Paws Don't Fail Me Now
June 4, 2013 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday as I was trimming my dog's nails, I noticed that he has abrasions on three of his four paws. What do I need to do?

A couple of the spots had very hard and sharp skin bits hanging around them, so I trimmed the dead skin with nail scissors to which my dog didn't react at all. He doesn't appear to be in pain or reluctant to walk, but now that I think about it, over the weekend he did have one oddly lazy day.

He is a young, energetic pit bull mutt who gets walked a fair bit, and even more than now that the weather is so nice in Seattle – at least five miles on city sidewalks every day, and half an hour or so of running around after a ball at the tennis courts as well as moderately long hikes in the woods a couple of times a week. I assume I overdid it?

Does this necessitate a vet visit? Should I buy him dog boots? I was planning on taking him on a longer hike today (this one, going out and back twice). Should I postpone it and just keep his walks short for the time being? Resume regular neighborhood walks but skip the hike? It's so, so lovely outside right now.
posted by halogen to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Poor guy.

If it were me, I'd scale back walks and let him play mostly on grass until those heal. Dogs mask pain really well and it looks like those hurt even if he isn't acting like it.
posted by zug at 12:13 PM on June 4, 2013

I bet it's the chasing a ball at the tennis courts, since chasing a ball involves abrupt starts, turns, and stops. Think how your own feet would feel if you did a bunch of fast pivoting barefoot on a tennis court. The easiest thing would be to simply switch to playing fetch on the grass.

Another thing you can try in order to prevent it from happening is to feed him Knox gelatin supplements. People who do herding will often give their dogs gelatin to keep the pads from tearing.

In the meantime, I personally would have the vet take a look, but I'm pretty quick to run to the vet. If you don't want to go to the vet, at least give him a couple of days of rest to let the skin build back up, then try to stick to grass for a while until they're totally back to normal.
posted by HotToddy at 12:16 PM on June 4, 2013

Response by poster: I ought to mention that the newly exposed skin doesn't seem particularly tender and feels almost as hard as the skin around it. I was wondering if this is something normal, but it seems that it is not (he's my first).

We go to the local tennis courts since they are fully fenced and he can run around (I don't trust him off-leash elsewhere and it's illegal in the city anyway) – I'll stop doing that for a while even though it's such a great way to end up with an exhausted, happy dog. I'll just have him chase a whip on my small backyard lawn in the meantime.

Since I adopted him a year ago last week, it's time for a vet visit anyway, so I'll schedule that as soon as they have an opening. Now for a walk on the grassy boulevard down the street – he's been whimpering to go for a walk for the last hour.
posted by halogen at 12:35 PM on June 4, 2013

Aw, poor baby! I agree that the abrasions are likely from repeated quick stops and starts on a tough, rough surface like the tennis court, especially given where they are on the paw pad.

I definitely wouldn't take him on a hike today, especially a longer rocky one, and I'd probably recommend giving him some extra chill-out time over the next week or so. He'll appreciate taking it easy, and you'll know he's feeling better when he goes back to his more energetic ways.

My pup gets the occasional paw abrasion from running hard on concrete sidewalks, especially when they're hot since the sun's been beating down on them all day. First, I rinse the abrasions in cool water, then wash with a gentle disinfectant soap and warm water, then very gently pat everything dry with a paper towel. After the paw is totally dry, I wash my hands and dab the abrasion with a thin layer of regular old Neosporin, add a non-stick gauze pad or bandage, and wrap the whole paw in an ACE/elastic bandage. He may or may not want to walk with bandages on -- hilariously, my dog freezes stock still in place if you put anything on/around his paws; he will not walk a single step until you remove them -- but if he does, you're probably safe adding a pair of fleece booties and taking him for a short stroll around the block or having some gentle playtime on soft grass. Take the bandages off at night to let the wounds breathe, and you should be good to go in no time.

A vet visit likely won't be necessary unless the abrasions become infected (warm to the touch, red around the edges), he starts 'carrying' one of the affected paws, something like that. Dogs are extremely stoic about pain, so you'll have to keep a close eye on it for him because he likely won't 'tell' you if it's bothering him. Fortunately, most abrasions like this are no big deal at all, and I say this as a wildly neurotic and overprotective dog mom.

If your pup is the type to gnaw at feet/bandages, you may want to get him a soft cone (of shame) to let his li'l paws heal up in peace. Please give him some belly rubs and ear scritches from all of us at AskMe.
posted by divined by radio at 12:36 PM on June 4, 2013

My dog got these once -- I chalked it up to taking him on his first ever run, and then the following day taking him on a long walk in unseasonably hot weather.

