All about paw care: You need to know that!

All about paw care

Paw care is the be-all and end-all, especially in winter, when our four-legged friend’s paws are exposed to snow, road salt, and grit. Learn how to protect your dog here.

Dog Paw Anatomy

Dog paws ensure that the dog is always good on foot. Anatomically, they are similar to our hands and feet and are just as complex in structure. They consist of the wrist, metacarpal, and five fingers, each with three phalanxes. The difference between us humans lies in the way we move. While we walk on the soles of our feet, dogs are so-called toe-walkers. This means: They only walk on their toes, which gives them enormous maneuverability.

The thick, calloused paw pads form the largest part of the paw and protect the paws from rough surfaces, foreign bodies, and the effects of the weather. In addition to receptors for temperatures and vibrations, most of the dog’s sweat glands are also located in the skin of the feet. These glands not only produce sweat, but also a special secretion that makes the paw surface “grippy” and gives the dog better traction. There are fat pads under the horny layer and bunion skin. They cushion all movements and thus protect bones and joints.

The dog’s paw is very mobile as a whole. This is mainly due to the skin between the toes, which loosely connects the individual paw pads. Walking on uneven floors is no problem thanks to this connection. The hard claws made of horns also contribute to this. Similar to spikes under sports shoes, they ensure improved traction. Last but not least, the animal also grows hair between the pads, which primarily protects the sensitive pad spaces.

General information about paw care

Paw care is less about extensively manicuring and pedicuring the paw at fixed intervals, and more about regular checks and attention. Dogs usually signal very clearly when something is wrong with their paws. They nibble or lick their pads extensively. If only one paw is affected, it is usually a matter of foreign bodies or skin irritation. However, if the dog is dealing with multiple paws, it could be an allergic or parasitic problem.

Maintain pads and hair

As already stated, the underside of the paw consists mainly of pads and hair, which, like the claws, need careful care. The skin of the balls should be checked regularly. The surface should be smooth and soft. If, on the other hand, it is cracked or dry, you should cream it with milking grease, Vaseline, or paw care cream.

Short paw hair is the rule for all dogs. But some four-legged friends have a strong growth of hair between the toes. Dirt or foreign objects (e.g. grain awns) can get caught here and, in the worst case, grow into the paw. In addition, the hair can also cause pressure points. For this reason, this long paw hair should be trimmed regularly with scissors with rounded ends so that it no longer protrudes over the pads.

Remove foreign bodies

Dogs often enter foreign objects in their paws. As long as these are tiny shards, splinters, or stones, you can remove them yourself. It’s easiest with two people. One guides the tweezers while the other holds, pets, and soothes the dog.

Once the foreign body is removed, the paw should be bathed in lukewarm, soap-free water and an antiseptic applied. If necessary, you can also apply a thin bandage that is fixed with a child’s sock.

In the case of larger foreign bodies or if you are unsure, you should visit a veterinarian, because depending on the degree of injury, it may be necessary to sew up the wound under general anesthesia. In addition, paw problems can lead to long-term injuries. When in doubt, always consult a specialist.

The be-all and end-all of paw care: trimming the claws

Nowadays domestic dogs move mainly on the carpet, and smooth tiles, at most on the lawn in the park. Their ancestors living in the wild were quite different, who also had to pursue their prey over the rough, stony ground for a long time. Paws and claws were of course used in a completely different way.

The paw-friendly way of life in turn means that the claws are no longer worn down enough. They keep growing and in the worst case, they touch the ground with every step. The result: the entire movement sequence is shifted.

When walking, the weight shifts from front to back, and the front legs move at an unnatural angle. This chain reaction can lead to problematic deformations in the entire musculoskeletal system. In addition, claws that are too long can also grow. As a result, the dog can injure itself while running. Some animals also try to eliminate the problem on their own, gnawing at their claws and tearing out their entire claw.

It is therefore important to check the length of the claws regularly and to shorten them if necessary. However, there are a few things to consider. Like our fingernails, dog claws are made of horns. Unlike humans, they have nerves and blood vessels that must not be injured when clipping their claws. With light-colored claws, you can clearly see their course, with darker ones not. So you have to be very careful.

If the claws are just a little too long, a conventional nail file is suitable for trimming. For larger projects, you should use special claw pliers. It should have a round cutting surface and fit the size of the dog’s paw. Normal clippers for human nails should be avoided. They have a smooth cut surface and would not cut the claw but crush it.

When using the claw tongs, they should be applied horizontally and only cut off very thin slices. This way you can see if there is still enough horn between the forceps and the blood vessels. If it does happen that you injure a blood vessel, don’t lose your nerve. Claw injuries bleed profusely, but this says nothing about the degree of injury. In such cases, the bleeding should be stopped and the claw disinfected. If the wound closes quickly, you should keep a close eye on the claw so that any inflammation that may occur can be recognized quickly. The same applies here: In the event of serious injuries or uncertainties, consult the veterinarian. He can use this opportunity to demonstrate how the claws are trimmed correctly.

See Also: Paw care in winter: tips for healthy dogs

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