The way cats and dogs scamper over concrete, grass and sand without a care can give the impression their paws are tough as old boots – but the reality is very different and it’s vital you make sure their paws are well looked after.
Here are Petplan’s top tips for making sure your pet’s feet stay in top condition all year around…
It’s important to remember the below is general advice for looking after your pet’s paws. If you have any concerns or are worried about your pet, then your first port of call should always be your vet.
How to look after your dog’s paws
Getting started: paw pampering
Looking after your dog’s paws can require a lot of patience – especially if they are not used to having their paws touched. Give your dog a paw massage every now and again which will help your dog get used to you touching their paws. Start by gently rubbing the pads and then move to between their toes to relax them and get them comfortable with the experience.
Dogs’ paws are similar to human feet in that they are very sensitive to the surface they’re walking over. If it would hurt the soles of your feet to walk across the hot tarmac of a car park in summer, it can also be uncomfortable for your dog – and may lead to blistering on their soles.
If this happens, you should wash their paws gently in an antibacterial wash or warm salty water and wrap in gauze in a figure eight pattern, with loops around the foot and ankle. Wrap firmly, but not tight. Tape the end of the gauze to secure it. This will prevent infection and protect the sores.
The cold weather presents a whole host of issues for dog owners when it comes to caring for your pet’s paws. The salt and de-icers used on roads and pavements can irritate your dog’s paws, so you should ensure you wash and moisturise their paws after they’ve been outside.
Cracked pads and cuts
If you notice the soles of your dog’s paws are cracked or dry, then massage Vaseline into them. Alternatively there are special pad moisturisers which you can buy from pet shops that are specifically designed for the job.
Small cuts can be treated by gently washing your dog’s feet with an antibacterial wash or warm salty water and applying a small bandage as per the advice for blisters above. However; if the cut is deep or will not stop bleeding, consult your vet as it may need stitches or antibiotics.
If you can hear your dog’s toenails clicking on the floor, then it’s probably time for a trim. Not all dogs enjoy having their feet touched, but getting your dog accustomed to this from an early age can help when it comes to trimming your dog’s nails.
How to trim your dog’s nails:
Use special dog nail clippers which can be bought from most pet shops and start with just a few claws, trimming a small bit off the end of each toenail and, as they get used to it, progressing to the whole paw.
If the claw starts to feel spongy while you are trying to cut it – stop as you may be cutting the quick. The quick is the dark part inside the nail - the blood supply to avoid - and can be painful for your dog if cut. It can be seen easily in light coloured claws and is pink in colour. However; in dark or black claws it’s difficult to see and hence more difficult to gauge where to cut. It’s a good idea to have a styptic pencil or potassium permanganate ready to stem the bleeding in case you do accidentally snip the quick.
Don’t forget the dew claws! These are particularly prone to growing too long as your dog doesn’t ground these down from walking everyday.
Start to associate trimming with positive things, such as a tasty treat, and eventually your dog may even learn to look forward to it.
However, if your dog is uncooperative then visit your vet who can do this for you.
The hair between the pads can also matt and become painful to walk on, so make sure that you trim these areas regularly too. Ensure your dog is still when doing this and make sure you have sharp, straight-edged scissors or clippers. Gently separate your dog’s toes so you can comfortably trim the hair back so it is as close to their skin as possible without cutting them.
How to look after your cat’s paws
Cuts and Bites
Cats can sustain cuts and bite wounds to their paws from fighting with other cats. It’s important to use an antibacterial wash or salty water to bathe to avoid infection and to monitor closely as sometimes abscesses can occur. These are bubbles or pockets filled with pus and blood. Don’t touch these, because pressure on the area will be painfully excruciating for your cat. If this does occur visit your vet as soon as possible as the infection can spread to their joints.
Provide a scratching post for your cat. This will allow them to naturally keep their claws in check, and also means that they should be less likely to shred your furniture.
If your cat’s claws are particularly long then you may need to trim their claws. Massage their feet first to get them used to you touching their paws, and then squeeze the foot gently to get them to extend their claws. Use a dedicated cat nail scissor to cut the tip off the end of each claw, carefully avoiding the quick, as per the advice given above in the dog section.
Similar to dogs, some cats can grow long hair between their pads which can become matted and irritate – particularly in long-haired cats. Licking their feet can be a sign of this. Follow the same procedure as mentioned in the dog section by using a pair of rounded scissors, or scissors with a point guard to ensure that you don’t nick a toe.
So there you have it – our top tips to keep your pet’s paws happy. If you have any of your own tips, then let us know in the comment section below…