Your dog's footpads are the toughest part of his skin, and absorb the shock and pressure on his joints from standing, walking and running. Due to their function, paws are prone to injury and dog paw care should be a part of your regular care routine.
I briefly inspect Zoe and Fritz's paws each evening as I outlined in an earlier post about getting your puppy used to being handled. It doesn't take long and is as simple as ensuring nothing is stuck between their toes and their pads are clean and free from mud and dirt.
Typical paw injuries include: abrasions, lacerations, punctures, burns and blisters to the footpad, dry, cracked pads and foreign objects lodged between the toes.
Symptoms of a paw injury: these include bleeding, limping, holding the injured paw off the ground, discoloration of the pad (difficult to see if the paws have a very dark pigmentation) and excessive licking and/or chewing of the paw.
If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, then you'll want to identify what is causing the problem. Be extremely careful handling an injured dog, even the most mild mannered dog can bite if he's in pain and feels threatened by you touching him. Putting a muzzle on your dog is a good way to protect yourself from a bite.
Treating abrasions, lacerations and punctures: the footpads contain a great number of blood vessels, so even a superficial paw cut can result in what seems like a serious amount of bleeding. The bleeding should stop relatively soon after you've treated the wound; if it doesn't, then contact your vet.
For abrasions and small cuts, clean the wound yourself with an anti-bacterial wash ([tag]chlorhexidine[/tag] diluted with water will suffice) and wrap the paw with a light bandage.
You will want to stop your dog from licking and chewing at the bandage - a good way to do this is to put an Elizabethan collar around his neck for a few days.
Your dog sweats through his footpads, so the bandage will become moist within a couple of days. Moist bandages slow down the rate of healing and can result in infection, so you should change the bandage every two to three days.
Depending on how deep the cut is, it should heel within a few days; if it doesn't and you are unsure how to carry on treating the wound, contact your vet.
With deep paw lacerations, I'd recommend you take your dog to your vet for treatment. He will suture (stitch) the pad, bandage it and probably apply a splint. Without the splint, every time your dog puts his paw to the ground, the pad will spread due the weight of your dog's body being applied to the paw - when this happens it's likely that the cut will open up again.
Burns and blisters: your dog's pads can easily burn and blister as a result of walking on a hot pavement or through hot sand.
If you look at your dog's pad there will either be a loose flap of the pad itself, or this will have becopme detached leaving a red, ulcerated patch.
The best thing you can do is to apply anti-bacterial wash and cover the paw with a bandage until the pad has healed. If your dog has a loose flap of pad you'll need to wait for this to come off, which it will do on its own or you can ask your vet to trim it off.
Dry, Cracked Pads: you dog's pads are naturally rough, they have to be so he has traction when he needs to turn quickly, sprint off and stop quickly. If the pads become cracked they are prone to collect dust and debris, which can cause further injury to the pad. Pads can be moisturised using a special footpad cream.
Try to avoid using human hand moisturiser as this tends to soften the pads to much and makes them prone to injury.
Foreign objects between the toes: the most common culprits are burrs, small stones and pieces of glass, dried mud and also your dog's matted fur.These can usually be removed with a pair of tweezers and matted fur can be trimmed back.
When to go to the vet: always contact your vet if you are unsure of the cause of the injury, you are not comfortable treating the injury yourself, the wound does not appear to be healing, or if your dog's paw becomes swollen.
Your vet will either recommend further treatment you can carry out at home or suggest you visit the clinic.
Prevention: sometimes accidents will happen, but to reduce the risk of a footpad injury keep your home and yard clear of sharp objects, take care when you are out to avoid hazards such as broken glass and other debris on pavements, walking on gravelled areas for a long period of time, hot pavements in the summer and road salt in the winter.
The best way to think about it is, would you be happy walking barefoot on that ground? If not, don't make your dog walk on it.