idea to apply a paw pad balm such as to moisturize your dog’s foot pads and help soothe and heal cracked, dry pads, cuts and hot spots. After all, our dogs’ tootsies work hard, so pamper his paws!

Insect bites
Coincidentally, as I was writing this article my husband and Chase had just returned from their nightly walk. I noticed that he was biting, licking and pulling furiously at the bottom of his foot (Chase, not my husband!). Thinking there must be something lodged in Chase’s paw, I asked my husband to examine him (my hubby is our resident “doggy podiatrist!). He gently felt in between all of Chase’s toes and after making sure there was nothing there, we determined that he was probably bitten by something, such as a red ant.

For just such times, it’s good to have topical treatments on hand such as or the Septi-Soothe Kit from Doctors Foster and Smith.

Of course, if your dog shows signs of continued discomfort after applying such treatments, be sure to seek veterinary attention.

By practicing good routine dog paw care, you can keep your pooch’s paws in tip top shape. He’ll be sure to show his appreciation by giving you “four paws up”!

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Legal Disclaimer
If your pet is showing any signs of distress or you suspect your pet is seriously ill, contact your veterinarian immediately. This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care.

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