The Amazing Foot Pads of Dogs

Your dog’s paw pads perform a number of important tasks. They act like mini shock absorbers to help protect the tissues in the feet and the bones and joints in the legs. They offer traction, enabling dogs to get a grip on uneven or slippery surfaces. They also provide protection from extreme temperatures.

Despite the protection that Mother Nature has given your dog’s feet, they are still vulnerable to a wide variety of injuries depending on the circumstance.


You know what it feels like to walk onto a hot driveway with no shoes; it’s not fun. Hot surfaces can cause serious problems for your dog’s feet, too. Walking your dog on hot pavement can cause burns, cracking, bleeding and peeling of the foot pads. Since the feet are in constant contact with the ground, these types of wounds can become infected easily.

Protect your dog’s feet from heat by walking on grassy surfaces, and avoiding contact with hot pavement and cement during the sunniest, hottest parts of the day.


Even though the paws have some built-in cold defenses, they can still experience discomfort and injury in extreme conditions. All dogs have the potential to get frostbite if their feet are not protected from freezing temperatures and icy conditions. The risk increases as the temperature goes down, and as the amount of moisture increases.

Sharp objects

Puncture wounds and lacerations can occur easily as your dog frolics outside. Stepping on a piece of broken glass or a sharp rock can instantly create a painful, bloody mess. Be conscious of objects on the as you are walking your dog. Check your backyard frequently for hidden dangers.

Off-leash activity poses the most risk since it is nearly impossible to check a large area for sharp objects. Always carry your vet’s phone number and a first-aid kit stocked with bandage material when you head out for a day-trip with your buddy.



There are a variety of products and techniques that can be used to prevent injury and pain for your best friend. Some provide an instant improvement; others take some work.

Address excess fur on the feet

Dogs with long fur on their feet can experience a build-up of ice and snow between the pads, which can be uncomfortable, and increase the risk of frostbite and other cold-weather issues. The excess hair can be trimmed using small electric clippers made for this purpose. You can pick up some clippers at a local pet store or order them online. Never use scissors for this purpose; this can easily set up your dog for a foot laceration if he moves suddenly. If your dog is less-than-cooperative, you can opt to have a professional groomer do this for you.

If your dog’s feet are somewhat hairy, but you do not want to clip them, make sure to brush the fur so it does not get matted. You can use a small, narrow-toothed comb for this. Flea combs work great.


Booties for dogs are another popular product. They come in many styles and varieties, depending on the terrain. Boots are available in a wide range of materials and sizes, and can be made for hiking, winter weather, or daily use. Boots with leather soles provide the best traction and are waterproof and salt-proof, so they make a great option for cold weather.

Booties are not recommended in the summer. Your dog sweats and cools himself through his paw pads, and you would not want to decrease his ability to keep cool.

Adhesive pads

Adhesive pads are available that you can stick to your dog’s foot pads, giving him an increase in traction. These may be a better option than boots for summertime, as they do not enclose the entire foot. Depending on the terrain and activity, these may need to be replaced pretty often.


Products such as Musher’s Secret can be used on the foot pads and between the toes. This gives a tremendous increase in traction, and helps to prevent ice balls from forming between the toes. The wax protects the pads and moisturizes them without softening them. As the name implies, mushers use this frequently for working dogs.


Just like a carpenter’s hands, dogs’ paw pads become toughened with use. This helps thicken the pads, and protect from injury. This happens naturally while walking on rough terrain and pavement.

Whenever you start a new activity with your dog, you should start out slowly. Progressing too fast can cause peeling and cracking of the pads, which can be painful.

Tough pads are good, but if your dog’s pads become cracked, dry or brittle, they will need special attention such as moisturizers to prevent further injury. Do not use too much moisturizer as the pads will start to become soft again.


Your dog’s foot pads are built tough, but they are still vulnerable to injury in extreme environments. Make sure to follow these tips to protect your dog’s feet. It will help you both enjoy your outdoor activities together, and create a stronger bond between you.


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