I recently had a personal message regarding a puppys tender little paw pads, and how to care for them…It seemed perfect to address this important subject here…

Like any Platoon Sergeant worth his camo fusses over foot care of his men in the field, we should keep close watch over the paws on our GSD’s.  These dogs can be so tough that they don’t always show injury or discomfort.  That makes YOU responsible to stay alert to problems before they demand Veterinary treatment.

  • A dog’s paw is made up of thick, rough pads called the metacarpal pad and the digital pads or “Toes”.  (Item “C” below.  The central, weight-bearing pads), carpal (“D” Below.  In the wrist area) and digital (“A” below.  Which protect the “toes”). There is a claw for each of the digital pads, and some breeds also have a fifth claw near the carpal pad that may be removed when they are young to keep it from snagging on things and hurting the animal. The pads of a dog’s paw are made of fat and a very tough outer layer of skin, which is actually the toughest skin on the animal’s body. This skin helps protect against injuries and abrasions to the paw. Exocrine sweat glands (which secrete sweat into ducts that drain from the skin) are also a part of these pads.

    Canine Paws need your help!

Your dogs pads are full of very rich blood vessels that help keep his feet warm in the cold.  They are covered in very thick, tough skin, that feels very smooth when touched “with the grain” so to speak.  Rub the opposite direction though, and it can feel like an old fashioned emory board, or sandpaper.  Your dog’s feet are made for walking, but  they are also made for protecting. Pads provide extra cushioning to help protect bones and joints from shock, provide insulation against extreme weather, aid walking on rough ground and help protect tissue deep within the paw. With all that work to do, it’s no wonder your pooch’s paws often take a bit of a beating.   Here are a few tips for daily paw care that are easy to perform.  Your puppy will truly thank you!

  • Pamper With Pedicures: Your dog’s nails should just about touch the ground when she walks. If her nails are clicking or getting snagged on the floor, it’s time for a pedicure. Ask your veterinarian or a groomer for advice about what types of nail trimmers are best for your dog and how to use them properly.
  • Snip and Trim: Trim paw hair regularly to avoid painful matting. Simply comb hair out, especially from between the toes, and trim even with the pads.
  • Clean In Between: Foreign objects can become lodged in your dog’s pads. Check regularly between toes for foxtails, pebbles, small bits of broken glass and other debris. These pesky items can usually be removed with a pair of tweezers.
  • Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize: A dog’s pads can become cracked and dry. Ask your veterinarian for a good pad moisturizer and use as directed. Avoid human hand moisturizer, as this can soften the pads and lead to injury.
  • Deep Paw Massage: Similar to giving a human hand massage, a paw massage will relax your dog and promote better circulation. Start by rubbing between the pads on the bottom of the paw, and then rub between each toe. Your dog will be forever grateful for the extra TLC!
  • Slow and Steady: If you’re about to begin a new exercise program with your dog, start off slow. Paws may become sensitive, chaffed or cracked, particularly when starting your dog out on hikes and runs.
  • Apply First Aid: It’s not unusual for dogs to suffer cuts or other wounds from accidentally stepping on glass, debris or other objects. Wounds that are smaller than a half inch in diameter can be cleaned with an antibacterial wash and wrapped with a light bandage. For deeper paw cuts, see the vet for treatment.
  • Summertime Sores: Imagine stepping barefoot onto hot pavement. Ouch! It is important to remember your dog’s paws feel heat extremes, too. To prevent burns and blisters, avoid walking your dog on hot pavement or sand. Signs include blisters, loose flaps of skin and red, ulcerated patches. For minor burns, apply antibacterial wash and cover the paw with a loose bandage. For serious burns, visit your vet immediately.
  • Wintertime Blues: Winter is hard on everyone’s skin, even your dog’s! Bitter cold can cause chapping and cracking. Rock salt and chemical ice melters can cause sores, infection and blistering. Toxic chemicals can also be ingested by your dog when he licks his paws. After outdoor walks, wash your dog’s paws in warm water to rinse away salt and chemicals. You may wish to apply Vaseline, a great salt barrier, to the foot pads before each walk-or make sure your dog wears doggie booties.
  • Practice Prevention:To reduce the risk of injury, keep your home and yard clear of pointy bits and pieces. Be conscious to avoid hazards such as broken glass and other debris when walking your dog. And keep this simple tip in mind-if you wouldn’t like to walk on it barefoot, neither will your dog!

    Front paws.

    • Dogs actually walk on their toes, not on the soles of their feet. Their heels do not touch the ground, either.
        • A dog’s paw may look smooth, but the pads are actually made up of multiple small protuberances called conical papillae. These papillae can eventually be worn smooth by walking on rough surfaces such as pavement for extended periods.
        • A dog with sensitive paws is an unhappy dog. Sensitive paws interrupt a dog’s lifestyle as much as any illness or disease. An owner who cares about his dog will pay close attention to its paws. Knowing the causes of sensitive paws will help dog owners prevent the condition beforehand. Knowing how to deal with sensitive paws will help dog owners quickly and safely help their dog if the condition occurs.

Dogs are naturally shy and careful about their paws. An owner must gently handle her dog’s paws every day. This way the owner will gain the trust of the dog. Knowledge about a dog’s paws is useless unless the dog allows its paws to be handled and inspected. Consistency is crucial to gaining a dog’s trust. Not only should an owner inspect his dog’s paws every day, he should pick a specific time to do it and stick to the schedule.

