Welcome to the Natural Paws Blog!
Being our first post, it seems natural to start with what inspired us in our journey, and that began with paw care.
Dogs, like people, are intricate beings. Organs, bones, muscles, and fluids, and all of this housed and protected by the largest organ of the body: the skin. Whether thick or thin, tough or delicate, skin is alive with its own ecosystem, needing a balance of strength and elasticity, of moisture and amino acids, a certain spongy give that can produce goose bumps when caressed, or give cushion to a fall.
Also like us, dogs do need attention to their skin to keep it maintained and allow it to do its jobs “Wu Wei”, or without thought or effort. Whether you live in a dry desert climate, or are trudging through snowy winters, your dog’s paw pads can show signs of stress and wear at an early age. After all, domestic dogs live in the environment we have created for them, including chemically treated carpeting, tile floors, cement yards and walking paths… a far cry from the dirt and grass their pads were designed for! Besides the less obvious signs of dryness and cracking which often go overlooked, dogs have their unique ways of showing their caregivers that there’s an issue. The question presents itself – are you in tune with your pack’s paw health?
Let’s back up a bit though. Paw pads were made for walking, running, jumping, even hunting. They also have some cool features not everyone’s aware of, one being that they act as tiny shock absorbers for the entire body, which protects the joints and sockets of the body. You could say they’re designed for action!
Another cool feature is that the paw’s pores are literally expressways for toxins to release from the dog’s body. So when choosing aides to heal or protect them, we must keep this in mind so as not to inhibit this important function! What does that mean specifically? Aside from not putting anything toxic onto this important organ, we also shouldn’t apply any products that might be clogging to these pores. Products containing petroleums, waxes, parabens, butters, or which haven’t been specifically analyzed for canine use can be particularly worrisome, particularly if the dog in question is a “licker”. If you do use a wax-based product for protection when trekking out, it’s wise to make sure to remove any remaining residue after the activity is complete.
Understanding the basic functions of the paw pads and what they do for your dog is important, and now that your interest is piqued, you may be wondering what a dog’s caregiver needs to know about maintaining paw and skin health. Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind on a regular basis:
Keep them clean: If your pup is a trailblazer, it can be easy to miss caked on dirt. So what? Well, if there’s a cactus needle, other pointy plant bits, or a piece of broken glass under that dirt, cleaning the paws up regularly will bring these things to your attention quickly so that you can treat the issue before it worsens. If there’s broken skin, you’ll find it easily on clean paws. And if there’s an infection or cut, you’ll want to treat it right away to keep the infection from entering the internal systems of the dog. Choose a product that is safe, easy to apply, and offers natural anti-bacterial, anti-viral, properties. Avoid anything containing alcohol, as this will sting and is not safe if licked.
Moisturize and Massage: Who doesn’t love a good foot rub? Essential oils are blissful when rubbed into the skin, and dogs are not immune to this joy! Always allow the dog to give a quick sniff to any new products you’re using. That way, the dog feels a part of the decision, and knows what’s coming. When choosing your essential oil blend, consider the aromatherapy associated, as well as the benefits each type will provide. It should be an aroma you enjoy, since your pup will be more fun to cuddle with if you like the scent. When choosing a blend, always use a product made for dogs. Many natural products, which are safe for humans, can be dangerous for dogs.
Keep A Lookout For Behavioral Cues: Dogs are great at telling their humans when there’s something going on. Unfortunately, we humans tend to want things told to us in words, and dogs tend to use more subtle signs when they’re troubled. So it’s up to us to tune in to their tells, and watch for behavior that is significant, special, or simply out-of-the-norm. Here’s some examples.
- “He’s just a habitual licker”. Dogs lick to keep tidy, but not as much as cats. If your dog has developed a habit of licking his paw pads, in-between the pads, or repeatedly in a particular area, take a closer look. Are there cracks or lick granulomas? Is there a thorn or burr left over from the fun run yesterday? There are many reasons a dog will start a licking habit, and dryness or allergies are just a couple of very common examples of a very easily treatable condition.
- “She just stopped on our walk and didn’t want to keep going…must have gotten tired”. Dogs will follow their humans to the ends of the earth. But sometimes, it’s just too painful to move on. Is the ground too hot? Has she got an injury? Did she step in something prickly? If your dog has had enough when she’s usually good to go for another mile, check in and see what the body language is telling you. If the ground is hot to the touch, maybe she’s burned her paws. If there’s a lot of snow around, perhaps the de-icing solution used in your area is stinging the cracks in her pads. If you can’t figure out what the problem is, it might be a good time to call the vet.
The paws are the connecting point between a dog and his world. Keeping them well-maintained can provide whole-body benefits, keeping your veterinary bills lower. Proper paw and skin care can keep your dog healthier, happier, and can extend and enhance his active years.