WHERE PAWS MAY TREAD (Musings on What Doggy Paws May Encounter)

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We were taking in an afternoon hike during our trip west when I noticed Tessi’s difficulty with each step as we started up the path. When I crouched down to examine her paws, I found stones—big enough to slightly splay her toes—wedged up in the furry space in the middle where the pads meet. Many miles back, it had rained at the campground during our overnight stay. After the morning’s challenging walk through the resulting viscous mud, I managed to clean the lumps of it off my sandals and her feet—the top and sides; however, I didn’t inspect the undersides. Hours later, the stones were practically glued in and impossible to pull out without hurting her. Pouring water over the mess helped loosen them somewhat. The extraction was still uncomfortable for her, but once they were finally gone, she was back to her peppy self.

While travelling and experiencing new lands you never know what you may come across. Even around home, we need to remember that their paws are naked and vulnerable when we head out the door.

The pads on a canine’s feet are tailored to handle many types of terrain. The extent to what they can deal with depends on how often the dog is out and what he is used to. Because we walk regularly, Tessi’s pads are very, very tough. I rarely have to worry about them—beyond any foreign objects getting stuck in them.

Terrain to Consider

  • Make sure surfaces, such as sand at the beach and pavement in a city aren’t too hot in the summer.
  • Or too cold in the winter.
  • Watch for sharp and jagged rocks and stones on rocky shorelines.
  • In brush and forest areas, watch for thorns and sharp twigs.

Additionally in winter, pavement covered in salt may irritate the pads. And, because it’s toxic, it can make a dog sick if he licks it off. De-icers that are pet friendly can be used, at least, on your own pavement. Once back inside, rinse the paws or wipe them off with a wet cloth to get rid of any salt and accumulated snow.

If your dog has problems with snow balling up around his pads, try keeping the surrounding fur trimmed.

Paw Protection

Doggy booties are widely available in a variety of types. One of the two sets I own is waterproof. I’ve slipped a bootie on Tessi to protect a doctored wound after she’s cut herself on glass—shards of glass scattered around from discarded broken bottles is a particular pet peeve of mine. I carry booties in my first aid kit when we hike, just in case.

It may take our canine buddies a bit to adapt to wearing footwear, but they usually do. As Tessi initially tries to walk she lifts her paws up high; the look in her eyes asks, “What the heck are these?” It’s quite comical. Better they suffer that than pain or damage. Like anything else they need to get used to, accustom them gradually. Let your dog wear the booties around the house first before heading out.

Or you could try applying a balm made for their pads, which will protect them while outside or soothe them upon returning home. I tried some that had been given to me on Tessi. I smoothed a thin layer on the pads on her right side and left the other side bare. When I checked after our snowy stroll, I noticed the right side did feel a touch softer than the other.

I wonder about other obstacles we haven’t yet encountered in our travels, which makes me realize I should always be diligent in what Tessi is treading upon. After an outing, I should inspect her paws for cuts, abrasions or anything attached. A few years ago, she favoured a paw for a few days until I could finally locate a questionable speckle in one of the pads. It turned out to be a tiny thorn, which took me an hour to grasp and pull out.

For Further Reading

(c) Cheryl Smyth, 2014

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