Thursday, February 11, 2016

Caring for Dry Paw Pads

Paw pads need to be tough to protect dogs from all the different surfaces their feet come in contact with, but sometimes they dry out too much and become extra rough or even cracked. Cracked paw pads can be painful for the dog, and super rough paw pads can unintentionally scratch things/people.

There are some prevention measures that can be taken, such as wearing dog boots, trimming excess foot fur to avoid picking up irritants, and applying protective wax products. However, when the damage is already done, it might be time for some spa treatment!

Doggy Foot Spa:

Step 1: Clean feet
It is important to start with clean feet, because if irritants like road salt are on the paw pads, adding moisturizer will just continue the irritation.

Since Chewy hates baths and will not willingly get in a tub or shower, I just use a plastic take-out container filled with clean water. I soak each foot and gently scrub the paw pads by hand, and then towel dry.

Step 2: Moisturize
There are a variety of products marketed specifically for applying to dry paw pads, but they can be quite pricey. Coconut oil is also an option, but I find it to be too greasy/messy, and Chewy makes it his mission to eat it ALL.

Generally, human moisturizers are not suitable for use on dogs because they might be poisonous/unhealthy if ingested, but I like to use Bag Balm. Originally made for healing cracked cow udders, it is now widely used to treat dry skin on humans, and can typically be found in drugstores. In the aftermath of 9/11, the search and rescue dogs were provided Bag Balm to soothe their scratched paws.

Bag Balm

Bag Balm is made with lanolin, a wax secreted by sheep to protect their wool and skin. Since it is an animal product, Chewy thinks it smells and tastes delicious. I always try to keep him distracted with a chew thing, bellyrubs, or treats during his foot spa treatments so that the stuff actually stays on his feet.

Ready for foot spa!

I gently massage Bag Balm onto his paw pads, making sure to get the problem spots, which for Chewy are the carpal pads (the ones higher up on the front legs), the metatarsal pads (the big ones on the hind feet), and under all the toenails.

Step 3: Allow moisturizer to absorb -- SOCKS?
Moisturizer needs time to absorb, so your dog might need to be discouraged from immediately licking it all off. You can provide a distraction like a tasty chew or belly rubs if a verbal "uh-uh" correction is not sufficient. 

Like how people put on socks after applying foot lotion, I put socks on Chewy after applying Bag Balm. It keeps the floor from getting all greasy when he walks around, gives his paw pads time to absorb the product, and prevents him from licking off all the moisturizer.

WARNING: If you decide to put socks on your dog, make sure that they have grips on the soles to prevent slipping injuries while walking/running. Also, socks could present a choking hazard, so watch your dog to make sure they do not try to eat them! Since dogs sweat through their feet, monitor your dog to be sure they are not overheating.

There are socks especially made for dogs, but we just use these organic cotton baby socks from H&M. [For reference, the 6-7.5 H&M baby size is perfect for Chewy, whose paws are 2.5" wide]

H&M baby socks for Chewy

Chewy is super stealthy when he's wearing socks because I don't hear the pitter patter of his feet when he walks. It's like he pops up out of nowhere!

Foot spa is relaxing

After 1-2 hours, I remove the socks so that Chewy can have his foot freedom again.

Greasy, moisturized paw pads

It is convenient to moisturize Chewy's feet before his bedtime to allow his paw pads to absorb the moisturizer overnight, and to minimize greasy paw prints around the house. I make sure to remove the socks before I go to sleep to keep him from overheating.

1 comment:

  1. A very timely post for us, as our boy Sunny is having problems with the pads of his feet! I'll be doing this little spa treatment for him this weekend -- THANKS!!