Have you ever studied your dog’s paws? Probably not, like most dog owners a dog’s paw only really gets noticed when there’s something wrong with it.
But a dog’s paws, just like our human feet are a sophisticated piece of kit. Ideally designed to cope with different terrains, a range of temperature and a good deal of running, jumping, climbing and swimming.
So what makes our dog’s feet so Pawesome? Here are our 15 fascinating facts about your dog’s paws.
1. High Five
Each of our dog’s paws is made up of five different parts.
- Digital pads (the toes)
- Metacarpal pads – the big heart shaped pad in the middle of the paw
- Carpal pad ( the pad furthest back)
A dog’s pads are extremely important. As the carpal pad provides traction and braking while the metacarpal, metatarsal and digital pads are load bearing shock absorbers.
2. Tri-colour paws
Digital pads vary in colour from black to white to pink. With some dogs having a combination of all three. Although they feel tough and leathery. Dogs pads are just made of skin, like the soles of our own feet.
The more your dog walks on rough terrain, the harder the skin gets. However, if you only walk your dog on grass, the skin will stay soft.
3. Four feet
A dogs front two paws are called forefeet whereas the back two feet are called hind feet.
4. Thumbs up
Dewclaws are remnants of thumbs. Most dogs have them on their front feet, but some dogs also have them on their back feet as well.
What’s more, there are even some dog breeds like the Great Pyrenees that inherit a double dew claw known as Polydactyly. Although no longer essential to dogs, some dogs will still use them when gripping a toy or bone.
5. Nailed it!
Each toe ends with a claw. These claws or nails grow out of the bone and share its blood supply. Which is why trimming a dog’s nails has to be done with care!
6. Tippy toes
Dogs walk with most of their weight on their toes with their heels never touching the ground. Known as digitigrades they are typically faster and quieter than other animals.
7. Feline feet
Dogs paws differ in shape. Did you know that your dog can have a cat or hare-shaped foot?
Some dogs like Old English Sheepdogs have compact feet with short third digital bones looking more like cats. Whereas dogs like greyhounds have elongated middle toes known as hare feet. Cat feet need minimal effort to lift so they increase a dog’s endurance while hare feet enable a dog to run faster.
What’s more, dogs found in cold climates often have extra wide feet to help them grip on the snow and ice.
8. The cold never bothered me anyway
Ever wondered why your dog isn’t bothered by the snow? It’s because the pads of a dog’s paw have a thick layer of fatty tissue that protects them in cold weather. As the pads get cold, the cooler blood gets sent along the arteries back into the body to get warmed up.
9. Can’t stand the heat
Dogs paws might be well adapted to cold weather, but they suffer in the heat. Walking a dog on hot pavements can cause the pads to blister and burn.
So if you can’t hold the back of your hand on a hot pavement for more than two seconds, don’t walk your dog on it.
10. It’s getting hot hot hot!
Although dogs aren’t well adapted to high temperatures, they can nevertheless sweat through their feet. The inner layer of skin in a dogs paw contain sweat glands.
These sweat glands transport the perspiration to the outer layers of skin cooling the dog down and preventing the pads from drying out.
Have you noticed your dog’s wet paw prints when you visit your veterinarian? Well, it’s the equivalent of sweaty palms and happens when dogs are nervous or stressed.
11. Frito feet
Ever wondered why your dog’s feet smell salty and a bit like popcorn? Although, it might smell like your favourite snack, Frito feet are caused by sweat interacting with bacteria.
As your dog’s feet are always on the ground, they pick up microorganisms, fungi and bacteria. Mix that with a healthy dose of perspiration, and you get that distinctive doggy foot smell.
Did you know that some dog breeds have webbed feet? Although most dogs have a small amount of skin between the toes, some breeds have more than most.
The Newfoundland, Labrador and Dachshund among others have skin that stretches almost from toe tip to toe tip. Not only are webbed feet perfect for swimming but they also act as spades for dogs that love to dig.
13. Hey, that’s not a chew toy
Because dogs can’t go for a massage when they’re stressed they chew their feet instead. Although some cleaning and paw nibbling is normal when it becomes excessive, it can result in paw infections and a subsequent visit to your Vet.
The best way to stop your dog chewing its paws is to give your dog something else to do like working food out of an interactive toy.
14. The long and short of it
Newfoundland dogs have the longest toes of any dog breed, closely followed by Labrador.
15. Ooh rub my feet
If your dog is OK with you touching their feet, then a paw massage might be in order. Massage increases circulation and relaxes your dog. But just like people, some dogs do not appreciate their feet being touched so stay clear if they object.
Facts about dog paws
We may not spend much time thinking about them, but our dog’s paws are vital to their well-being. Not only do they protect them from cold weather and over rough terrain they help keep them cool as temperatures rise.
What’s more, they are uniquely adapted for swimming, digging, running and endurance, so next time your dog wants a stroke why not try a relaxing paw massage instead.