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
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.
- 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
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
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
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.