November 4, 2009

Nails and paws can be a source of trepidation for many pets – and their owners too. Here’s a quick primer on dog nail care, nail health, and the advantages of maintaining your pet’s nails and paws in tip top shape.

Pet’s nail injuries are painful and sometimes rather bloody; soaking the affected foot in some warm salt water can provide soothing relief and help to prevent an infection from developing. The homeopathic remedy, hypericum is helpful to reduce inflammation and speed up healing.

Cheryl Schwartz notes in her wonderful book, ‘Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats’ that “if the nail is hanging off at its base exposing raw tissue underneath, clip the excess nail piece and bandage with a wrap of Calendula ointment mixed with several drops of hypericum tincture. The wrap can be changed daily, soaking the injured area in a Calendula tea bath. Healing usually occurs within 10 days.

A pooch’s paws don’t often garner too much attention, unless something is actually wrong with them. But the paws of a pup can actually tell us quite a lot about his general state of health.

Did you know that very dry, cracked paws can be a sign of a blood deficiency, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Accompanying signs might include dry eyes, dandruff, lack of stamina and restlessness. To tonify the blood, try foods such as beef, sardines, eggs, carrots, parsley, apricots and dates. Supplementation with essential fatty acids such as fish oil, safflower, flax or even olive oil can also be very beneficial for dryness in the feet and skin.

If your hound continually licks and chews his feet and paw pads, this is often a sign of a food allergy. For some reason, when a dog eats food to which he is sensitive, this causes a type of irritation and chewing at the feet is an attempt to get relief. If you notice excessive, chronic foot chewing and licking, or very red pads, a change in diet is the first course of action.

Begin by eliminating grains with grain-free pet food. If there is still room for improvement, try an alternative source of protein and perhaps some different vegetables than those that are in his current diet. Many pet guardians notice almost overnight improvement in chronic foot-chewing, just by correcting the diet!

Of course a sudden, acute case of foot-licking (especially directed at just one paw rather than all four) is probably a sign of injury. Examine the feet thoroughly after hikes and even trips to the park, to check for thorns, shards of glass or fox tails that might be making their way into, or between, the pads. Soaking the paw in warm water solution of Epsom salts can help to draw out foreign objects and Calendula ointment can provide healing relief once an injury has been thoroughly cleaned – but veterinary advice should always be sought in a traumatic injury such as this.

Be aware also that hounds who aren’t used to a very active lifestyle, can suffer with soreness and abrasions on their paws if they suddenly get to go on a very long hike without first toughening up. Various topical products are available to help toughen the pads, but good nutrition and a gradual introduction to rougher terrain (or even just walking on the road if you usually only exercise at a grassy dog park) can help to condition and harden up your dog’s feet for a trip away or a new active lifestyle.