Foot Care for Dogs

Dogs rely on their feet, obviously.

It makes sense, therefore, that in order for your dog to be at his healthiest and happiest, his feet should be in tip-top shape.

This isn’t always easy. Of all the areas of your dog’s body, his feet are the ones that are in constant contact with rough surfaces. Feet get blistered, toes get broken, pads get cut…you get the picture. So how can you, as a dog owner, ensure that your furry best friend gets the foot pampering he so desperately needs?

Nail Trimming

The nails on a domesticated dog aren’t worn down enough through daily activities to keep them at the proper length. When a dog’s toenails become too long, they can make movement awkward and even painful because of the way they encumber your pet. Toenails that are long enough to touch the ground can affect your dog’s posture and put painful pressure on the bones and joints in his toes. On top of this, long toenails are at more of a risk of being caught or torn during play and daily activities.

Many dogs hate having their toenails trimmed, which makes this vital task something of a chore. Try different positions with your dog. Some dogs that hate sitting or lying down while their nails are being trimmed will tolerate having their nails clipped standing up, or vice versa. Alternatively, some dogs prefer having their nails filed down with a dremmel tool, rather than being clipped with a traditional clipper.

The proper length for your pet’s nails should be just above ground level—you should not be able to hear them click when he walks! Make sure to make cuts with the tips angled gently downward, away from your dog’s pads rather than towards them. Sharp clippers that are the proper size for your dog will help make the process fast and avoid pinching the nail. You’ll also want to make sure you don’t cut into your dog’s quick—the pink portion you see inside each nail.

Since you cannot see the quick in dogs with black toenails, you will have to be especially careful. If you do accidentally cut into the quick, your dog’s toenail may bleed profusely. Luckily, toenail trimming injuries are common and generally look much worse than they are. Make sure to keep something nearby to stop the bleeding just in case. Many pet stores sell powders for this purpose, but baking soda or cornstarch will also work in a pinch. Just press the powder of your choice onto the bleeding tip of your dog’s nail and hold the pressure gently until the bleeding stops.

dog paws

©istockphoto/yellowsarah

Cracked Pads, Burns, and other Foot Injuries

It is important that you check your dog’s feet frequently for cuts and other injuries. Make sure you check around the nails, on the pads, and between the toes. Gently pull each toe apart to make sure that nothing is caught between them.

Cracked pads should be treated with moisturizer formatted specially for dogs. Cuts should be washed and treated with triple antibiotic ointment, before being covered with a bootie to protect the injury. Any cut deeper than half a inch should be seen by your veterinarian, according to Web MD Pets.

Weather can also cause problems for your pet’s feet. “Bitter cold can cause chapping and cracking. Rock salt and chemical ice melts can cause sores, infection and blistering,” according to Web MD Pets. “After outdoor walks, wash your dog’s paws in warm water to rinse away salt and chemicals. You may wish to apply Vaseline, a great salt barrier, to the foot pads before each walk-or make sure your dog wears doggie booties.”

In the summertime, the hot pavement can burn your dog’s pads. “Check the pavement for heat before taking your dog on a walk,” according to Banfield Pet Hospital. “Place your hand or a bare foot on the surface for 10 seconds. If it is too hot for you to keep your hand or foot on it, then it is too hot for your pet.”

Meet the Author: Holly Zynda

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