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Keeping Your Dog's Paws Healthy

Source: PetWave, Updated on October 27, 2016
Paw Care Guide:

Keeping Your Dog Paw-sitively Healthy

A dog’s paws are prone to getting cuts, bruises and abrasions. While most of these injuries are minor and heal quickly, in some cases the affected paws can become infected and painful. Whenever you walk your dog or take it for a run, jog or hike, always check its paws after physical activities are completed. A quick look at the pads and between the toes will help you evaluate any possible injuries. Trimmed nails are important to the health of a dog’s paws. Overgrown nails, especially dewclaws, can curl around and grow into a dog’s foot, causing pain and potentially infection. Watching how your dog walks may help you spot trouble with its feet before risky complications arise. Keep in mind that if your dog is going to be outside in an area with rough terrain, or walking on surfaces that are especially cold or hot, doggy booties can help protect its paws from injury.

Symptoms of Sore Paws

If a dog’s paws are painful, it probably will have difficulty walking and will limp or step gingerly on its feet. Pain in the paws can radiate up the leg and into the shoulder or neck area, and dogs may become sensitive or even aggressive if these areas are touched. Paws can become infected. Signs of infection include bloody or puss-like discharge which may or may not be accompanied by a foul odor. Infected paws may feel hot to the touch, and the dog may develop a fever. In an effort to clean the paws and relieve discomfort, the dog may continually lick at its paws, which can become swollen and red. Unhealthy and painful paws usually affect a dog’s behavior. The dog may eat less, become depressed or lethargic, and an otherwise happy-go-lucky dog may begin to become irritable or aggressive. These symptoms may be accompanied by a fever if the paws are infected. The dog may also become anxious, fearful or shy. It may also shun physical contact and play.

Consequences of Unhealthy Paws

When a dog has unhealthy paws, it often compensates by bearing most of its weight on the other legs. Over time, the muscles in the unused legs will begin to atrophy and the bones will become weak from lack of exercise. Even worse, when a dog has multiple unhealthy paws, it can be painful when walking, difficult to shift weight, and over time it may reduce its physical activities or even refuse to walk. Dogs in this situation often become overweight due to the decrease in physical activity. This causes additional stress and pain on their paws.

Painful paws can cause dogs to become withdrawn or aggressive. They may growl or bite if someone tries to pet them, especially if their paws are handled. The inability to run, play or even walk comfortably can cause dogs to become severely depressed. They may stop eating as the health of their paws deteriorates. Lack of exercise leads to weak bones that are easily fractured, and can also contribute to muscle atrophy. The dog’s reluctance to walk may cause bladder and bowel accidents, which increase the risk of urinary tract infections.

Basic Care Topics
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