8 Things You Never Knew About Your Dog’s Paws

When you are a dog lover, it’s easy to find the cuteness in everything about them.  From their head to their toes, they’re adorable. But have you given much thought to your pooch’s toes?  Or their entire paw for that matter?

Your dog’s paws are more than a mode of transportation.  They say a lot about a breed’s purpose.  Even if you own a mixed breed dog, their paws can tell you a lot.

And they’re important to your dog’s overall well being.

Since it’s getting hot in some parts of the country, especially in Arizona, it’s important to gather some paw knowledge so you can take care of them in the heat.

And it’s always fun to learn a few new facts about your best friend.  Here are 8 things you might not know about your dog’s paws.

1)   Dogs’ paws come in 2 basic shapes, cat and hare.

Cat-shaped paws are compact, small and round.  They can bear a lot of weight because the shape allows for stability and endurance.  Most large working dog breeds like Newfoundlands, Doberman Pinschers and Akitas have cat-shaped feet.

Hare-shaped paws resemble the paws of a rabbit or hare.  They have two elongated central toes that are longer than the outer toes.  This allows for speed and the ability to get a quick start from a resting position.  Not surprisingly Greyhounds, Whippets and Borzois all have hare-shaped paws.

Paws can also be webbed whether cat- or hare- shaped.  Breeds that are swimmers like Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundlands have cat-shaped webbed paws.

And dogs like the Dachshund that hunt small animals that burrow also have webbed feet.  This allows them to move more dirt when they dig.

Cold climate breeds will have very wide paws for traction on snow and ice. The Newfoundland has the king of all paws… huge webbed feet with long toes that help them negotiate the icy terrain and frigid waters of Newfoundland.

2)  Dogs are digitigrades.

Digitigrades walk on their toes not their heels.  This enables them to move more quickly and quietly than an animal that carries their weight in their heels.

3)   Each paw has digital pads, a metacarpal pad and a carpal pad.

The 4 digital pads and 1 metacarpal pad act as shock absorbers for the bones and joints in the foot.

The carpal pad helps with balance, slowing down and stopping.

Dog Paw

Photo Credit: Eric Isselee/Shutterstock

Dogs that spend a lot of time outside and are active will have rougher thicker pads than the couch potato that spends most of their days inside.

The pads help your dog distinguish between types of terrain.  As your dog ages, the pads become more sensitive and adaptable to different surfaces.

If you try booties to protect the pads, your dog may resist because they rely on their pads to identify the surface they’re walking on.

The pads insulate the inner tissue of the paws from extreme temperatures. This is why their feet don’t get cold when walking in the snow.  The fatty tissue that makes up the pads doesn’t freeze like normal skin would.

They can, however, burn very quickly on hot pavement.  This time of year be sure to test the pavement with the palm of your hand before letting your dog walk on it.  If you can hold your hand on the street for at least 10 seconds without it being too hot, it’s probably safe for your dog.

Pads can get irritated not only from a hot surface but also from walking on rock salt and other chemicals on the ground.  Not to mention the danger of your dog ingesting those chemicals if they lick their paws.

Booties are good protection, especially if you live in a place like Arizona where summer temps reach 115.  But as I said your dog may fight them, or be tentative when walking with them.

4)   That corn chip smell is bacteria.

If you’ve ever thought that Frito scent was just another cute thing about your baby, you’ll be surprised to learn it’s a build up of bacteria over time.  That’s why you won’t notice it on a puppy.

It’s normal though and rarely causes any problems.

5)   There are sweat glands in your dog’s paws.

Dogs only produce sweat on parts of their bodies not covered with fur, like the nose and the pads of their feet.  Their primary means of cooling the body is by panting.  But the sweat glands in the paws help with the cooling process.

When a dog is nervous or stressed, their paw pads may be moist—like sweaty palms in humans.

6)   Dewclaws are the remnants of thumbs.

You’ll find dewclaws on the front paws of most dogs.  Sometimes they’re on the back paws too.  And some breeds like the Beauceron, Great Pyrenees, and Briard have double dewclaws on the back paws.

Front dews contain bone and muscle and are good for gripping a chew toy.

But there’s no muscle or bone in the back dews, making them pretty useless.

But breeds with double dews use them for gripping when walking on steep slopes.  Or if they’re herding dogs, they’ll use them when they’re on the backs of the sheep to hold on.

7)   Claws grow out of the bone unlike human fingernails.

As a result, they share the blood supply with the bone.  The blood supply is visible in the nail.  It’s called the quick.  The quick also has nerves.  If you clip it while trimming the nails, it’s painful and bleeds a lot.

It’s easy to see the quick on a dog with white claws.  If the claws are black or opaque, it’s more difficult. Clip only the pointed end or let a pro do it if you’re not sure where the quick ends.

Claws are tougher and thicker than fingernails but they grow just as fast. It’s important to maintain them so they don’t grow so long they hinder your dog’s ability to walk.

Active dogs can keep the length under control just from wearing them down on the ground.  If your dog isn’t very active, you’ll need to trim them or ask your vet to do it.

8)   You can’t predict the size of your adult dog by the size of its puppy feet.

Contrary to popular belief, a puppy’s paws are not always a good indicator of their adult size.

Bulldog puppy paws are enormous but they don’t grow to be big dogs.  Some times a puppy with big paws will be big.  But the best indicator of a puppy’s ultimate size is its breed, or combination of breeds, and the size of its parents.

A puppy will not usually be bigger than its biggest parent.  And most pups will reach 75% of their adult height by the time they’re 6 months old.

Little paws are one more perfect thing about a puppy.  They’re just adorable in every way.

So be sure to get your puppy used to having their paws handled from the time they’re young.  Massage them regularly.

And continue massaging them when they’re adults.  Paw massages are good for your dog’s feet. They’re a good way to find things that shouldn’t be there.  And they’re a great way to bond with your pet.

What do you think about doggy paws?  Tell us in the comment section at the top of the page.

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