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Dog Paw Pad Care

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels
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What are dog pads made of?

Dog paw pads are a lawyer of coloured skin (usually black or pink) that covers fatty tissue on the dog’s paw base. The fat is insulating, and creates a protective layer from colder surfaces in the winter.

Do the pads on a dog paw grow back?

Yes, a dog’s paw pads can grow back and heal, if treated properly and quickly. An injury is best handled by your veterinarian.

Why are my dog’s paw pads so rough?

Scratchy and rough dog paw pads can be caused by several things:

  • underlying allergies,
  • lack of moisture,
  • exposure to toxins such as garden sprays or carpet cleaners
  • or even due to regular exercise and playing on rough or hot surfaces, sand or ice.
  • Older dogs may experience hyperkeratosis.

What is Hyperkeratosis?

Hyperkeratosis is a type of skin condition that causes the thickening of the paw pad, causing the skin to become crusty, dry and extra sensitive. “Hyper” refers to overstimulation and “keratosis” is derived from the word keratin, which is a type of fibrous protein. Dogs naturally produce their own supply of keratin, but hyperkeratosis means they are producing much more than they need.

There are varying degrees of severity, and owners have reported that it looks like their pup has an extra layer of fur growing on the paw pads. In more severe cases, the paws can crack and become infected, and be painful for the dog. (There’s also nasal hyperkeratosis, which can affect the dog’s nose instead).

Causes: The most common cause is genetics. Certain breeds such as retrievers, Labradors and terriers are more likely to develop this condition. It can also be a symptom of another underlying disease, for example Canine Distemper or Leishmaniasis.

There is no cure for hyperkeratosis but vets may recommend moisturizing creams for dogs, having the crust removed (which should only be done by a professional) and/or protecting the dog’s paws with doggy footwear.

Here’s a video showing the removal of the hyperkeratosis (or “Hairy Paw”) layer:

Hyperkeratosis dog paw pad treatment:

Most dogs have fur and are hairy, but their dog paw pads should be smooth. If your dog’s paw pads are hairy, they could be suffering from hyperkeratosis. But it isn’t actually hair, it is dry skin that is thickened or extra skin growth on a dog’s paw pads (and this can also happen on its nose). There isn’t a vaccine or other easy-fix cure, but you can take these steps to treat hyperkeratosis in dogs:

  • Ask your vet to remove excess skin, or to teach you how to do it. Never do this on your own unless your vet has trained you, as this could cause further injury.
  • Treat the underlying cause of your dog’s hyperkaratosis paw pads. Your vet may recommend zinc supplements or immunosuppressive drugs for Pemphigus.
  • Take your dogs to the doggy spa, or create one at home. Turn on the steam and allow the moisture to soften their dry, cracked paws.
  • Use an ointment or dog paw pad balm a few times a day to help your dog’s paw pads heal.
  • Protect your dog’s paw pads with dog footwear.

Should I moisturize my dog’s paws?

Dogs may chew on their irritated paws, giving you the first clue that you may need to take an extra look at their paws and paw pads. Moisturizing your dog’s paws are a great first step. There are many dog products available in the market (such as those from the Natural Dog Company, Vets Preferred, or Parker and Co’s Paw Balm). Steam is another alternative to help soften the dog’s paw pads – create a doggy sauna in your bath tub and let your pup hang out

Are dog paws sensitive to heat?

Yes. Dogs can get burnt paw pads from walking or running for a lot time on hot surfaces or pavements. According to one vet, Dr. M. Duffy Jones, DVM or Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Atlanta, GA, “There is actually a physical burn when the paw pads are burned when the concrete is too hot.” You may not see too many signs of the burn other than pain exhibited by the dog (acting as if they are in pain, licking their feet, etc.), but in other cases you may see blisters. The blisters, if not cared for properly, may rupture or become infected.

First Aid treatment for torn or injured foot pads in dogs

  • Clean out the wound with warm water or a special first aid solution such as Vetericyn Plus
  • Use tweezers to gently pull out anything that’s stuck in their paw pads
  • Dry the paw pad and apply antibiotic ointment
  • Put a bandage if necessary
  • Seek advice and care from your veterinarian

Signs of dog paw pad injuries or issues

  • Licking or chewing the affected paw(s)
  • Limping
  • Red, inflamed paws
  • cuts, tears
  • cracked paw pads
  • rough or scratchy paw pads
  • lesions and discharge

Interested in reading about detection dogs? Click here.

Photo Credit of dog paw: Engin Akyurt

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