Can we focus on FEET for a second? Look down, waaayyyy down, and there at the bottom of those cute, furry legs, are four important things. They take it all: the snow, the salt, the rain, the muck, and the heat. They get scratched, burned, matted, dirty, and most of the time, they smell like Nachos: your dog’s paws. The paws are a very important part of a dog’s and cat’s anatomy. Did you know that dogs sweat through the pads of their feet? YES! They are not able to sweat through their skin, so, body heat is regulated and escapes through their feet. For some dogs, they are a cause of constant anguish, for other dogs, they are extremely ticklish, but whichever way you look at it, caring for problem feet can be a real challenge.
In this blog post, we are going to have a look at allergies that affect and present in the paws. Many dogs suffer from allergies. Skin allergies for dogs can often be seen surfacing on or between the toes. If your dog chews his/her paws to the point of chewing them raw, it could be one of two things: an allergy-related to food intolerance, or an environmental allergy. It is a common fact that allergies in pets can be very difficult to isolate and identify, and a lot of research in the vet industry suggests that a process of elimination is often the best route to take when you are trying to determine the cause of an allergic reaction. Take notice of how your dog’s paws seem after a walk in the long grass or a romp through a sawdust-covered barn. If you see a flare-up in the paws or a peaked interest in chewing or licking at these areas afterward, it may be an environmental allergy you are facing. If you are feeding a new dog food, notice what protein sources are in the food and try to find a common denominator. Chicken can be a common allergen for dogs and cats, while duck is considered to be much less allergenic. Many dog food brands offer a hypo-allergenic diet, and a Nutritional Consultant can help you to choose the right food for your dog or cat. Look for red bumps or even pustules on the top of feet and in between toes. Notice inflammation and smell, and if you suspect your pet is suffering from sore feet, get in and talk to your vet about some things you can do to help ease this burden for your dog. A few of our fave suggestions are:
1. Try a warm Epsom salt soak. Add a ¼ cup of Epsom salts to a litre of warm water, and immerse the paws one by one. Do this for up to 10 minutes per foot, up to 3 times a day. Remember to dry the feet thoroughly and in between the toes to prevent infection.
2. Consider a booty! It might seem funny, but there are a lot of great options for protective booties, and this could save your pet a lot of grief. If you are planning a visit to an area that you know can be high risk, get used to the idea of using protective booties on your pet’s feet. You can purchase these on Amazon, or at a pet supply store. Remember to make sure the booties are completely dry before each use.
3. Keep paws trimmed and in good shape. Regular maintenance on your pet’s feet is worth the hassle. Teaching your dog or cat from an early age to be tolerant to you handling and caring for his/her feet is a huge convenience later on, and I promise, your groomer and veterinary technician will thank you for this! Trimming the toenails helps to keep nails from becoming overgrown and painful, and keeping the fur in between toes clipped will allow your dog much better grip and maneuverability as well as keeping painful mats from developing there.
4. NO licking! If your dog or cat has a compulsion to lick his or her paws, make sure you are taking measures to stop this behaviour whenever possible. Opening a wound on or between toes can allow bacteria to multiply and infection can spread very quickly. Put a cone on your pet to keep him/her from getting at it, or use a clean cotton sock that is not too tight to discourage your pet from irritating the area.
Having a dog or cat who chews his/her feet to the point of a painful injury is stressful for many dog owners. As such, if your dog or cat has developed problems with his paws, get in and talk to your veterinarian about what the cause of the issue may be and how to best keep it under control.
Written by: Van Isle Veterinary Hospital