Feel each of the dog’s pads and between the pads. Gently squeeze the pads, and gently squeeze each paw individually. If a paw or any part of a paw is sensitive for some reason, the dog will let you know by whining or yelping. Remain courageous and upbeat. A whine or yelp isn’t a sign that you’ve hurt the dog; it’s a sign that the dog is hurt. Pay attention to your dog as it walks and runs. Limping and tentative movements in general often point toward sensitive paws.

Common causes of paw sensitivity include walking on hot surfaces such as blacktop, walking or running too often on hard surfaces such as cement, unclipped hair between a paw’s pads that snags burs and other annoying and painful objects, and untrimmed nails.

A dog owner can do much to prevent paw sensitivity. Regularly trimming a dog’s toenails, testing blacktop with your hand on a hot day, and seeing that your dog exercises in a park or on a lawn rather than on a sidewalk are basic preventative measures. Routinely inspecting a dog’s paws will reveal if the hair has grown too long and alert you to burs or splinters.

If your dog suffers a small wound on his feet, the following care can be provided by the prepared owner:


Lay the dog  in a comfortable position that allows you to check the paw pads. Wash the paw pad with a warm wash cloth to get a better look at the size of the wound.

Put a 1/3 cup of warm water into a spray bottle along with two to three squirts of antibacterial soap. Shake up the bottle to dissolve the soap and spray the mixture on the paw to clean the wound. Rinse with warm water.

Dry the pad by gently pressing a hand towel against the paw. Don’t rub the paw because this will irritate the wound and can hurt your dog.

Apply a small amount of antibacterial ointment to the wound. Cover the wound with a bandage.  Be sure that the bandage is not to tight!  Swelling in the toes indicates too much pressure!

Change the bandage every two to three days because paw pads sweat and this moisture can slow down healing and cause infection. The wound should heal in three to four days.

A dog’s paw pads protect the joints and bones of its body by providing cushioning. Dogs use their paws all the time, putting them through all kinds of conditions. Over time, your dog’s paw pads can become injured, dry and cracked and must be treated. Dogs instinctively lick their paws when they hurt or itch but this behavior poses a threat because your dog is ingesting what is on their paws. Proper care of your dog’s paw pads can keep him healthy in more ways than one.


Check your dogs paw pads frequently for cuts, cracked skin or foreign objects that have become embedded in the skin. If the skin is cut, wash the paw gently with soap and water, dry thoroughly and dab on a little antibiotic cream such as Neosporin.

Moisturize  paw pads with a pet-safe moisturizer (do not use human lotions). Dryness and cracking are usually caused by overuse or walking on rough pavement but can also be a sign of an underlying problem such as allergies. If your dog is also licking his paws frequently and scratching his ears, suspect allergies and take him to the vet for treatment

Alternate walking locations so that your dog isn’t always on pavement. Take your dog walking in grassy areas or on dirt and try to avoid small gravel, as it can become stuck in your dog’s paw pads and cause pain and irritation. If the weather is particularly hot, don’t walk your dog on blacktop or cement because it can literally become hot enough to burn. Sand can also become too hot and can cause injuries because of its instability. If you take your dog to walk on a beach, walk him near the water’s edge, where the sand has a bit more stability and the water cools it down.

Have your dog’s nails trimmed regularly. Nails that are too long will make a clicking noise when your dog is walking and, if left untrimmed, can catch on fabric or cause gait problems. Nails that are left to grow too long also break off more easily and bleed because the vein inside the nail also grows longer without regular trimming. Get your dog used to nail trimming and paw handling early on, so that it’s easier for you or your groomer to maintain his paws and less stressful for your dog.

Wash your dog’s paws frequently, especially if he has been walking on salt-covered surfaces. If your dog is prone to allergies, washing his paws will prevent allergens from being ingested through licking and will keep them out of the house. In the winter, consider using dog boots to protect your dog’s paw pads from both the elements and salt. Your dog will probably be more open to wearing boots if you get him used to wearing them when he’s young.

Your dog can get pad burns easily–anything from walking on a hot pavement or freshly poured asphalt or by coming in contact with chemicals. Pad burns should be treated immediately to prevent further damage to the tissue. Here’s how to treat pad burns until you can get to the vet for further care.

Things You’ll Need

  • Cold water
  • Soap
  • Betadine
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Sock or gauze

If your dog’s paws get burned, immediately put his feet in cold water for at least 10 minutes. You can use a bathtub or a simple pan as long as the whole paw is submerged. If your dog refuses to keep his paw submerged, wet a washcloth and keep it pressed firmly against his paw for 10 minutes.

After the pad has soaked, gently wash the pad with soap and water or betadine. Your dog’s paw will be extra sensitive so be careful while doing this.

After you have thoroughly washed the pad, pat it dry with a towel. Do not rub the pad dry as this will only further irritate the skin.

Apply an antibiotic ointment such as neosporin to the pad. This will help it heal.

Cover the paw with a sock or gauze pads to prevent him from licking the burn.

Evaluate the pad burn. If it doesn’t look like it’s healing, take your dog to the vet.

This is my short treatise on dog paws and their care.  Thank you to the many professionals that helped me compile them!  That means you Doctor N!!!

  1. Trisha Copeland says:

    Great article.. thank you for the great information!