Monday, September 6, 2010
We don't always realize how important our feet are until something causes them pain. A dog's feet are equally important for them. Their paw pads and feet are pretty special and without healthy feet, a dog would have trouble getting from one place to another. It's important to pay attention to a dog's feet to make sure they stay sound. Healthy feet can make a big difference to a dog's wellbeing.
Dogs don't walk on the soles of their feet like we do. They walk on their toes, which is one reason why it’s important to keep their nails trimmed to maintain healthy feet. Their feet act like shock absorbers and give them the traction they need to do all kinds of things. The rough paw pads are extra shock absorbers that help dogs make quick turns, leap for Frisbees and run or sprint with enough endurance to finish their task. Each foot has four pads, and each pad makes contact with the ground.
Toenails that are left untrimmed can cause the dog to slide back on his paws more, putting more strain on his legs. When they don't set their feet properly because of long toenails, it interferes with how they walk and their gait will be off. Toenail biting generally means the nails are too long and need to be trimmed (for detailed instructions, see How to Give Your Pooch a Pedicure. Nails should also be inspected to make sure there are no injuries to the toe that might have caused an infection. It's possible for dogs to break a toe or a bone in their foot. We can accidentally break a dog's toe if we step on their foot.
A dog's healthy feet need attention from us to help keep them in good shape. Dogs that do a lot of hiking, running and activities where they make sharp turns or jumps can damage their paw pads. Cuts, sharp rocks, rough terrain, rock salt, cracked pads, slivers of glass, splinters, burrs, fleas, insect bites, bee stings, scrapes or tiny rocks that get caught between the pads or toes can all turn a dog's healthy feet into painful ones. Even a slow walk around the neighborhood gives dogs a chance to step on something that can cut their paw pads. Regular inspection of their feet will catch most pesky injuries before they can become infected and cause problems.
Matted hair can bother dogs, especially ones who have long hair between their paw pads. Small rocks, frozen snow or ice, rock salt and other foreign objects can become caught in the hair. The long hair also makes it harder for the dog to get good traction. As a responsible pet owner, you can help by keeping the hair trimmed even with their paw pads.
Minor foot injuries are simple to take care of at home with over the counter medications made for dogs that can clear up minor cuts and infections. However, any time you find a wound on your dog that's become infected and is warm to the touch, swollen or painful, it needs to be taken care of by a veterinarian. Prescription medication or ointments may be needed.
A dog's paw pads are pretty tough, but even healthy feet are no match for asphalt or cement on a hot day. Since we usually have on shoes, it's easy for us to not even notice how hot asphalt or cement is. A dog's pads can be burned if they walk on these hot surfaces. Keep your dog in the grass on hot summer days to help protect their pads. Metal on a hot day can also be dangerous for a dog's feet, and can burn their pads.
If your dog is limping, refusing to walk, licking at his feet or chewing, or if you see redness or blisters, part of a pad missing or the pads look darker than they should, these can be signs your dog has burned pads. It's always a good idea to have a vet evaluate burned pads to make sure they don't require antibiotics or other medications. If the burn is deep, infection can set in.
Winter snow and ice can cause injuries to a dog's paw pads too. Read Winter Paw Care for Dogs for information on how to take care of your dog's feet during the winter months.
Good dog health includes healthy feet. Limping, whining, chewing or signs of swelling indicate something is wrong with your dog's foot. Careful inspection can usually tell you what's bothering your dog. Quick and responsible action is needed to keep a simple cut or minor infection from becoming a problem. It’s important to pay attention to your dog's feet to help keep them (and him!) in tip top shape.
Read more articles by Linda Cole