Your dog may get groomed and brushed and, occasionally, dressed up to the suit the occasion but beyond nail-clipping paws are not always looked upon in the same light. Well they’re only there to walk on, right? WRONG!
A dog’s paws have a major role to play.
The shape of dog paws can vary but there are five basic components:
•Digital pads: also known as paw pads or toe pads, each dog foot, hind and rear, has a paw pad for each of their four toes.
•Claws: each toe ends in a claw, and each claw grows out of the bone and shares its blood supply.
•Dewclaws: every dog has them on their front paws and some breeds have them on their hind legs.
•Carpal pad: a conical pad just above the dewclaw on a dog’s front leg.
•Metacarpal and metatarsal pads: the metacarpal pad is found in the center of a dog’s front paws. The metatarsal pad is the largest paw pad on the rear paws. They are named for the bones that they protect and cover.
Dog paws come in three basic shapes:
•Cat feet: compact, small and round, formed for stability, endurance, and bearing great weight. An Akita would be an example.
•Hare feet: recognized by the two elongated central toes and formed for speed and quick movement out of a resting position. A Greyhound would be an example.
•Webbed feet: designed to help hunting dogs and those who like to swim. An example would be a Portuguese Water Dog.
So, in addition to making contact with the ground, paws enable dogs to:
•Swim, whether they have webbed feet or not. The “doggy paddle” is famous the world over and comes in various techniques.
•Dig: who has not experienced Fido burying bones or exploring beneath the ground surface, determined to find the source of a particular smell.
•Hold food whilst eating or chewing, for example, bones.
•Play. When two or more dogs decide to play together, paws are an integral part of contact being made and determining dominance.
•Sweat: dogs release heat from their bodies through their mouth and through their paws.
•Mark: whilst watching your dog pee or poop, you can’t have missed the kicking out of the back paws which happens immediately after they’ve finished their business. This action is to mark the spot and claim it as their territory and is achieved by leaving a scent which is secreted through scent glands in their paws.
So, with all the roles that paws play in a dog’s life, it is up to us human caregivers to keep an eye on the health of our dogs’ paws. Being in winter as we are right now, please keep an eye out for salt on the sidewalks and roads. If exposed to regular salt, a dogs’ paws can experience chemical burns so, if you are thinking of melting snow on your property, please use pet friendly products. An example would be “Safe Paw”. The other end of the temperature scale is in summer. Please do not make your dog walk on very hot surfaces as this likely to burn the paws. A simple test whether a surface is too hot for your dog to walk on is to put your exposed forearm on the surface. If you cannot hold your forearm on the surface for up to twenty seconds, it is too hot for your dogs’ paws.
Be pawsitively aware!