Dog Paws: Fun Facts and Care Tips
There’s a lot more to your dog’s paws than just adorable high-fives and cute hand-shakes. Their paws play a vital role not only in getting around the house and the outdoors but also their overall health. So, let’s jump right in and look at what makes a dog’s paw so special.
The Parts of the Paw:
The paw of a dog is made of five different parts. The digital pads are the four smaller leathery pads located on the outside of the paw. These pads are often considered to be similar to our fingers and toes. The next part of the paw, is the large almost heart-shaped pad in the middle of the paw. Called the Metacarpal Pad when referring to front paws or the Metatarsal Pad when referring to the back paws, these pads would be equivalent to the palms of our hands or the soles of our feet. The last pad is called the Carpal Pad. Technically speaking this pad isn’t located directly on the dog’s paw, it is the stand-alone pad located higher up a dog’s leg. This pad provides additional traction during a sudden stop or direction change, or when sliding down an incline.
The last two parts of the paw are the claws and the dewclaw. A dog's claws are located at the end of their paw, and used for digging, holding and traction when quickly accelerating. The aforementioned dewclaw is the last part of a dog’s paw, and it is the lone nail located between the paw and the carpal pad higher up on the dog’s leg. This claw belongs to a vestigial toe that is no longer used. However, the dewclaw does need to be properly maintained and cared for as the nail can get caught or grow too long causing discomfort for the dog.
So now that you know the basics, let’s run through some fun facts about dog paws!
- -Multi-colored pads: The pads of a dog’s paws can vary in color from black, to brown, to pink, to white. Some dog’s pads may even be a combination of all those colors.
- -Not as tough as you think: Despite feeling tough and leathery, the pads on a dog’s paws are just made of skin. The tougher the terrain your dog walks on the harder and more calloused their pads will be.
- -Built in insulation: The pads of a dog’s paw contain fatty tissue which protects them from the cold, allowing them to happily play in the snow!
- -They don’t like it hot: Pavement overheated by the summer sun can cause the pads on a dog’s paw to blister and burn.
- -Lucky rabbit’s foot: Dogs paws vary in both shape and size. Dog breeds with elongated middle toes, have what is called "hare feet." This shape allows them to run faster and is common on breeds like greyhounds, toy breeds, and Samoyeds.
- -Won’t always land on their feet: Dogs with shorter middle toes have "cat feet." These paws require less effort to lift, increasing the overall endurance of the pupper in question. Breeds such as Sheepdogs, Dobermans, Akitas and Bull Terriers are prime examples.
- -Built-in snowshoes: Dog breeds from colder climates have large paws, giving them more traction on the snow and ice.
- -Ideal for swimming: Some dog breeds have webbed feet allowing them to move through the water with ease.
- -Keep it cool: Dogs actually sweat through their paws. The skin of a dog’s paw contains sweat glands that allow them to cool off through their feet.
- -Something smells pawsy around here: Some owners report a distinct corn chips or popcorn smell on their dog’s feet. This is caused by bacteria that grows on their paws.
Quick Care Tips and Tricks:
Maintaining proper paw health is important to the overall health of your furry best friend. Here are some quick things you can do to help keep their paws in shape!
- -When is it too hot? Concerned the pavement might be too hot for your pup? Use the five second rule to make sure it’s cool enough for your dog’s paws. If you can’t hold the back of your hand to the pavement for more than 5 seconds it’s too hot for your dog to walk safely on it.
- -Cold not chemicals: While dog’s paws are adapted for cold weather, rock salt and other deicing chemicals put down in the winter can cause damage. Things can get worse if your dog licks, or chews their feet after a winter walk, ingesting these harmful substances. Dog booties provide excellent protection, or make sure to rinse their paws off after a winter walk with warm water.
- -Stress chewing: Dogs that are stressed or anxious can begin licking and chewing on their feet more than normal. While some paw nibbling is normal, excessive amounts can lead to open sores and even infection. Make sure to speak with your vet if you notice your pup can’t keep their feet out of their mouth.
- -Deep cleaning: Pebbles, sand and plenty of other debris can get stuck between your dog’s toes causing irritation. Make sure to check between their pads for any stuck foreign objects that may cause harm.
- -Relaxing massage: Massaging your dog’s paws will not only help them relax but will also promote circulation!
- -Keep them trimmed: Your dog’s claws should not touch the ground when standing, so if you hear them clicking on hard floors or getting snagged on carpet it’s time for a trim. However, it’s not as easy as just grabbing a pair of clippers and taking them down. Your dog’s claws share the same blood supply as the bones they grow out of. So if you trim too much, you might hit the nerve and cause the nail to bleed. While it is possible to trim your dog’s nails at home, if you’re nervous about doing it yourself make sure to consult with a vet or professional groomer first. They walk you through everything you’ll need to know to make sure the job is done correctly and safely!