Can Dogs Feel Their Pads?

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Introduction

Just as you can feel your feet, a dog can feel their pads. But how sensitive are your dog's foot pads? Can they feel the ground and different textures just as we can? 

Although dogs can feel with their pads, from walking around "barefoot" all the time, their paws become tough, thick, and callous so they are able to walk and run on a variety of surfaces without much pain or discomfort. They can also withstand different temperatures quite well. Therefore, it is likely your dog's paw pads are not as sensitive to sensations as our feet are. But that does not mean your dog can stand all textures and temperatures!

Signs Your Dog's Paw Pads are Uncomfortable

There are many different reasons why your dog's paw pads may be uncomfortable or even injured. Your dog spends their entire life without wearing protection on their paws. They walk in the hot and cold, on rocks, on wooden surfaces, on the pavement, concrete, and much more. A lot of wear and tear can come from their hot, cold, and hard, harsh surfaces. 

Just because their paws are generally tough and strong, it does not mean they are indestructible or won't experience pain and discomfort from time to time. That is why it is important to identify the signs and symptoms that your dog's paws are bothering them. 

If your dog's paw(s) are in pain or injured, your dog may begin to limp or favor one paw over another. Your dog may also lick their paws much more than they usually do, they may chew the paws or the toenails, and in extreme cases, their paw pads may even bleed and they may whine and wince in pain. Your dog may also show hesitancy to run around or go on walks, particularly if you are taking them on hard surfaces. If your dog refuses to walk or move from a spot on a walk, they might have pain in their paws. 

Checking your dog's paws for visible signs of injury can help identify what the cause is. If your dog pulls their paw away and does not like when you touch it, this is another sign they have uncomfortable paws and/or paw pads. 

Body Language

These are some signs your may notice if your dog's paw pads are in pain:
  • Whining
  • Chewing
  • Weakness
  • Whimpering
  • Biting
  • Licking

Other Signs

Here are some other signs your dog's paw pads are bothering them:
  • Not wanting to run or walk
  • Bleeding paws
  • Signs of injury on their paw pad(s)
  • Limping on their paw(s)

History of Dog Paw Pads

Believe it or not, there is some pretty interesting history that surrounds your dog's paws and paw pads! Your dog has a dewclaw farther up their side of their leg and it is often sharp and can snag on things. However, the dewclaw is full of mystery since we still do not understand what the purpose of this paw part truly is. Some believe that they are the remnants of thumbs that never fully went away as the evolution of the canine progressed. 

To this day, your dog only uses their dewclaw to grip their bones and toys better. Thousands of years ago when dogs were still undomesticated, it is likely their paw pads were even tougher than they are today. If we look at wolves, their paws are still much tougher than your dog's. This is because their paws are harder and surrounded by thick and coarse hair that keeps their feet warmer and more protected since they are outside in rough terrain much more often. 

Today, most domesticated dog breeds, with the exception of a few special breeds, have little to no hair on their paws, making their paw pads much less protected and tough. However, your dog still retains many of the paw features their ancestors needed many years ago, such as fatty and thick pads. 

Science Behind Dog Paw Pads

Your dog's paw pads are made of connective tissue, fat, and very tough and thick skin, which allows them to walk on hard, sharp, hot, and cold surfaces with relative ease. Dogs that walk outside a lot and go on hikes are likely to have much tougher paw pads and that makes their sense of touch much less sensitive. 

Smaller dogs that do not go outside or walk on hard surfaces much will have very soft and smooth pads and not the typical rough texture some other dogs have. Softer paws mean your dog will be more sensitive to walking on hot, cold, and hard surfaces, so proper protection is necessary.

Protecting Your Dog's Paw Pads

Since your dog can feel their paw pads (and use their paws to feel), you must take proper care of their paws to ensure they won't become injured. There are many simple ways you can protect your dog's paw pads during all months of the year. It is important to remember you need to protect them during all months and not just in the winter and summer. 

In the winter time, make sure your dog's paws are free from too much hair so snow, ice, and road salts do not build up in the fur. When you come inside, wipe off their paws with gentle soap and warm water to remove any salts and chemicals. You can also opt to put booties on your dog. Many stores also sell paw protecting balm to help keep salts and snow from sticking to the paws. These balms will keep your dog's paw pads from cracking and becoming too dry as well. 

In the summertime, you need to be very careful when walking your dog on the pavement. Black asphalt gets extremely hot in the summer and this can easily burn your pup's pads. Make sure you are walking them early in the morning before the sun gets a chance to heat up that pavement or walk them in the late evening when the sun is mostly down and the pavement is less hot. A simple way to determine if the pavement is too hot for your dog to walk on is by placing your palm on the asphalt. If it feels too hot on your palm after a few seconds it is much to hot for your dog. 

After a walk, any time of the year, take a quick look at your dog's paws when you come home from a walk. Make sure there are no scratches or debris on their paws that may hurt them. 

How to React if Your Dog's Paws Hurt:

  • Check for any visible injuries.
  • Speak with your vet.

Safety Tips for Paw Pad Care:

  • Keep paws and nails clean and trimmed.
  • Don't walk them at extreme temperatures.
  • Consider putting dog booties on their paws.
  • Use a special paw balm to protect from the elements, cracking, and drying.