Dogs don’t wear shoes, at least the majority don’t. Instead they have pads. Pads are made up of specialized skin that protects the dog’s feet as he walks across various surfaces. This skin is though, but not indestructible. Sometimes things can get stuck in between the toes or even lodged in the skin of the pad itself - things like splinters from branches, tiny stones, etc. Things like these can even cut the paw pad. In the winter the salt spread on walks can cause pads to dry out and crack. When injuries happen the first step is to inspect and clean the paws, then remove any foreign objects, and lastly to apply appropriate medication - such as antibiotic cream in the case of wounds and salve in the case of sores or burns (from salt or friction).
If the pad becomes severely abraded you may see the entire top layer of the pad come off. Though this is often seen in situations where the dog encountered something not completely '“pad-friendly” (such as rocky terrain or de-icing salt), sometimes pad injuries are the result of too much of a good thing: lots of playing after long periods of inactivity or exercise on soft surfaces only.
Think of it like this: you love to walk barefoot in the grass but you’ve spent all winter indoors, maybe even with nice thick socks on; then on the first warm day you throw off your shoes and run around in the green spring grass, for 8 hours. Your feet will probably be sore, even if you had an awesome time!
Here at a Walk in the Park all our surfaces are designed to be dog safe and dog friendly. Inside our floors are linoleum. They are cleaned and sanitized on a daily routine. All of the areas are restricted (no dogs allowed!) as they are being cleaned, and kept dog-free until dry and safe. So the likelihood of a dog coming in contact with a cleaning agent is not a factor in paw safety at our location.
Outdoors one of our four yards has screening (gravel), the rest are blacktop, and our dog pathway is poured concrete. While the blacktop can get hot in the very hottest times of summer we water the surfaces down to cool them as long as the weather is still comfortable for the dogs. This has the added benefit of being very fun for many of our furry friends (doodles and retrievers, just to name a few). But the water can make unconditioned paws softer. So we are always keeping our eyes out for subtle changes in gait when dogs are in our care.
Large breed, young dogs are especially susceptible to ‘playing their pads off’; in the worst cases the pads (the top layer) coming off completely. That’s a lot of weight, pivoting on a layer of skin. This is very painful but does not cause lasting injury. For this reason we are particularly careful with our young giants, watching that they take time off from boisterous play and examining their paws throughout the day.
So how do I get my dog’s paws in shape for spring time play? The good news is there are several ways! The easiest and least expensive way (read: absolutely free!) is to begin walking your dog on different surfaces before spring gets here. On your daily walk step off the grass and onto the sidewalk for short intervals. Walk up and down rougher terrain for short times. To make this even more effective combine it with any one of specially made paw conditioners (we use a brand called Tuff Foot). These are products long used by hunters to prepare and protect their dogs’ paws in all sorts of terrain - wet or dry, grassy or rocky.
Since hard surfaces are easiest to sanitize all of our surfaces are hard. We will monitor the dogs to see if discomfort is developing. Please let us know if your dog has been showing signs of paw tenderness, or is prone to paw sores. By taking action before the spring time “crazies” are in full swing together we can see that your dog has a safe, enjoyable time, throughout the year.