When it comes to your dog’s daily health routine and keeping them in the best shape possible, your dog’s paws might not be the first thing you think about. But paw health is vital to keeping your dog comfortable and active, so it’s important to prevent issues like dry and cracked dog paws. Your dog’s paws are sensitive to temperature and different surfaces, and many things can cause dryness or cracking in their paws. A better understanding of what a healthy paw pad looks like, why it’s important, and what causes dryness and cracking will help you take better care of your canine companion.
The Importance of Healthy Paw Pads for Dogs
Every part of your dog’s body is important to their overall health, but the paws are one of the most hardworking parts of your pooch. To better understand why your dog’s paw health is important, we need to know about the makeup of this body part, why dogs have paw pads, and what a healthy pad looks like.
What Are Paw Pads?
Paws are essentially mounds of fatty tissue on the bottom of your dog’s feet. This fatty tissue is covered by layers of skin that are usually either pink or black. On most dogs, paw skin feels different than other parts of the body. This is primarily because paw skin gets calloused from increased contact with various surfaces.
Why Do Dogs Have Paws on Their Feet?
Paws serve a lot of important purposes in your dog’s life. Not only does the fatty tissue of the paw provide your pet with some protection from temperature and the elements, but paws also help your dog balance and gain traction so they can be active.
What Does a Healthy Paw Pad Look Like?
A healthy paw pad will be supple and free from cracks. A variety of colors are appropriate, from light pink to dark black or brown. While a dog’s paws are rarely smooth, they shouldn’t be overly rough or appear to have hair growing from them (this is a condition called canine hyperkeratosis and it can be very uncomfortable for your pet). If you are concerned about any discoloration, swelling, or unusual appearance of your dog’s paws, you should consult your veterinarian.
Why Are My Dog’s Paws Cracked?
Cracking is a really common problem for a dog’s paws. While this issue is often associated with dry dog paws, there are other reasons your pet might experience this, including:
- Winter weather
- Hot sidewalks
- Excessive licking
- Rough surfaces for play or walks
- Exposure to chemicals
Winter Weather Can Cause Dry Dog Paws
In most places, there is less humidity in the air during the colder months. Winter weather can be a contributing factor in causing dryness for your dog’s paws, which can result in cracking. Winter also presents the risk of chemical ice melts and rock salt on the sidewalks where your pet walks, which can irritate and dry out those paws.
Hot Surfaces Can Burn and Dry Out Dog Paws
Heat risks are very real for dogs, and one of those risks is hot pavement, sand, or other walking surfaces. While your dog’s paws are more robust than your bare feet and can handle more abrasion and heat, they can still be burned and irritated by excessive heat. Walking on a hot surface during the summer can cause your dog’s paws to dry out and crack.
Excessive Licking Is an Irritant for Paws
Licking is usually what turns a dry dog paw into a cracked dog paw. Your dog has an instinct to lick areas of their body that are uncomfortable or injured because this is a healing method and can prevent infection by keeping the wound clean. While it can also temporarily alleviate some of the discomfort of dry paws, eventually, the licking just irritates the skin more and causes cracking.
Walking or Playing on Rough Surfaces
While paws are designed to provide traction and protect your dog’s feet from abrasion, it’s also possible for a rough or sharp surface to damage your dog’s paws. Hiking on sharp gravel or walking on a salted sidewalk in the winter can sometimes cause dry and cracked dog paws.
Exposure to Chemicals or Abrasive Substances
Chemicals can irritate your dog’s paw skin sometimes, too. Chemical ice melts are often the culprit for paw issues like dryness and cracking. Some harsh floor cleaners might even cause paw trouble. Knowing where your dog has been walking and what chemicals you’ve used in your home and lawn might help you identify what’s causing your dog’s dry paws.
Why Cracked and Dry Paw Pads Are Risky
If your dog’s paws aren’t in good health, they need to be tended to. While the issue isn’t immediately life-threatening, paws play a vital role in your dog’s health and should be cared for like every part of their body. Cracked and dry paws can:
- Cause infection
- Be painful
- Reduce your dog’s quality of life
Cracked Pads Can Become Infected
One of the biggest risks with cracked dog paws is that they can become infected. Once there is an open wound on your dog’s foot, it becomes difficult to keep it clean and free from dirt and germs. Your dog’s paws are already home to a number of bacteria and fungus that are normal and completely safe, but an opening creates a problem. Often, if your dog’s cracked paw becomes infected, it will smell bad and look extremely irritated. Infected cracks need to be addressed immediately with your veterinarian.