I scaled back the walks for a few days, avoided strenuous activity like hikes and the dog park, watched his paw pads, and tried to keep him relatively clean. He healed up nicely and hasn't had this problem again. (Though I have been more careful about walking him in the afternoon on hot days, and we haven't progressed much in my plan to make him a running buddy.)
posted by Sara C. at 12:36 PM on June 4, 2013

omg what cute little tootsies...and poor little guy, ow.

If you decide to bandage them up, I highly recommend grabbing some self-adhesive wrap. You can buy it just about anywhere and it comes in a lot prettier colors than that. It's great for getting something to stay on someone furry without actually sticking to the fur.
posted by phunniemee at 12:42 PM on June 4, 2013

If you feel you absolutely must continue with the tennis courts, you can make it somewhat easier on him physically by using a Hol-ee Roller ball in the largest size he can happily run with. (They may come even bigger than this link shows, I don't know.) My dog has an issue with running at the speed of light and then really wanking on his shoulders when he twists and stops to pick up a normal ball. Super cringe-inducing. When I switched to this thing, he was able to pretty much grab it on the fly and keep running, coming to a more natural stop, then turning and running back. Seems like that would be good for this problem as well.
posted by HotToddy at 1:15 PM on June 4, 2013

They're blisters and my dog gets them every spring when it dries up then her feet toughen up and we are fine again. Playing hard on rubber mats or asphalt is another cause but their feet might toughen up over time. Most dogs, like yours, don't show any pain or reaction.
posted by fshgrl at 1:50 PM on June 4, 2013

Best answer: I wouldn't worry too much about it, honestly. If it's not an open wound and the dog doesn't seem bothered, I'd chalk it up to over doing it a little and keep an eye on it.

That said, I've heard great things about Musher's Secret. I've not used it personally, but this is exactly the type of thing it's made for and it's highly recommended by people who bike with their dogs regularly on pavement (and mushers of course). It's also safer to ingest and less bothersome to the dog than Neosporin or bandages. He doesn't need all that, IMO.
posted by rawralphadawg at 2:27 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: He is used to this level of activity, no? Most dogs hate having their feet handled; if you are prodding around on the pads and he is not reacting at all, these spots probably really don't hurt. If he is not owwie at all then I bet he's 'jes fine.

Doggies unaccustomed to such activity levels can have horribly sore paws when mom/dad take them on a long journey on foot. I have seen a few with the pads on all fours completely worn off and leaving bloody footprints :(

In any case, I have to advise against bandages on the limbs for pets by the owner (unless the vet gives you a lesson) ... I'm in the biz (vet tech) and 1) they can be difficult to place and make stay unless you know the tricks of application and 2), they can be subject to many problems (twisting, too tight, applied from wrong direction, skin infections, many others), some of which can be limb-threatening. And no pain medication from the human medicine cabinet!

If he is eating/drinking/peeing/pooping normally, and not even licking these spots, he's probably doing just great. Show them (these spots) to the vet the next time you are in the office. And if he starts to limp/seems reluctant to get up from laying down/acts weird or different, call his Doc, who can make him a lot more comfortable.

Enjoy the weather on your walk!
posted by bebrave! at 3:07 PM on June 4, 2013

Best answer: Many tennis courts are covered with either abrasive sand paint or ground glass paint for traction. Both can wear a dog's pad skin right off and dog owners should be cautious when using courts for exercising their pups. Musher's Secret as said above is very good; Bag Balm is a close second.

As long as there's no sign of infection or worsening limping, keeping the paws clean (gently; no peroxide etc.) and walking on grass may be all that's needed to heal them up.
posted by vers at 4:24 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: He is used to this level of activity, no?

Yes, nothing new – we go to the tennis courts every weekday morning and we goes on long walks every single day, that's why I was so worried when I saw his pads. The court surface does act like sandpaper though, because is does an awesome job at keeping his nails short. All I ever need to do is round the edges with a Dremel tool so he doesn't scratch human skin when playing.

...if you are prodding around on the pads and he is not reacting at all, these spots probably really don't hurt.

That was my guess too, but it's hard to tell since he has never minded having any parts handled or groomed. When we went for a walk on grass earlier, I noticed that he kicked up the grass/dirt more and more violently than usual, so his paws might be more itchy than painful. He hasn't been licking them at all. I don't think the situation calls for any ointments or bandages, to be honest, but perhaps I should lay off the hikes this week. I'll definitely pick up some Musher's Secret, especially since occasionally some of the routes I take him on are snow-covered and will be until late this summer.

Either way, I called his vet and it turns out that he is due for his boosters this week, so we got an appointment early tomorrow morning.

Thanks everyone!
posted by halogen at 5:30 PM on June 4, 2013

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