Dog paws have an amazing design. The act to both cushion and protect your dog’s feet while they walk around on the roughest, hottest, or even coldest terrain. Although the design may be amazing, it’s not indestructible. Consistent exposure to hot sidewalks, snow and ice, or gravel pathways can leave a dog’s pads raw, cracked, and irritated. On top of all that, some dogs can suffer from allergies that make their paws itchy, red and swollen. What’s a dog to do? Let’s look at some ways that you can help to soothe your dog’s sore paws.
What Makes Sore Paws?
What makes sore paws are chemicals like deicers, as well as the repeated pounding that a hike on rocky ground can do to bruise the paw pad. Extreme conditions such as sidewalk in 90-degree heat or ice salt on frosty asphalt are also to blame.
We hit on this briefly already, but to gain further understanding, let’s look deep inside of a dog paw to see exactly what we’re dealing with. Paw pads are made up of fat, connective tissue and a thick layer of skin. The fat is there to cushion, the connective tissue to keep it all together, and the skin to provide protection. This skin isn’t like the skin that you find on their silky ears. Rather, it’s a more keratinized version which makes it thicker, rougher, and more durable. It’s the same type of skin as is on your dog’s nose.
Without all of these components, a dog’s paw would be useless at getting them around over rough ground of varying temperatures. It would be like us trying to cross a gravel road on our knees. Even with these barriers in place, extreme temperatures, such a sidewalk in 90-degree heat or a frosty patch of grass, can cause damage to those skin cells.
Paws that are in need of help may simply be sore, but some can even be cracked, red, swollen, or irritated. A pup with sore feet may lick at them constantly or refuse to go outside or exercise.
How to Help Soothe Sore Paws
Getting your canine companion some much needed foot care is a multimodal approach. Finding the combination of products and treatments that work for them may take some practice and patience on your part.
Moisturize: This is a little different that what we think of when moisturizing our own skin. With humans, we’re always looking for the softest skin possible. When looking at moisturizing a dog’s paw pad, softest doesn’t equal best. Instead, you’ll need to find a nice balance between moisturizing the skin enough to heal and prevent cracks but without making the skin so soft that it is more prone to injury.
What can I use to moisturize my dogs paws
Some great products that help pull this off are shea butter and olive oil. Both products can be massaged into the skin of the pad to increase absorption.
Healing: If your pup already has those cracks or redness, moisturizing will still help, but it may be time to bring in a few heavier hitters. Antioxidants, like vitamin E oil, will help to repair some of that damage that is brought on by the sun and colder temperatures. Things like coconut oil will also help to naturally reduce inflammation that is causing soreness and pain.
You may also want to incorporate massage to stimulate blood flow to the paw and to just make them feel good. Raise your paw if you’d like a nice foot massage after a long day of being on your tired, achy feet.
Protection: Prevention is the best medicine. Giving your dog’s feet some protection from the elements and percussion will go a long way in keeping their feet from getting sore. Protection can come in the form of booties that your dog can wear in extreme temperatures or terrain, or in the form a protective balm.
Natural waxes, such as beeswax or Candelilla wax, create a protective layer on the skin that helps to neutralize heat, cold, and chemicals to keep the skin cells safe from damage. This barrier can also keep out environmental allergens if your dog is an unfortunate allergy sufferer or to prevent sunburn (yes, this can happen!).
Regular toenail trims are also important to keep the mechanics of the foot in check to prevent soreness. Toenails that are too long and actually strike the ground or floor when your dog walks can put unnatural pressure on the joints of the toes and feet, causing pain and inflammation.
Fortunately for us, there are many paw pad balms on the market that incorporate all or most of these helpful ingredients to make it a one-stop shop.
When choosing a paw balm, look for ingredients that are natural, that you recognize, and that are safe since nothing should go on the outside of a dog that can’t also go on the inside. Paw balms can be used frequently to help soothe sore paws or they can be applied before every venture outside to prevent damage.
Your dog’s feet are an important part of who they are. Without healthy paws, they won’t be able to accompany you on your many adventures or to greet you with happy bounces at the door. Knowing how to soothe those paws should they ever become sore is a must for all dog parents in order to keep our best friends happy, healthy and ready to move.
PetMD Editorial, Skin Inflammation on the Paws in Dogs, PetMD