Dog health is important to be educated on, and dog paw and pad care is no different.
A dog’s Pads in particular are an interesting and important part of their body that you need to know what to look out for to make sure the pads are healthy and functioning as they should be.
They are responsible for cushioning and absorbing forces through your dogs paw, so any issues with them can not only be painful for your dog, but cause further issues to do with joints, bones, ligaments, muscles and more.
We’ve outlined what Dog Paws and pads are, what they are made of, what functions they provide, how pads become unhealthy or injured, common paw and pad health issues, pad damage signs to look out for, and might be done about damaged pads.
Let’s take a look…
(NOTE: this is a general informational and educational guide only. It is not professional advice. See a vet or qualified expert for professional advice).
Dog Paw/Pad Care 101: What To Know
What Are Dog Paws, and What Are They Made Of?
Paws are the entire foot of your dog – the bone, ligaments, muscles, skin, claws (nails), and the pads on the bottom of the paw.
What Are Dog Pads, And What Are They Made Of?
Pads are cushion looking tissue/skin on the underside of the paw and are made of fat, connective tissue and a tough/thick skin called keratinized epithelium.
What Are Dog Paws & Pads Used For On A Dog’s Body?
Obviously, dog paws on a dog are comparable in some way to feet on a human, but dog paws and pads are much harder wearing and have different functions.
Dog pads provide support and traction, as well as shock absorption to the bones and muscles in their paws, legs and through the rest of the body.
There’s three main types of dog pads under your dog’s paw with slightly different functions:
- The digital pads – the pads on each toe/claw of the paw. Shock absorbers that protects bones and joints
- The metacarpal pad – the bid pad in the middle of your dog’s paw. Shock absorber that protects bones and joints in the foot
- Carpal pad – the pad a little further up from the underside of the paw. A navigational pad, or brake type pad that helps your dog grip and navigate when going up or down steep surfaces.
Pads are well insulated and allow them to walk on hotter and colder surfaces than what your human feet allow you to.
It is normal for a dog’s pads to look rough if they have been walking on rough surfaces like gravel, bitumen/asphalt, concrete or uneven hiking trails for example.
Dogs that spend most of their time walking on grass or softer/smoother surfaces might have smoother looking pads.
What Causes Unhealthy or Injured Dog Paws/Pads?
Problems and health issues with your dog’s paws/pads are most often caused by one of two things:
- A sudden change in activity, environment, or surface your dog is not used to. For example, if your dog spends most of its time at home on grass and concrete, and you take them out to a hiking trail where there are rough and sharp rocks, or a rough path – this could cause problems
- A health condition or deficiency causing problems on the pads. For example, if your do isn’t getting the right nutrition or a disease or organ function is effecting how the skin maintains itself on the pad – this can effect the minerals and blood supply getting to the pads which have a high cell turnover rate.
What Are Common Problems Or Health Issues With Dog Paws & Pads?
The following are some common problems or health issues to do with dog paws and pads:
- Skin damage caused by force or external objects
- Liver disease causing pad damage
- Allergies causing damage
- Hormonal imbalances causing damage
- Autoimmune diseases causing damage
You can read more about each of these health conditions and contributors here.
What Are Signs Of Unhealthy or Injured Paws and Pads?
The following are some signs of an injured, damaged or unhealthy pad:
- Skin appears thin and not thick
- Severe cracks instead of small rough looking cracks
- Splinters and thorns
- Ulcers and infections
What Can Your Do If Your Dog’s Paw or Pads Are Injured Or Unhealthy?
The best thing to do is take them to a vet.
It depends what the issue is as to how they manage or treat it, but for serious injuries they may have to:
- Remove foreign objects
- Clean the pad/paw and disinfect it
- Dry it out
- Dress it
- Allow up to 3 weeks to allow pad tissue to re-grow
If there is problems elsewhere in the body like the liver, that’s a whole separate issue.
For minor cracking and skin damage, some owners simply apply a paw balm, wax or lotion which is a bit like a moisturiser.
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