Paws are tough and are practically built-in sneakers. They provide cushioning and traction that allow dogs to walk across all sorts of surfaces and terrain safely. Plus, they absorb pressure from impact to protect the joints. But although they are incredibly hard-wearing, they inevitably become cracked or even injured at some point in a dog’s life.
Signs of Cracked Paw Pads
Cracked paw pads usually start with dryness. If your dog’s paws are unusually dry and perhaps even discolored, it’s time to give it some special attention to make sure it doesn’t get any worse. But if you notice your dog limping or licking its paws compulsively, that’s a sure sign of a problem. Make sure you check for severe cracks or even bleeding.
Causes of Dog Paw Cracks
There are a number of reasons why a dog’s paws can become cracked. Most often, it happens because of the dog’s environment and activities. But in some cases, they are caused by internal factors.
To effectively treat cracked paws on a dog, you first need to determine the cause. Here are the most common reasons:
Harsh chemicals that are commonly used to clean floors can lead to cracked and severely dry paw pads. So, it’s essential to use dog-safe products for household cleaning. Additionally, according to the ASPCA, the salts used on roads during the winter are especially harmful and necessitates the use of paw protectants.
Some obvious reasons for dog paw injuries are stepping on debris, walking on hot pavement, and getting frostbitten from cold. Be aware of where they step to protect your dog from these types of injuries. Also, some dogs lick or nip at their paws excessively. Try to determine the cause (usually anxiety or boredom) to curb the habit.
Food is the most common allergen in dogs. And apart from the ears, it usually manifests in the suffering dog’s feet. According to the American Kennel Club, 61% of dogs with allergies will suffer from itchy feet. This itching causes them to nip and lick their paws excessively, sometimes to the point of cracking and bleeding.
Always make sure that your dog’s nutritional needs are met. A zinc deficiency commonly causes cracked and crusty paw pads. This is usually the issue when accompanying symptoms include digestive problems and shedding. According to VetStream, a zinc deficiency can generally be addressed with a balanced diet or supplementation.
Systemic issues can also lead to cracked paws. For example, a weak liver can cause malabsorption, which causes poor paw health, among other symptoms. Hormonal imbalances, endocrine-related issues, and autoimmune diseases can also cause chronic paw dryness and cracking. In such cases, it’s best to seek help from your vet to manage the symptoms and address and the underlying causes.
Treating Dry, Cracked Paws
When a dog’s paw pads are cracked, their natural processes can usually take care of healing themselves. Often, all you need to do is to make sure that they’re clean and dry all the time. However, for more severe cases – such as when it’s bleeding – go through the following steps:
Clean each paw with mild, dog-safe soap and warm water.
Dress the wound with gauze to allow for better ointment absorption and to protect it from debris. If that’s too difficult, you may use a clean sock secured with paper tape around the ankles. Just make sure you do it carefully so you don’t unwittingly wipe off the ointment as you put it on.
Watch your dog closely and keep them from chewing off or removing the gauze or sock. If necessary, get them a cone.
Clean and dress the wounded paw daily and observe for signs of healing. If it doesn’t improve after a long period of time, don’t hesitate to take your dog to the vet.
Preventing Cracked Dog Paws
If it’s not caused by any health issues, there are things you can do to minimize your dog’s risk of cracked and irritated paws. The most basic thing to do is to make sure they eat high-quality food that nourishes them with their complete nutritional requirements every day. Apart from that, avoid using harsh chemicals like chlorine and formaldehyde to clean your home.
When it’s hot outside, never leave your dog on a paved yard or driveway. Also, schedule your walks when there’s no risk of burning their paws from the hot pavement. During winter, always make sure to protect their paws before going outside because chemicals that help manage snow on the road can quickly hurt them. You can use paw wax or protective balms. If you can get your dog used to it, dog boots will provide even better protection.
Once you notice any dryness, you can apply soothing paw balm. Never use lotions made for humans on your dog. Not only could these contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, but these could also leave them too moisturized. Soft paws won’t be tough enough to withstand the daily rigors of dog life and could cause even more harm.
Dog-safe paw balms are safe even when licked off. Plus, they’re meant to nourish the paws the way they’re meant to. If you want an inexpensive and guaranteed safe product for paw care, the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society has an easy-to-make DIY paw balm recipe.
Dogs are not likely to complain or show signs of pain until it has progressed, so it’s essential to check their paws regularly. It’s especially important to check for signs of trauma when you’ve just come from outdoors. If caught early, it’s easy to treat dryness and cracking on your own. But you need to be vigilant and always observe your dog for signs of discomfort.