When your dog’s paws are dry, it can be a cause for concern, especially if they’re so dry they’re beginning to crack. Dry dog paws and cracked pads can lead to uncomfortable sores that make dog walks difficult for your pet. Fortunately, there are natural remedies dog owners can try to help alleviate itchy paws and those that are dry and cracked.
What are Paw Pads?
It’s important for pet parents to know the anatomy of their dog’s paw pads. By understanding the anatomy, pet parents can learn why paw health is so important to their dog’s overall health.
The pads on your dog’s feet are called paw pads. They are designed to protect their feet from rough surfaces and hot or cold temperatures. You can think of them as the dog’s version of a calloused foot. When humans have calloused feet, they are less likely to feel the effects of hot pavement or sand.
Paw pads are made up of several layers of tissue, including skin and muscle. The layers include:
- The top layer of each pad is called the stratum corneum, which is Latin for “horny layer.” This layer protects the underlying tissue from damage when dogs walk on hard surfaces. The stratum corneum is made up of dead cells that wear off as dogs walk across surfaces such as concrete or hot pavement.
- The next layer down is the dermis, which contains nerves that transmit signals to other parts of the body, telling it what’s going on. These nerves also help dogs sense hot and cold temperatures in their surroundings.
- The third layer is the subcutaneous layer, which contains blood vessels that supply blood to all parts of the paw pad so it can heal any minor cuts or abrasions that may occur during normal activity.
- The fourth and final layer is called the hypodermis, which provides additional padding for protection against sharp objects like rocks or sticks that might get caught between your dog’s toes when he’s out running.
The layers often affected by cracking paws are the third and fourth layers. However, if the paws are not handled properly, the problem can become significantly more severe and may reach the deeper layers of the paw pad.
Signs of Irritated Paws
It’s crucial for pet parents to keep an eye out for signs of irritated paws. Dogs are good at masking discomfort, so it’s up to you to look for subtle signs.
- Cracked paw pads: Dry paws can cause the paw pads to crack or peel.
- Rough surfaces on the paw pads: The paw pads may feel rough or scaly to the touch.
- Discomfort: Dry paw pads can cause discomfort for your dog.
- Redness or Irritation: Dry paws can cause redness or irritation.
- Licking or chewing paws: Dogs may lick or chew at their paws, which may result in more irritated paws, and lead them to be dry and cracked.
- Blisters or sores: In severe cases, dry paw pads can lead to blisters or sores on the paw pads.
Cause of Dry Dog Paws
Dry paws in dogs can be caused by several factors, including:
- Environmental factors: Cold and dry weather conditions can cause dry and cracked paws in dogs. Exposure to hot surfaces such as hot pavement can also result in dry skin or dry cracked paws. In the winter months, exposure to salt could result in poor paw health.
- Allergic reactions: Allergic reactions to food, environmental factors, or chemicals used in shampoos and other grooming products can cause your dog’s dry cracked paws.
- Nutritional deficiencies: An inadequate diet lacking in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals can result in dryness and cracking of the paw pads.
- Medical conditions: Consult your veterinarian to determine if there are any underlying medical conditions causing cracked paw pads.
- Over-grooming: Overuse of grooming products or frequent bathing can strip the natural oils from a dog’s paw pads.
All of the above could also cause excessive licking of the paws. With excessive licking comes more damage to your dog’s paw pads. If your dog displays excessive licking, an Elizabethan collar may be recommended so they’re not wearing down their dry cracked paws or further damaging their dry skin.
Improving Your Dog’s Paw Health
As soon as you recognize rough dog paws, it’s time to take action. You don’t want your dog’s cracked paws to get any worse than they already are. Your pet’s paws are important to their overall health, just as your dog’s skin is critical to their overall well-being. The goal is soft paw pads to keep your dog happy and healthy.
The first step in managing dry dog paws involves dog owners determining what may be causing the problem in the first place. Dog owners should also check to see if their dogs have any allergic reactions to certain foods or ingredients.
