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Dog Paws – What They Are, What They Need, and How to Better Care for Them

Dog Paws

What They Are, What They Need, and How to Better Care for Them

Paws! The adorable little feet of our furry friends. Our dogs are constantly in contact with the floor, ground, and loose debris. If you think about all the places your dog has walked, you will realize just how much work paws do! We know that paws can handle a lot: sharp rocks, dirt, hot surfaces, etc., but are they receiving the right care? Here is your ultimate guide to dog paws – what they are, what they need, and how to better care for them!

What are Dog Paws?


Paws are very strange. Unlike our own, dogs have pads to protect their feet. But how much do we actually know about dog paws? Each dog will have a slightly different paw than the next, but each has the same parts. Paws are made up of 5 different components:

  1. Every dog paw has 4 toes, each with their own pad beneath them (called the digital pads).
  2. On the base of the foot is a larger pad that takes the most weight (called the metacarpal pad).
  3. Each toe has a claw (or a nail) – perfect for digging in the backyard!
  4. In some instances, a dog will have an extra claw (called a dewclaw) that is located on the inner side of the paw.
    • BONUS TIP: Not all dogs are born with a dewclaw. These claws can serve as a “thumb” to hold on to items (ex: bone). In some instances, these dewclaws can cause problems or become infected and therefore can be removed by a vet if needed.
  5. On the inside of your dog’s leg, near the base of the paw, you will notice another small pad (called the carpal pad). This acts as a “brake” to help slow dogs when running too fast or on unstable ground.

Your dog’s paws carry his or her weight and come face-to-face (or paw-to-ground, if you will) with the environment. If you take care of your dog’s paws, then you are taking care of the rest of him.

What Do Dog Paws Need?


Our dog’s paws are constantly on the ground, coming into contact with all types of surfaces. Pads protect your dog from many of the harmful things that would otherwise hurt them – and would certainly hurt human feet, but there are still some dangers. This is why dog paws need attention. After walking your dog, it is best to check his paws. Thorns, rocks, berries, and even glass can get caught between paw pads or stuck in the pad itself. Always take a look to ensure your dog’s feet are clear of any items.

Clearing out your dog’s feet is especially important in winter! For larger dogs who have more fur between their toes (breeds like Bernese Mountain Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Newfoundland Dogs, etc.), snow can get packed in those toe spaces. This can be very painful in some cases, but often is more of a nuisance. Carefully remove the snow from his paws, using a warm cloth if needed – the warmth of the cloth helping to melt the snow packed inside.

How to Better Care for Dog Paws


We want our pets to be full of health – we would do almost anything for our dogs! When caring for the paws of your furry friend, there are a number of things you can do:

Nail Trims

Nail trims are extremely important to keep up on. When your dog’s nails get too long it can put pressure on the joints, as he is “tippy-toeing” around. When the nails are trimmed to the appropriate length, it takes that pressure off, therefore reducing the risk of joint pain. Not to mention, regular nail trims will save your skin and your couches!


Just as we love our massages, dogs do too! Give your dog a massage on their legs and paws to relieve stress and tightness. To massage the legs, give gentle squeezes to get the blood flowing. When massaging your dog’s paws, use a gentle touch and always watch his reaction. If your dog is pulling away then stop the massage, if he leans closer and closes his eyes, you have hit the perfect spot! Your dog will love you all the more once you perfect the dog massage!

Routine Look Overs

After walks outside the home check your dog’s paws. Look for anything that may have gotten stuck, any cuts or scrapes, or any cracking and dry pads. Doing routine look-overs of the paws will keep you informed as to the health of your dog’s feet. Dry pads may need soothing with specialized creams or ointments – speak to your vet about this!

BONUS TIP: Does your dog hate it when you touch his feet? Routine checks of your dog’s paws will get him used to your hands on his feet. This can be an important thing to learn for dogs, as over time their anxiety will decrease and trips to the vet may be less stressful.

Now that you know more about your dog’s paws, you can help your dog and properly care for their paws. Fido will be eternally grateful!