If you’ve ever walked barefoot on the beach, you may have gotten painful tendonitis. Hiking a rugged trail can lead to soreness and blisters. Aching feet can ruin your trip, but the right shoes make a big difference.
What about your four-legged companion? Unless you train him to tolerate booties, his paws are exposed to the same elements that injure human feet: ice, hot sand and pavement, rocks, and even barbed seed heads, like the ones that fall from the weed-like foxtail plant.
Check out these dangers—some of them hidden—so you can take good care of your pup’s paws on your next adventure.
City streets and sidewalks heat up fast in the summertime. We can’t feel the sizzle through our shoes, but a dog’s pads can burn and blister. To make sure the street is safe for him, press the palm of your hand on the asphalt for five seconds. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog. Take your walk later in the day, when the street cools down, or let your dog stroll only on grassy and shaded areas.
In the winter, ice, snow, chemical ice-melts and rock salt can harm your furry friend’s pads, making them crack and bleed. Before you head outdoors, apply protective paw balm to them. It also helps to carefully trim any long hairs on his paws, so they don’t get matted with ice. If his nails are long, skip the walk altogether until they’re clipped. Long toenails can make his feet slip and splay, exposing more of the pad to injury. Note: Can’t find paw balm for sale? Make your own with this recipe from the DIY Network.
Leave a bowl of warm water just inside your door, so you can wash your dog’s paws as soon as you get back home. This not only removes ice pellets, but also keeps him from ingesting toxic chemicals and salts if he licks his feet.
When you visit the beach, watch for broken glass and other debris hidden in the sand.
If you’re hiking, check your dog’s feet from time to time, especially if he starts to limp. Pebbles and gravel can get stuck between his toes. If possible, check out the trail before you bring him along, so you’re sure it’s free from thorns, pieces of broken plastic or glass and other possible dangers.
Tips For Paw Care
Dog boots or booties can be a big help, if your dog can get used to them. Ruffwear sells canine boots designed to provide traction in many types of terrain. You may want to add boot liners if your pet has a dew claw, so the boots slip on and off more easily. If you take your dog hunting, look for boots made to protect against sand burrs, brush and stickers. (Note: Seller states the boots won’t deflect some cacti needles.)
Water-resistant boots help protect retrievers from underwater hazards like fishing hooks and broken bottles. Take your best fur friend with you when you shop, so you can be sure the shoe fits—and that he’ll wear it.
When you get a manicure, think about whether your dog needs a pedicure. A groomer or veterinarian should clip his nails periodically, so they don’t click when he walks or get snagged on carpets. If you’re a DIY-er, ask your vet or groomer about what kind of nail trimmers to purchase and how to use them.
Patrol your yard often to remove any debris that might hurt your dog’s feet. Even the spiky balls that fall from sweet gum trees can cause pain and cuts.
In the summer, check your furry friend’s paws for sores or burns he may get from the street or other hot surface. Treat them with an antibacterial wash and protect his foot from further harm with a bootie. In the winter, watch for chapping and cracking and treat as needed. See a vet right away for serious problems.
Don’t forget to check between your pet’s pads for pebbles and other small objects that are irritating or harmful. Use tweezers to gently remove hard-to-reach debris.
Editor’s Note: Thickened paw pads may be a sign of aging. Veterinarian Dr. Lee Pickett discusses hyperkeratosis, an age-related condition and treatment information.
Lynn Coulter is owned by two rescue dogs—Molly and Miss Paws—and occasionally blogs at LynnCoulter.com. She’s also the author of three books and a freelancer who writes about travel, gardening and more. She and her husband live in metro Atlanta, where they cheer for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and spend their money on dog biscuits.