Treating Cracking and Peeling Dog Paws

Dog paws are one of the more neglected parts of a dog; close attention is paid to skin, teeth, coat, eyes and mouth. but care of dog paws is often neglected.

Undoubtedly, dog paws are one of the most used parts of a dog. Yet most dog owners barely pay much attention to their condition, except for Iditarod dog sled racers. Ever wonder why sled dogs wear little booties on their paws during the course of the over 1,150 mile grueling race? Because without the proper care of their dog paws, sled dogs could not complete the race at the pace needed to win. Dry, chapped paws are not only painful, but are susceptible to all sorts of infections.

Characteristics Of Dog Paws

Dog paws consist of a sturdy stump with five toes, four of which continually touch the ground and one toe two inches above the ground, higher up on the leg. This appendage is often referred to as a dew claw, since it seemingly does not have a function or purpose. The top part of the paw is covered with fur with some fur between the toes. The bottom part of the paw has no fur, but 4 “pads” or padded soft tissue areas. Three pads are located across from the toes while a larger pad covers the bottom of the paw itself. These pads act as shock absorbers and are sensitive enough to distinguish different types of terrain.

Proper Care

Since dog paws are in almost constant contact with the ground, there is a considerable amount of “wear and tear” on them. Not only is there constant pounding on various surfaces, but this action robs moisture from the paw pads, making them dry and cracked. This creates two problems: 1) pain and therefore immobility and 2) susceptibility to infections through the cracked surfaces of the paws.

Dogs can usually keep up with "moisturizing" their paws through cleaning and licking, however sometimes the paws still dry and crack. Moisture is key in preventing dog paws from becoming dry and cracking.

Inspection of Dog Paws

Inspecting paws should take place at the same time as grooming since the act of grooming includes brushing the fur around the toes and clipping the nails. The pads should be soft to the touch. If the dog winces in pain when the foot pad is touched, it is time for closer inspection.

The foot pads should be inspected for embedded debris including thorns, small stones and such. The foot pads should also be smooth and have a “padded” look and feel. If they do not, aloe lotion can be applied to replace the moisture lost. Aloe is a good moisturizer since it also has healing qualities. If the pads are bleeding, then seek medical attention and the use of antibiotics to prevent any infections.

If a dog refuses to stand or walk because of dry, cracking paws, there's likely pain and/or an infection. This signals a needed trip to the veterinarian for more professional attention, care and treatment.