Have you ever wondered why our four-legged friends don't need a pair of shoes when going for a walk or a run? Well, it's because their paws function as their own built-in protection!
Your dog's paws are an essential part of their body; just like with shoes, they absorb the impact from running or walking, and provide support and traction to help protect your dog's bones, tendons, and ligaments. Not only are paws a fantastic layer of protection for your dog's feet, but they can also help dog owners assess their pet's overall health.
Believe it or not, paws are an extension of your pup's skin, and require sufficient nutrients and blood supply to keep them strong and healthy. If your dog lacks essential nutrients, you may start to notice small cracks and lesions forming on their paw pads.
It's important to note, however, that having some level of cracking on your dog's paws is to be expected, as a result of walking or running on rough or uneven surfaces. It should only become a cause for concern if you notice the cracks getting deeper and your dog shows signs that they're in pain.
Causes Of Cracked Paws
As we've already mentioned, paws are a great indication of your pup's overall health. So, if you notice that their cracks are getting deeper, it can be a sign of an underlying health condition. Here are some of the reasons behind your dog's cracked paws:
If your dog likes to walk or run on rough or uneven surfaces, a certain degree of wear and tear is standard. However, it would be best if you kept monitoring your dog's paws after long walks, as rough services can cause irritation, itching, and inflammation. If your dog is experiencing discomfort, you may notice excessive licking and chewing of their paws, causing small cracks or lesions to the surface.
Dogs that tend to spend longer periods walking or running on rough or hot surfaces can develop blisters or ulcers, or form loose skin. If you notice your dog is limping, it's often a sign of such an injury. Even if they do not exercise excessively, some dogs can still develop split paw disease. So, if you notice your dog's paw is cracked and bleeding, take them to the vet immediately.
The liver plays a vital role in the body, as it aids digestion and absorption of critical nutrients, and, just like our skin, your dog's paws need sufficient nutrition to replenish the dead cells and rebuild the affected areas.
If you notice that your dog's paw takes more than three weeks to heal, it can be a sign of an underlying condition, such as liver disease. Liver disease will not only cause your dog's paws to crack, but it will also cause chronic infections, thickening, crusting, erosions, and blisters.
Allergies are a common cause of irritation in dogs, while pollen, mites, mould, and even food ingredients can cause a reaction or cracked paws. You may notice your dog has started excessively scratching, licking and chewing their paws - which may suggest an allergic reaction and warrant a visit to the vet.
Endocrine issues refer to hormonal imbalances that affect the skin and hair, and chronic cracked paws can be a sign of an underlying endocrine issue. There are two common types of endocrine problems: the one is Cushing's disease, and the other is Hypothyroidism.
Cushing's disease is most commonly found in middle-aged dogs, and affects your dog's hair, causing it to thin and start falling out. Other symptoms include excessive thirst, urination, and appetite. While Cushing's disease will cause excessive hunger, Hypothyroidism will result in extreme weight loss, an unhealthy coat, infections, and lethargy.
They say prevention is better than cure! So, if you see your dog developing cracked paws, here are some tips to help:
- Avoid taking your dog for a walk on hot pavements. If you live in a hot area, take your dog for a walk in the early morning or early evening.
- Ease into walking on rough surfaces. When your dog first starts walking on rugged surfaces, their paws will still be relatively soft. Make sure to start with very short walks; then, as the paws become thicker, you can increase the length or distance.
- Make sure you're feeding your dog a good diet; remember the paws are an extension of the skin!
- Use supplements. If you see your dog's skin is dry and they're developing cracked paws, supplements such as omega 3 and 6, zinc, and magnesium can get your dog's skin back into tip-top condition.
- If you see your dog's paws are looking unhealthy, take them to the vet.
We know that cracked paws are relatively normal for active dogs, so avoid moisturising your dog's paws unless it is absolutely necessary, as rough pads are less likely to crack and bleed. If you notice the cracks are bleeding, take your pup to the vet as soon as possible. But if the cracks are mild, our vet has put together five simple steps to treat this at home:
- Grab a lukewarm cloth and place it on the paw to bring all the debris to surface.
- Clean the paw with an antibacterial solution.
- Apply antibacterial cream.
- Bandage the paw or place a sock on your dog's paw and secure it with tape (make sure the tape is not too tight, or it could prevent circulation and mobility).
- Put a cone on your dog's head to avoid licking, especially if they tend to lick their footpads excessively. If your dog keeps licking their foot, it will not have a chance to heal.
Cracked paws should be expected for most dogs, so don't go too crazy trying to moisturise and treat them. Knowing the causes of cracked paws is essential for your dog's overall health, so practice prevention methods to ensure your best friend stays happy and healthy!