Paws, feet, cloots, toe beans, trotters, tootsies or whatever you would like to call them, keeping your pet’s paws in tip-top shape is vital to your pet’s mobility and comfort.
Your cat and dogs paws are made up of five parts – The claws, the digital pads (the toes), the metacarpal/metatarsal pad (the pad in the middle), the dewclaw and the carpal/tarsal pad (the pad farthest back). The digital and metacarpal/metatarsal pads protect the bones and joints of a pet’s foot by acting as shock absorbers, and the carpal pad acts as a rear brake. Metacarpal and carpal pads are present on the front feet, and metatarsal pads are present on the back feet.
A cat and dogs little toe beans (paw pads) are pretty special by design. Did you know paw pads:
- Help to regulate your pet’s foot and body temperature
- They are sensitive to heat and can burn and blister – this is why we need to be extra careful when walking our dogs on the beach or on paved surfaces on hot summer days
- Help muffle sound allowing our pets to sneak up on their prey
- Cat paw pads are like built-in loofahs for when a cat grooms itself – a handy built-in accessory for these passionate groomers, who can spend up to 5 hours a day grooming.
Surprisingly, rabbit paws don’t have paw pads, making them more sensitive to the surfaces they walk on. If you lift your rabbit’s paw, you will find a thick fur pad.
Handling your pet’s paws
The more a pet is handled, the more comfortable they tend to be when they visit the vets. Therefore, incorporating regular paw handling into your daily or weekly routine is a good idea. Some pets can be sensitive about having their paws touched, but if you regularly run your hands down their legs, gently touching their feet and paw pads while they are sitting, this will help them get accustomed to handling. Always be careful and ensure your pet is comfortable, and progress slowly to avoid your pet getting too upset. Ensure you and your pet are safe at all times. Use treats to reinforce your pet tolerating your touching. Once your pet becomes familiar with their legs and paws being handled, you can work towards lifting their foot off the ground while they are standing to see the underside. Again, use treats and listen to your dog’s body language and cues. If the dog is getting distressed, you are moving too fast- take it back a step and progress more slowly next time.
Checking your pets paws
Having a cuddle with your pet provides an opportune moment to check their paws when they are relaxed. Things to look for are:
Check the length of your pet’s nails or claws, and trim as required (your vet nurse can help with this). Be careful not to cut the ‘quick’ as this can be painful and they bleed a lot. The quick is made up of a nerve and blood vessel. If you do cut the quick (it happens sometimes- even to vets and nurses, especially in animals with long quicks or black nails), do not panic as the bleeding will stop if you put pressure on it for a few minutes. Often the dog or cat will be more foot shy after this, so you may need to take some steps back in your training to ensure your pet is comfortable or seek vet or nurse advice.
- Dogs: Dogs’ nails shouldn’t touch the ground when they walk, so if you hear a lot of clicking or scratching, it’s a sign that your dog’s nails may need trimming.
- Rabbits: like dog nails, trim as required. For more information, talk to your vet.
- Cats: Cat claws don’t normally require trimming unless your cat has a problem with retracting its claws, is an indoor cat, or if your cat is older – as arthritis can affect how they wear the nails down. If in doubt, have a chat with your vet or nurse.
Nail bed infections – are usually caused by an injury to the nail, bacteria then enters the nail bed. We have seen severe joint infections starting from a nail bed infection, and this can lead to toe amputation, so best to get these to us quickly.
Ingrown nails can be a problem. This is where the nail grows long and may start to puncture the paw, often seen in older cats and small dogs.
Dew Claws: Check the dew claw hasn’t grown long and isn’t poking into the leg, or has curled round.
Paw pads (dogs and cats)
Look for cracks in the paws pads – dry conditions and abrasion cause these. Deep ones can get infected.
Grooming your pet’s paws is important, particularly in long-haired pets. The fur between the toes can become long and tangled, causing pain and discomfort. Check for debris stuck between toes, matting and knotting.
Dogs: Pododermatitis is due to inflammation between the pads. This can be caused by fungi or bacteria and is worsened by the dog licking the area. In addition, gritty and sandy conditions can predispose pets to this condition.
Cats: Pododermatitis in cats can cause lameness and ‘puffy feet’ or be infection like in dogs. Plasma cell pododermatitis or “pillow foot” presents as squishy, soft, tender paw pads. This condition needs to be treated promptly to avoid rupture of the foot pad or secondary infections.
Rabbits – sock hops: Medically referred to as ulcerative pododermatitis, sock hops are a condition where a rabbit’s foot becomes raw and inflamed. This is due to the constant friction that rough surfaces have on the paw. The pain from sock hop can make your rabbit depressed and sore hocks can lead to infections. Rabbit’s feet are an easy site to infect as it often comes in contact with bacteria from faecal matter, urine, and bacteria in the soil. This risk for infection is the reason why sore hocks should be treated as soon as possible, and care should be taken to prevent it. Take note of any bald patches under the paw and watch they don’t get worse. If they do become inflamed, book a vet appointment.
Our pet’s paws can show signs of skin allergy resulting in itchiness, excessive chewing and grooming, removing fur, paw redness and/or soreness and discolouration. If your pet is endlessly chewing and biting its paws, it’s time to visit the vet.
Check for grass seeds burrowing into the skin between the toes during summer and autumn. These can travel, so prompt removal is important. Sometimes abscesses form around them, and these are raised, red lumps with a fluid-filled feeling.
Injuries such as dislocated toes and fractures.
Remember it is our pets instinct to hide pain, if your pet is lame it’s best to have them assessed by a vet to determine the cause.
This is a fleshy irritation within the webbing of your dog’s toes that often involves a bacterial infection. Any abscess between toes is an interdigital cyst, also known as interdigital furunculosis or follicular pododermatitis. A dog can have one or more cysts present on any paw.
Give us a call if you have any concerns with your pet’s paws.