Taking Care of Your Dog’s Paws

Whether it’s burning hot or freezing cold, your dog’s paws are constantly exposed to the extremely damaging effects of the ground. Without proper protection and prevention, your dog’s paws could get infections, blisters, cracks, and more. Just like our skin, feet, and hands, a dog’s paws need care and protection too. 

A dog sits facing slightly to the left on a teal background. He is raising his right paw

Understanding Your Dog’s Paws

Types of Paws

Dog’s paws come in three main shapes: webbed feet, hare feet, and cat feet.

Webbed Feet: Paws with extra skin between the toes used mostly for swimming or digging.

Hare Feet: Paws with two longer central toes used for explosive speed across a short distance. 

Cat Feet: Paws that are small and compact used for endurance and stability.

Parts of the Paw

Dog’s paws consist of 5 structures: digital pads, claws, dewclaw, carpal pads, and metacarpal pad.

Digital Pads: These four small pads are located on each toe and are used to support their weight and joints.

Claws: Claws are used for digging, hunting, and traction. Similar to humans they are made of keratin, however, unlike human nails, dog claws grow from the bone and contain nerves and blood vessels which is why you must be careful trimming. 

Dewclaw: The dewclaw is the short claw on the lower part of their leg. The claw has no apparent purpose, but some dogs use it to grip things they are holding with their paws.

Carpal Pads: the carpal pad is located above the dewclaw and is used as a sort of break when running to help them slow down or go down a slope.

Metacarpal Pad: This heart-shaped pad in the center of their foot helps support more of the dog’s weight. 

Purpose of the Paw

Paw pads consist of a layer of pigmented skin covering fatty tissue. This layer is used to provide insulation to your dog’s paws during the winter. They also help provide balance, traction, stability, and shock absorption. 

10 Signs Your Dogs Paw is Hurt

While dog paws are extremely durable, they are exposed to a lot making them frequently harmed. It’s important to notice when something may be off to catch the issue sooner, not later. Below are 10 signs you should watch out for:

  • Excessive licking or chewing on their paws
  • Cracked paws
  • Blisters or burns
  • Broken, cracked, or ingrown nails
  • Swelling in the paw area
  • Limping
  • Foul smell coming from paw
  • Bleeding or discharge
  • Limping or lameness
  • Loose flaps of skin

How to Take Care of Your Dog’s Paws

Keep Paws Groomed

Grooming your dog does not mean just brushing and trimming their fur. Just like our feet, a dog’s paws need to be well-groomed to prevent paw injuries or discomfort. Ensuring your pup has well-groomed paws will make sure they stay happy and healthy.

Check Their Paws

Doing regular paw checks can be a quick easy way to protect your dog’s paws and maintain proper paw health. Doing so allows you to clean out any debris that may have gotten stuck as well as catch any matting, tears, or infections that may be developing.

Keep Nails Trimmed

Improper nail care can cause many issues and discomfort for your dog, so it’s important to keep up with trimming. If you hear your dog’s nails clicking as they walk, it’s time for a trim. Dog’s nails should never be touching the ground as they can interfere with walking and possibly injure your dog. There are many tips and tricks on the best way to trim your dog’s nails, but we suggest starting with a pair of nail clippers like the Frisco Dog Nail Trimmers which come in 2 different styles. As you trim their nails, reward them with treats when they behave well to encourage that behavior throughout the process. You should trim their nails at least once a month. 

Trim Hair Between Paw Pad

It may be easy to overlook the hair between your dog’s paw pads; however, the hair can become painful for your dog. You want to keep this fur nice and short to prevent matting which can cause serious discomfort. It’s suggested to keep this hair the same length as their paw pads. 


Similar to our feet, as a dog’s paws begin to dry out they become more prone to cracks and injury. A way to prevent this is to moisturize and massage your pup’s paws. Doing so will make your dog’s paws softer, prevent injury, and improve circulation. 

Prepare Their Paws for Outside

Extreme temperatures can take an extreme toll on your dog’s paws. The best way to prevent this is to provide them with the necessary protection and prevention to maintain their paw health.

Slowly Introduce Outdoor Exercise

Similar to human feet, the more rough terrains a dog walks on regularly the more calloused its paws become. As dogs spend most of their time inside they are not exposed frequently to the rough surfaces outdoors. A great way to build these calluses is to slowly expose them to rough surfaces over time. Begin by bringing them outdoors for short periods and gradually increasing the amount of time to help their paws become more durable.

Protecting Your Pups Paws in the Winter 

During the winter the ground can be very hard on your dog’s paws. The best thing to do is to limit your dog’s time outside or to use boots such as the Ultra Paws Durable Dog Boots to help protect their paws. Using boots will protect your dog’s paws from the cold weather, sharp ice, and rock salt which can all lead to cracking and discomfort. It’s important to note, if you do not use boots on your pup you need to wipe down your dog’s paws well so they do not ingest the salt. 

Protecting Your Pups Paws in the Summer

Similar to winter, the extreme heat of summer is prone to causing cracks, burns, and blisters on your pups paws. Boots will protect your dog by being a barrier between its paws and the ground. If you decide not to use boots, there is a simple test you can do to see if the ground is too hot for your dog. Place your hand flat on the ground for a full 5 seconds. If you can’t hold your hand flat, it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.