When it comes to dogs, most of us can identify hundreds of different breeds. Most people know the difference between a dachshund and a greyhound and a poodles from a cavalier. We learn to recognize when our precious pets are feeling stressed or angry, hungry or excited. We know everything there is to know about dogs…or do we?
- How much do you really know about your dog’s paws?
- Read on to discover 10 fascinating facts that you didn’t know about your dog’s paws.
- You will never look at Archie’s feet the same way ever again!
The biggest difference between dog and human feet is that dog’s feet are naturally warm. Did you know that dog paws have a thick layer of fatty tissue inside that protects them from extremely cold temperatures? Science has proven that when a dog’s foot gets cold, the arteries in the foot transfer the cold blood back to the body where the body warms it up. How clever is that? This is why dogs rarely seem to be affected by cold weather conditions such as snow.
It’s important to remember that a dog isn’t immune to freezing temperatures though. If your dog is likely to spend long periods of time in the snow, you can protect their pads with paw wax or petroleum jelly beforehand. This protects their pads from cracking or bleeding. You can also try dog shoes (or dog boots) which will completely protect their paws further from the cold.
They Can Blister
Whilst Fido is able to handle cold temperatures, he is less likely to be able to handle the heat. Hot pavements are very dangerous for dogs and the heat from the stone is likely to blister their pads and can cause serious burns. During the summer months it’s important to walk your dog first thing in the morning and during the evening, when the sun isn’t at its hottest. Test the pavement to see if its safe by taking off your shoes and seeing if you can tolerate the heat. If you can’t, then your dog definitely won’t be able to walk on the pavement without burning their feet.
They Get Sweaty
I remember taking my dog to the veterinary clinic for a check-up and noticing wet paw prints over the counter. I apologized for my pet as I assumed he’d had an accident and then walked in his own urine. But the veterinary nurse told me it was, in fact, sweat! Dogs and cats actually sweat through their paws and when they’re nervous can leave a little trail of wet paw prints on the floor. Much like humans when we go to a job interview and get sweaty palms. Inside the dog’s paws there are sweat glands which transport perspiration to the outer layer. Not only does this cool the dog down, it also prevents the pads from drying out.
They Need To Be Handled
This isn’t to say you should grab your dog’s paws and start tickling them! The key to healthy dog paws is checking them regularly for any foreign objects that might have wedged between your dog’s paws. It’s also important to maintain your dogs claws and keep them a healthy length at all times. Not all dogs will like having their paws handled but if you start them young and allow your dog to get used to having their paws touched from when they are a puppy, then as they grow up they will learn that this isn’t a threat to them.
They Sometimes Change Colour
If you take a good look at a puppy’s paws you will see that their pads are often lots of different colors. Some puppies have pink pads whereas others have black or brown pigments or a combination of all colors. A dog’s pad color can change as they mature and it’s usually normal that a puppy’s pink pads will turn darker later in their life.
However, there are certain instances where a dog’s pads may change colour and this can be due to serious disease. Keep an eye on your dog’s pads regularly and if you notice any color change that concerns you then definitely visit a veterinary clinic for advice.
They Are Clever Pieces Of Anatomy
Dogs paws are actually made up of five parts: claws, digital pads (toes), metacarpal pad (middle pad), dewclaw and carpal pad (the pad at the back of the dog’s foot). They’re clever little bits of anatomy as each section of the dog’s paw serves an important purpose.
The digital pads (toes) and metacarpal (middle pad) work together to protect the dog’s bones and joints. A dog puts a lot of pressure on this parts of the foot as they walk on their toes (unlike humans who put most of the pressure on their heels) – so these pads act like shock absorbers. The back (carpal) pad actually acts like a rear brake and helps dogs to stay fast and steady on slippery or steep surfaces.
They Sometimes Smell Like Popcorn
You might not want to eat popcorn ever again after reading this – apologies in advance! But have you ever noticed that your dog’s feet sometimes smell like popcorn, Fritos or some other corn snack? If you haven’t noticed then go and have a sniff of your dog’s pads. Is there a general corn smell going on there? If so then we have news for you…and you’re not going to like it!
The main cause of ‘popcorn’ feet in dogs, is bacteria and yeast. Some professionals think that this strangely comforting smell is caused by a yeast that grows on dog’s ears and paws. If that isn’t bad enough, there are other scientists that believe that the actual cause is a bacteria called Proteus which lives in animal feces and soil and can get stuck in your dog’s paws. It can also be an early indicator of an infection, hormone problem or skin condition.
They Can Be Webbed
We’re wondering how many of you will go and investigate your dog’s paws after reading this! It’s a fascinating fact that some dogs have webbed feet which helps them swim amazingly well. Think how much easier it is for us to swim when we’re wearing snorkelling/scuba diving fins.
Whilst most dogs have webbing between their feet (the little bits of skin between the toes), certain dogs have evolved with prominent webbed feet which obviously makes them amazing swimming dogs. Dog breeds with webbed feet include: newfoundlands, portuguese water dogs, otterhound, daschund, German pointer, labrador retriever, chesapeake bay retriever and an Irish water spaniel. Not only does the webbing between the toes make it easier to glide through the water, but these dogs have evolved with webbing for natural hunting reasons too. Just imagine how handy it is to have webbing when you need to dig for prey!
They Kind Of Have A Thumb
Yes really! Well we did say kind of. Obviously we all know that dogs don’t have thumbs like we do but they do have something called a dewclaw which is the doggy equivalent of a human thumb. The declaw is made of muscle and bone and is located on the front legs (but some breeds also have this on the back legs too). A dog will use a declaw the same way that we might use our thumbs, to get a firmer grasp on something like a bone.
They Can Be Massaged
There are many benefits to massaging a dog’s paws, so if you’ve not tried it before then why not give it a go? Not only will giving your dog’s paw help their paws to feel really nice, but it will also give you a good chance to check over your dog’s paws for abnormalities and will allow for much better circulation. Oh and did we also mention that it will give you and your dog important owner/dog bonding time too?
To massage your dog’s paws you will have to make sure that your dog is comfortable having his/her paws handled. Check to see and if your dog looks comfortable then you’re good to go. You can use a special paw wax for this to make your dog’s paws extra soft or use a little olive oil or petroleum jelly instead.
When you start the massage you should rub your dog’s paw very gently at first, going between the pads and the bottom of the paw. You can rub gently between each toe and check for anything unusual while you’re doing this. The next stage is to massage the back of your dog’s paw gently using a circular motion. Give the paw a very gentle squeeze before moving onto the next paws and giving them the same treatment.
- Does Your Dog Need a Winter Coat or Boots?, Vet Street.