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Dogs walk around “barefoot” all the time, so it’s easy to think that their paws don’t need any maintenance or protection. But, the first time your dog holds up a foot, looks at you with giant eyes and lets loose a distressing cry, you’ll realize otherwise. We’d like to help you prevent that with these 10 tips to protect your dog’s paws.
Dog Paw Protection Tips
#1 – Protect Your Dog’s Paws from Harsh Weather
Whether the sidewalk is scorching hot or freezing cold, your dog will be able to feel it. Hot pavement can actually burn your dog’s feet, while a snow-covered sidewalk can lead to frostbite.
During the heat of summer, walk your dog early in the morning and late in the evening when the sidewalk is coolest. If you aren’t sure whether the sidewalk is too hot, place your hand flat against it – if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s feet. Also, keep in mind that black asphalt gets even hotter than sidewalk pavement, and extreme heat can make it tacky and able to stick to your dog’s feet.
In the winter, be sure to keep temperatures and sidewalk conditions in mind. Even if you have a dog that loves to play in the snow, they can still be prone to frostbite on their feet, so limit outdoor time to 15 minutes and use a rag to dry off their feet when they come inside.
#2 – Toughen Your Dog’s Paw Pads
Just like people can develop calluses on their hands and feet to protect their skin from repeated rubbing, dogs can develop tougher paw pads that are more protected from heat, cold, and rough terrain.
When the temperatures are comfortable, walk your dog on the sidewalk as much as possible to help toughen up their paw pads for an extra layer of protection from the elements. If you have a puppy or a newly adopted dog, you may need to gradually increase the length of your walks to gradually toughen up their paw pads. A dog that spent its life running around a grassy backyard may not have tough enough paw pads to handle an hour-long run on pavement.
#3 – Stay on the Grass
If you live in a hot climate and your dog can’t go without a midday walk, try to keep them on the grass as much as possible to help prevent them from burning their feet. A park might be your best mid-day option for walking your dog without running the risk of hurting his feet.
#4 – Get Your Dog Used to Having his Paws Handled
If your dog hates having their feet handled, they are more likely to suffer a quicked nail during a nail trim or a nicked paw pad during grooming. And if they ever do suffer from an injured paw, you will have a much more difficult time trying to care for it if your dog constantly tries to yank his foot out of your hand.
To get your dog used to having his paws handled, keep some treats handy. When your dog is relaxed, lightly grasp one of their paws, then immediately reward your dog with a treat. Gradually increase how long or tightly you hold your dog’s paw until you can gently squeeze various parts of his foot without him pulling away.
#5 – Use Paw Protection Wax
If you have an active dog that loves going for walks or runs regardless of the weather, using paw wax can help protect their feet without the awkwardness and fuss of booties. Just apply a paw wax like Musher’s Secret on and in between your dog’s paw pads to help protect their feet from the elements. As the name implies, mushers use wax on their dogs’ paw pads to protect them from snow and ice as they’re pulling sleds.
It’s important to note that a little bit of paw wax goes a long way. You should rub it in like a lotion rather than slather on a thick coating.
Related: DIY Homemade Dog Paw Balm Recipe
#6 – Protect Your Dog’s Paws By Avoiding Walking on Ice
Apart from the ice itself being painful to your dog’s paw pads due to how cold it is, dogs can slip on ice just as easily as humans. If you’ve ever pulled a muscle or broken a bone from slipping on a patch of ice, you’ll understand why your dog shouldn’t walk on ice any more than you should.
Slipping on ice could hurt more than just your dog’s paws, so if you wouldn’t walk across it in flip-flops, your dog probably shouldn’t walk across it in bare feet.
Additionally, icy sidewalks often mean sidewalk salt has been put down. The rocks of salt can be painful for your dog to walk on, and the chemicals in the salt can make your dog sick, especially if they lick their feet after walking on it.
#7 – Moisturize Your Dog’s Feet
Do your hands tend to get dry and cracked in the wintertime? So can your dog’s feet. Use a lotion or balm like this one to keep your dog’s feet moisturized and prevent painful cracks in their paw pads. It’s also a good idea to dab a bit on your dog’s nose to prevent it from becoming dry and cracked, too.
#8 – Keep Nails and Foot Hair Trimmed
Did you know that if your dog’s nails get long enough, they can grow into their paw pads or cause arthritis? Either way, your dog is looking at a lot of pain.
On average, you should trim your dog’s nails once a month. Dogs that regularly walk on pavement may need less frequent trimming while dogs that spend most of their time in the house or a grassy backyard may need more frequent nail trimming.
If the quick (vein) in your dog’s nails has grown out, you may need to trim a tiny bit off the nails every week to get the quick to go back. If you’ve ever seen a dog’s toes twisted sideways due to overly long nails, you’ll understand the importance of keeping your dog’s nails as short as possible.
Other than short-haired breeds, most dogs grow fur between their paw pads. When this hair gets long, it can cause a variety of problems, like:
- Long hair on the bottom of the foot can make walking on smooth floors much more slippery and dangerous.
- Long foot hair is more likely to pick up toxins, burrs, gravel, sidewalk salt, and more, which can irritate your dog’s feet or even make them sick.
- In breeds with hair that grows continuously, the hair between the pads can become matted. These lumps of hair can be quite painful – the equivalent of having a rock in your shoe.
Using scissors to trim the hair on the bottom of your dog’s feet is effective but dangerous – it’s better to invest in a set of clippers to shave the hair out.
#9 – Use Shoes, Socks, or Disposable Booties
Watching videos of dogs wearing booties for the first time is hilarious, but there are good reasons for some dogs to wear shoes, socks, or booties.
Senior dogs with arthritis often have a difficult time walking on hardwood or tile floors. The tiniest bit of foot slippage can cause them immense pain, so socks with rubber bottoms can help give these dogs more confidence to walk around the home without slipping or risking more pain. These are a good example of dog socks to help prevent sliding.
If you’re very active with your dog and like to go out regardless of the weather or frequently go for hikes “off the beaten path,” the best way to protect your dog’s feet is with a sturdy pair of rubber-soled dog booties like these. You wouldn’t go hiking or run on hot asphalt in bare feet, so you should consider not forcing your dog to do so either.
Don’t want to spend a fortune on dog booties, but you want to have something on hand for occasional paw protection use? Disposable booties like these are cheap and easy to use in a pinch if your area has a random cold snap or your dog needs to have a foot bandaged and kept clean.
Be Sure to Read: 10 Best Dog Boots for Large Dogs
#10 – Wash and Check Your Dog’s Paws Regularly
Think about all the nasty stuff you likely step in every day. Not only is your dog stepping in that same nasty stuff, but they are licking their feet afterward and potentially ingesting any number of toxins or hazards.
Sidewalk salt can be especially hazardous to your dog’s paws, so it’s a good idea to keep a wet rag by the door to wipe your dog’s feet with when you come back from a walk on an icy day.
It’s also important to look at your dog’s feet often to get a sense of their condition. Are there any thorns in the pads? Do you see any cuts, scrapes, or blisters? Is the hair forming uncomfortable mats between the pads? The sooner you notice problems with your dog’s feet, the better you can protect your dog’s paws from harm.