Dogs don’t worry about lacing up their sneakers before going for a run or switching from sandals to boots when the temperature drops. All they need are their trusty paw pads, and they’re ready to take on the world. Paw pads absorb shock, insulate the body from extreme temperatures, and even stand up to rough surfaces that would make even the most thick-soled human wince with pain. Your dog’s paw pads do a lot, but that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. Countless dogs suffer from rough, cracked, and dry paws. They can’t head to the store to purchase a new pair of shoes, so it’s up to you to take good care of your dog’s paws.
How Dogs Get Cracked and Dry Paws
Paw pads are a barrier between the ground and the rest of your dog’s foot. They’re built tough so things like stones and sticks don’t bother them, but certain chemicals are a different story. Ice melt and floor cleaners are the two biggest chemical culprits that harm paws. The chloride in ice melt and acids in certain cleaners irritate skin and suck up moisture in your dog’s paws. The more time your pup spends walking on those chemically-treated surfaces, the worse his paws will be. Other solutions including carpet stain removers, fertilizers, and garden sprays are also known to dry out dog paws.
A dog’s paw pads look leathery and tough, but even they can’t withstand the extreme heat of pavement under the summer sun. When the outside temperature reaches 86 degrees, pavement including the sidewalk, road, and your driveway heats up to an excruciating 135 degrees. It’s more than enough to do some serious damage to a dog’s paws.
You’ll never see a dog tentatively step their way across stones or pause before walking into the woods, and that’s because their paws are more suited for the outdoors than your comparably soft feet. A healthy dog is able to run and climb over surfaces that would hurt the average human, but too much wear and tear can cause problems. Dogs that spend a lot of time playing on concrete and hiking over mountains are more at risk of developing dry paws than those that go from the plush carpet inside to the soft grass outside.
Underlying Medical Issues
If nothing else seems to explain your dog’s cracked and dry paws, there could be an underlying medical issue you don’t know about. Cracked, bleeding, and blistered paw pads that take weeks to heal are symptoms of liver disease, hormonal imbalances, and autoimmune diseases. Itchy and irritated paws are also a sign of allergies.
What to Watch Out For
Sometimes your dog’s paw problems are easy to spot. You can’t ignore blood-streaked paw prints or bright red blisters. It’s always best, however, to notice the signs of cracked and dry paws early on. Make it a habit to check out your dog’s paws on a regular basis, and while you’re at it, watch out for these behaviors:
- Excessively licking their paws
- Biting their toes
How to Help
If your dog has cracked and dry paws, simple things like getting up to get a drink of water can be painful. Their normal exercise routine stops being fun, and their everyday quality of life diminishes. Cracked paws won’t go away on their own, but there are several things you can do to help your pup get back on their feet.
Socks and shoes are more human than canine, but they can do a lot of good when your dog has cracked and dry paws. You need to protect their tender skin from getting worse, and something soft between their feet and the ground will help. If it’s clear your dog’s paw problems are caused by the ground they walk on, special dog booties are the easiest form of protection.
Whether it’s ice melt on the sidewalk or the sidewalk itself on a hot day, an extra layer of protection will be a good thing. Your dog might not like it at first (and you’ll get hilarious videos of him high-stepping like a champion dressage horse), but most dogs get used to the extra weight on their feet with practice.
Watch Their Step
If your dog chews off their boots or refuses to budge with those strange things on their feet, simply watching where he walks can be just as effective as making him wear shoes. Avoid going on walks during the hottest part of the day, and stick to the grass and shade as much as possible. If you can’t hold the back of your hand on the pavement for more than five seconds, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.
In the winter, learn a few indoor exercises to save your dog’s paws from the salt-covered sidewalks. If you use a particularly harsh floor cleaner, consider switching it up to something that won’t hurt your pet.
Try Paw Massages
Who doesn’t love having their feet rubbed? As long as your dog has been trained to accept body handling and their paws aren’t openly cracked, they’ll probably appreciate a good paw massage every now and then. Massaging is great for dry paws because it increases circulation in the feet. Use your fingers to apply firm pressure to your dog’s paw pads and work your way between each of the toes.
Invest in a Paw Balm
Your paw massages will be an even bigger hit if you use an all-natural moisturizing paw balm. There are several natural ingredients that are safe for dogs and do wonders for cracked and dry paws. Coconut oil is non-toxic, antiviral, antibacterial, and it’s great at moisturizing dry skin. Almond oil is another natural ingredient that’s safe for dogs. It’s a non-greasy moisturizer that also reduces inflammation.
Organic Paw Wax from Naked Dog Bistro is formulated with coconut and almond to bring all-natural relief to dogs with cracked and dry paws. Rub it into your dog’s paw pads on a daily basis to help them heal.
Visit the Vet
When nothing else works to relieve your dog’s cracked and dry paws, it’s time to visit the vet. Lesions that won’t heal or paws that rip open after average activity could be a sign that something isn’t quite right with your pup’s health. Tell your vet the details about how long your dog’s paws have been bothering him and what you’ve already tried to make them better. An expert opinion might be exactly what your dog needs to find relief.
Rough, blistered, bleeding, cracked, and dry paws will always slow down your dog and stop him from enjoying his favorite activities. Luckily, he has you on his side to help him heal. With a little time and a lot of TLC, your playful pup will be back to normal.