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Dog owners love their furry friends. Often times dog lovers are also hiking lovers. As hikers, we know that protecting our feet with proper footwear can be crucial to being able to walk the next day after a long hike. In my opinion, it only makes sense that you ensure your dog’s paws are protected as well. So if you are wondering how to protect your dog’s paws when hiking, then you’ll find some answers in this article.
The image above shows the 5 parts that makeup a dogs paw. The digital pads, the metacarpal pad, the carpal pad, the dewclaw, and the claws. The pads are thick, tough, insulated, and suited for walking on all types of terrain.
A dogs pads are made up of fat, connective tissue, and very thick skin. A dogs paws are very tough and get tougher the more they walk on them. If you are someone that walks around barefoot often you may have noticed that the bottoms of your feet are tougher than other people’s feet. Or maybe when you were a kid you ran around barefoot everywhere with ease, because your feet grew accustomed to it. A dogs paws work in a similar way.
However they are not totally impervious to being injured on a hike just like our feet aren’t either while walking around our backyard. A dogs paws can get blisters, cuts, burns, or anything else that we can. Their paws are just much much tougher than the bottoms of our feet.
Does a dog need paw protection?
Most of the time, on most hikes a dog’s paws are going to be fine naturally without any type of added protection. A dog’s paws are built to endure some extreme conditions. However all dogs don’t get to outside as much as others. Maybe you live in an apartment in the city and your dog just gets short walks and spends most of it’s time indoors. This can contribute to softer paw pads.
Additionally, different breeds are better suited for hiking and have tougher paw pads. You can assume that a German Shepherd is going to have tougher paws than a Chihuahua will.
You may think your dog could benefit from added protection on his/her paws. Or maybe you are just overly cautious of your best friend safety while hiking on unfamiliar terrain. So here are some options to keep your doggo’s paws safe.
Best paw protection options for hiking with your dog
1. Dog boots
Yes, dog boots are a thing if you didn’t know. A good set of anti-slip and waterproof dog boots will help protect your dogs paws from the elements as well as prevent slipping and possibly injuring himself on wet surfaces. They strap around his feet and are perfect for a hike. This popular set of dog shoes on Amazon are a great choice and if you dig into the comments many people buy them just for hiking with their dogs.
2. Paw wax
Getting a good, high quality paw wax like this one from Pet MD can protect your dogs paws and also promote healing of cracked and damaged paws. Paw wax is not going to offer the protection that the above dog shoes is going to but used together with the dog boots your dog will have double the protection. Using the paw wax regularly promotes healthy paws all year long and you can break out the dog hiking boots on bigger, longer hikes.
5 things you can do to help protect your dog’s paws
1. Toughen your dogs paws up
Regularly walk your dog on pavement, this will help toughen up his paws. The more you take your dog hiking and walking outside, the tougher his paws will get and the less likely it will be that they get injured. Basically the more he uses his paws, the tougher they will get and the less chance of an injury while out hiking with you.
2. Hike when it’s cooler out
Hot pavement, gravel, or rocks can burn his paws when it’s smoldering hot outside. Try and go in the mornings or later in the after noon when the ground will be a bit cooler. When the sun is overhead and beaming down the ground can be hot enough to almost cook his paws in some places. Keep that in mind when hiking with your dog.
3. Keep your dog’s nails trimmed
If you walk your dog frequently on concrete and other hard surfaces then most likely you will not need to trim his nails as they will naturally stay trimmed so to speak. However if your dog is generally an inside dog only walking around your yard in the grass his nails may need trimming from time to time.
A dogs nails will keep growing otherwise and will be more like to split and break causing him pain. They can even curl all the way around embed themselves in the paw causing more serious problems.
4. Moisturize your dogs paws
Keeping your dogs paws moisturized with paw balm can help prevent cracking and bleeding in certain conditions. Having cracked and bleeding paws on or after a hike can be very uncomfortable and even painful for your pooch.
Can I put Vaseline on my dog’s paws?
According to some sources, Vaseline or petroleum jelly can do more harm than good to your dog. Your dog may end up licking their paws causing diarrhea (more likely in larger amounts). The Vaseline contains no moisturizers, it will simply lock in the moisture that is already there. Additionally it can block the pores causing fungus to grow, then you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands.
5. Check his paws after the hike
It’s always a good idea to give paws a quick check after a hike. More times than not they will be fine but it never hurts to just check. If you discover some early cracking or cuts you can give him the attention he needs quickly. This was you can get back out on the trails together with healthy paws sooner.
While our dogs have naturally tough paws in most cases, we must be careful when we take them out for a hike. Unfamiliar or rough terrain can be risky in many cases. Investing a few dollars in some paw protection for your doggo is really worth it. If only for the peace of mind that you have will have knowing that you have taken steps to ensure that his paws stay healthy and he stays happy.