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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dry, Cracked Paws?

Stefanie emailed me this a while back and I'm finally getting to it.

I would like to know how to care for my dog's paws in the dry heat and winters here in Arizona. Are a dog's paws even supposed to be smooth and soft? Are the cracks and dryness that I see "normal"? And if not - what would you recommend I use to help those rough patches?
I do feed her a high-quality dog food and also give her a supplement provided by my vet for her hip dysplasia and also is supposed to have something in it to help her skin and coat (Phycox).
My first recommendation is to have your vet look at the paws.  While a puppy's paws are soft and smooth, it's very common for an adult dog's paw pads to become rough and thick.  Such changes are a normal response of the body to walking on rough or abrasive surfaces.  A little thickening will happen merely with age, but the harsher the surface a dog spends much of its time the rougher the pads will get.  That's exactly what the pads are designed to do.  Some cracks and dryness are normal, but you can have situations where there is a medical problem causing excessive cracking.  That's where your vet can determine if what you're seeing is normal.

There are several products that can help.  A basic vitamin E lotion often will do the trick.  There is also a lotion called Bag Balm that was originally used to help cows' udders but can be used to soften skin and relieve minor irritation on any species.  If a dog is going to be on rough ground for a very short period of time a little petroleum jelly can be a temporary protectant.  But if the harsh ground (rocks, sand, extreme heat or cold, etc.) is going to be more than a couple of minutes you should consider getting protective booties.