Just as we communicate with our dogs through body language and voice tones, they too communicate with us through their body language. A wagging tail often tells you they are happy. A certain stance means they are aggressive.
And pawing often means they want to play or want attention. Have you ever noticed that when puppies want to play, one usually paws the ground or paws at the other animal?
Not only are dog paws a means of communication, they are important to a dog’s overall health. Here are some important facts you should know about your dog’s paws:
- A dog’s paws have bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, blood and connective tissue. A dog’s paws consist of 5 components:
- Digital pads (the toes)
- Metacarpal pads (in the middle)
- Dewclaw (not all dogs have them)
- Carpal pad (in the back)
- If you hold your hand on the pavement for 5 seconds and it’s too hot it is too hot for your dog’s feet. Walk him at a later time or stay on the grass. Conversely, in the winter you want to protectyour dog’s paws from salt, ice balls, and cutting his pads on sharp items that may be hidden under the snow or sharp ice. Cold weather can expose your dog’s paw pads to drying, cracking, trauma, frostbite and chemical burns. The good news? A dog’s pads contain fatty tissue which doesn’t freeze as easily as other tissue, which helps to keep their paws a little warmer in the cold. However, consider coating your dog’s feet with balm or have him wear dog booties. Also, use a de-icer on your driveway that does not contain chemicals that are toxic to your dog.
- Overheating. Your dog’s paws have sweat glands that allow him to perspire, helping him to cool down and his pads from getting too dry. Likewise, if a dog is stressed or nervous, his paws can perspire, just like you do!
- Dogs toes are similar to our fingers and toes but not quite as flexible.
- Walking. Unlike humans, dogs carry the majority of their weight on their toes versus their heels. The declaw is like the human thumb, while some breeds have them on their front legs and others have them on their back legs.
- Purpose. Some dogs like St. Bernards and Newfoundlands have wide sprawling paws to help them get traction on snow and ice. Water dogs, such as retrievers and Portugese Water Dogs have webbing between their toes to help them swim better in the water. Akitas and Dobermans have what is known as “cat feet” which are small and have high arches, giving them better endurance. Greyhounds and Samoyeds have “hare feet” with a longer middle toe that helps them run faster.
- Smell. Some dog’s paws smell like corn chips or popcorn from the bacteria and moisture that grows on their paws. No worry … that’s normal.
- Caring. Objects can become lodged in your dog’s paws. Check them regularly for pebbles, foxtails or debris. If you notice that your dog has a minor cut or abrasion on his paw, wash the foot with an antiseptic soap and apply a topical antibiotic cream.
- Your dog would love a deep paw massage to relax him and give him better circulation.
- Proper and frequent nail trimming is important. How often depends on the breed.
- Too much attention. Does your dog spend an inordinate amount of time licking his paws? If your dog licks, chews or picks at his foot a lot, he may have allergies or an obsessive compulsive disorder called lick granuloma. Check with your vet.
Dog paws are literally the underdog of our canine companions!