If your dog does have an allergy, talk with your veterinarian about possible options. If you’re curious as to whether you are feeding your dog an appropriate diet, you can consult a canine nutritionist, who can explain the best diet for your individual dog.
Natural Remedies for Dog’s Dry Paws
Fortunately, there are natural remedies you can try to bring your dog’s paws back to life, including:
Keep Your Dog’s Paws Clean
The first step in relieving dry dog paws is to keep them clean. Regularly wiping your dog’s paws with a damp cloth or baby wipes can help remove any dirt and debris that may be causing irritation. It’s also important to keep your dog’s paws dry, as dampness can exacerbate dryness and promote infection. After walks, be sure to thoroughly dry your dog’s paws with a clean towel. This is particularly important if you are walking your dog through mud, snow, ice, or salt.
Grab Some Dog Booties
You might want to think about using dog booties for your dog’s feet if your dog’s paws are especially delicate or if you live in an area with extreme weather conditions. Dog boots can protect paws and your dog’s feet from abrasive elements like cold weather, hot pavement, rough terrain, and other surfaces that can be extremely irritating to dry paw pads. Dog booties can also aid in preventing further dryness by keeping your dog’s feet warm and dry while they’re out on dog walks.
Not all dogs will accept dog booties immediately. If your dog refuses to wear them, you can take steps to help your dog’s feet become accustomed to having booties by following these steps:
- Introduce the booties gradually: Allowing your dog to sniff the booties, then place one on your dog’s feet for a few seconds and remove it. Repeat.
- Reward positive behavior: Praise and reward your dog when they allow you to put the booties on.
- Increase the duration: Once your dog is comfortable with the booties, gradually increase how long they wear them.
- Take it slow: Some dogs may need more time to adjust to wearing booties than others, so be patient and take it slow.
Trim Excess Fur
Excess hair around your dog’s paws can trap dirt and debris, which can promote irritation and dryness. Regularly trimming the hair around your dog’s paws can help prevent these issues. Use a pair of scissors or clippers to carefully trim the hair around your dog’s paw pads, being careful not to cut the skin.
Consider Natural Oils
If your dog has very dry feet, you may want to consider using natural oils and lotions on their paws instead of chemicals like petroleum jelly or mineral oil that can clog pores and cause more problems down the road.
Almond oil, jojoba oil, apricot kernel oil, coconut oil, and olive oil are all great options for helping dogs with dry feet. These oils work well because they penetrate deeply into the skin. They are also rich in omega fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals essential for healthy skin and coat.
Use a Paw Balm to Promote Moisturized Paws
Another way to relieve dry dog paws involves using moisturizing paw balms. Look for a paw balm specifically designed for dogs, as human lotions can be harmful to your dog’s dry skin. Paw balms designed specifically for dogs are made with natural ingredients, such as beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil, which can help keep your dog’s paws moisturized. Apply the balm to your dog’s paws daily, or as needed, to promote skin health.
Earth Buddy has a Paw & Skin Balm that was specifically developed for these types of problems. Formulated with a blend of organic butters and botanical extracts, Earth Buddy’s formula can help maintain the normal moisture content of skin. This paw balm also provides support for pets with sensitive skin.
Ingredients in the balm include full-spectrum hemp oil, organic coconut oil, organic mango butter, and organic beeswax. If your dog licks this balm, don’t worry. The ingredients are safe and can be placed on puppies of all ages, whether they’re puppies or senior dogs.
Each ingredient in the paw balm serves its own individual purpose:
- Full-spectrum hemp extract: Combines cannabinoids and terpenes to support a healthy inflammatory response in the dog’s paws; also provides omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids to promote the health of dog’s skin
- Coconut oil: Supports dog’s skin health
- Mango butter: Promotes healthy skin on your dog’s pads
- Beeswax: Promotes the body’s innate resistance to pathogens
Nourishing your pup’s paws can be as simple as adding the balm to the affected area two to three times per day. After all, we want our dogs to have healthy paws, so we should do all we can to prevent dry and cracked dog paws and make dog walks as comfortable as possible.
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