While the leather-like consistency of a dog’s paw pads may appear to be pretty resistant to the normal wear and tear of everyday life, in some cases they may be prone to problems. Dealing with cracked paws in dogs may be a very frustrating issue, because paw pads hold most of the dog’s weight and because they create discomfort while interfering with walking.
Causes of Cracked Paws in Dogs
The causes of cracked paws in dogs may be various. A thorough investigation may be needed so to be able to exclude the triggering cause and initiate proper treatment.
- Contact Irritation
Some chemical products may be irritating to a dog’s paw pads. These products may be various, ranging from carpet cleaners, garden sprays, fertilizers to floor cleaners. In the winter, ice melt can contribute to cracked paws as the salts are corrosive. Wipe the paws with a cloth and warm water to remove any residue and prevent your dog from ingesting chemicals. Once the paws are irritated, the dog will feel the urge to lick and chew on them further aggravating the tissues and causing cracked paws.
Dogs allergic to something found in their food may develop itchiness and scratching which may irritate the skin, ears and paws. Chewing on the paws may cause the paws to crack once again, and because the allergy often remains unsolved, the chewing is often a chronic and very frustrating problem.
- Zinc Deficiencies
Some dog breeds such as Siberian Huskies, Samoyed, German Shepherds, Poodles, Great Danes, Beagles and Pointers may be prone to zinc deficiencies which may cause skin problems and dry, cracked paws.
- Old Age Hyperkeratosis
Senior dogs may be prone to a condition known as Hyperkeratosis, that is, the overproduction of keratin causing the paws to crack. It is similar to the appearance of corns observed in senior humans as well.
- Excessive Wear and Tear
Dogs walking and/or running on rough surfaces, hot asphalt or ice may develop dry, cracked paws. Hunting dogs, in particular may develop cracked paws from overuse. Walking on ice salt in the winter may dry the paw pads. Ice salt can be toxic to dogs so they should have their paws washed thoroughly.
Home Remedies for Cracked Paw Pads in Dogs
Dry, cracked paw pads may benefit from daily applications of Vaseline to soothe and soften the pads. Ointments are generally better absorbed after soaking the paws in warm water. While, licking off the Vaseline is not harmful in small quantities, it is best to temporarily cover the paw pad with a sock for a few hours so the dog does not lick it off and the Vaseline is properly absorbed.
- Special Products
There are also various over the counter commercial dog paw rubs that may be very helpful in keeping the paw moist and less likely to crack. One of the best is called ”Musher’s Secret”.
If the cracked paws are due to contact to irritants, owners should try to limit exposure and avoid using chemicals in the areas the dog walks.
- Diet changes and Supplements
When food allergies are suspected, putting the dog through a special exclusion diet by a veterinarian may be helpful. Zinc deficient dogs benefit having their diet supplemented with Omega 3 fatty acids.
Plain Neosporin placed on the paws may help keep infections at bay, while softening the paws. Bandages and gauze may be helpful to protect the area, however they should be changed often since dogs sweat from their paw pads and this may cause the gauze to get moist, becoming an ideal ground for bacteria and infection to set in.
- Dog Boots
Dog boots may be helpful to prevent further wear and tear to the area. There are several dog boots for dogs sold so to protect a dog’s paws.
- Elizabethan Collars
If the dog tends to lick the area, an Elizabethan collar may be needed to prevent the dog from having access to the area. Veterinarians may supply them and fit them properly.
Paw pad cracks and injuries are slow to heal because dogs must walk on them and because they are weight bearers. If the dog appears in discomfort when walking and the cracks are not getting better, it is best to restrict the dog’s activity for a few days to buy some time in recovery. If your dog presents with cracked paw pads, it is best to consult a veterinarian to rule out first any possible health disorders. Only by identifying the possible cause proper treatment may be initiated.
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.