Dryness and Cracking Can Be Painful for Dogs
Perhaps the most obvious reason that you need to upkeep your dog’s paw health is for their comfort. Dogs use their paw pads every day and if they are dry and cracked, that can be painful for them. No one wants their pooch in pain!
Healthy Paw Pads Support Your Dog’s Lifestyle
The discomfort of paw pad issues can reduce your dog’s ability to play, run, and go on walks with you – all of which are vital to their happiness. Your dog needs to be able to maintain their activity level to stay both mentally and physically healthy. If they can’t enjoy themselves because of paw issues, it will impact their overall healthy lifestyle.
How to Prevent Dry Dog Paws and Care for Cracked Paws
Like with any dog health issue, prevention is key. It’s best to care for your dog’s paws while they are healthy and maintain that health rather than trying to address an issue after it happens. Here are some tips for preventing paw dryness and addressing cracks if they happen:
- Do paw check-ups with your dog
- Be careful about where you walk
- Establish a winter paw care routine
- Introduce a soothing CBD balm
- Purchase dog boots
Check Your Dog’s Paws Regularly
Since your dog’s paws are usually on the ground, many owners don’t notice a dog is having paw issues until the problem has really escalated. You can avoid a small problem getting too big by examining your dog’s paws on a regular basis. In the same way, you should check out your dog’s mouth for consistent dental care, you should also take a good look at your dog’s paws regularly to ensure they are healthy.
Give your dog a treat or toy to make them comfortable and catch them when they are already relaxing. Gently handle their paws and examine the pads and look between the toes to see if there is any dryness or cracking. This will also help you be familiar with what your dog’s healthy paws look like so you know if anything changes.
Be Selective About Walking Surfaces
One of the best ways to prevent dry dog paws is by being careful about where you walk. Ideally, your dog will be able to walk on soft grass as much as possible. This will be the easiest surface for their paws. If you have to walk on pavement, concrete, or sand, make sure it’s not too abrasive or hot. When you go hiking, keep an eye out for sharp rocks or other rough surfaces on the trail that might irritate your dog’s paws or cause injury.
Establish a Winter Paw Care Routine
Wintertime can be an especially harsh time for paw health, so it’s good to establish a different type of care routine during these months. While you should care for your dog’s paws year round, they might benefit from a little added TLC when cold weather rolls around. This might mean additional paw checks, the introduction of a balm or moisturizer, and changing your walking routine to find softer, less icy, or less salty surfaces.
Consider Using a CBD Balm for Moisture and Comfort
To keep your dog’s paws in their current comfortable state, you might want to introduce a CBD balm paw massage into your dog care routine. Our Nose to Toes CBD Dog Balm will nourish those paw pads with shea butter, coconut oil, and cocoa butter while delivering the comforting support of hemp-derived CBD. The easy-to-apply stick means you can bring it with you on a hike or a walk and give your pooch a little moisturizing support any time of the day.
Any kind of dog-safe moisturizing balm or lotion for your pet’s paws can be a great addition to your dog’s regular care routine. Especially in dry areas or cold weather, a moisturizer is an excellent way to care for your dog and prevent dry and cracked dog paws.
Invest in Some Dog Boots
Especially if you live in an area with long, harsh winters, dog boots are a worthwhile investment. Many folks even buy boots for their dogs who hike with them often. Boots allow you to rest easily knowing that your dog’s paws are protected from rough surfaces and extreme temperatures.
Few dogs will take to boots immediately. It often takes time and effort to train your dog to walk in boots. Some dogs will never be comfortable walking in boots, but the protection they offer is so great that it's worth trying to get them comfortable with it if you can.
The first step to successful dog boot training is to find a boot that fits your dog properly. You’ll also want different types of boots for different activities – a desert hike will require a breathable, lightweight bootie, while a winter stroll might need something waterproof and thicker. Once you’ve found the right boots, let your dog wear them for a few minutes at a time around the house and desensitize them by offering lots of treats and praise while the boots are on. Graduate to a short walk and then longer ones if your dog seems comfortable in the shoes.
Avoid Dry and Cracked Dog Paws for Your Pet’s Comfort and Health
Healthy, functional dog paws are important to your pet’s quality of life, so it’s important to avoid dry and cracked dog paws. By establishing a good health routine, incorporating a moisturizing balm, and protecting your dog’s paws from the elements, you can keep your pooch’s pads supple and happy. When it comes to your dog’s health, don’t forget the feet!