If your pet has healthy paws, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about them. But if a problem is allowed to develop, you’ll be spending both time and money treating it. Preventive care for paws is quick and cheap, unlike treatment for problems such as chronically cracked pads, obsessive licking, burns or arthritis.
Trim cats’ claws and dogs’ toenails regularly. Cats also need access to a tall scratching post as well as a horizontal scratcher in order to keep their claws healthy. Dogs should be walked regularly to help their nails wear normally. Be careful not to cut into the quick, and always have a styptic (cornstarch or flour also work) on hand when cutting toenails, just in case. Clip pets’ nails at a slight angle so that the flat edge of the nail is parallel to the ground when the pet walks.
Paw pads should be checked daily and following every walk for abrasions, thorns and other injuries. If the skin is broken, wash the paw pad thoroughly and apply an antibiotic ointment. Ask your vet what product they recommend. Don’t allow pets to lick ointment from their paws. If necessary, bandage the paw.
During the winter, apply musher’s wax to prevent ice balling in dogs’ paws on walks. Booties can also serve the same purpose, if your dog will wear them. Avoid walking in areas treated with road salt or other de-icing products, which can burn dogs’ feet and are harmful if ingested.
If your dog licks his paws raw, he probably has either allergies or Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD). Treat him for fleas, even if you don’t see any–flea allergy dermatitis causes many dogs to obsessively lick their paws. Try an elimination diet or other allergy testing. If no allergies are found and flea treatment doesn’t help, call an animal behaviorist and ask about CCD. This relatively common condition is similar to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in humans.
Preventing Arthritis and Stiffness
Exercise and proper nutrition will keep pets’ paws feeling good well into old age. Cats should have the opportunity to stretch and scratch both vertically and horizontally. This exercise is important for the health of the bones, muscles and tendons in their paws. Both cats and dogs should eat a diet that contains glucosamine and chondroiting as well as lots of lean meat protein. Dogs should walk regularly on a variety of terrain, including pavement, dirt and grass.