Whether your dog likes to hike, participates in sports like agility or flyball, or they just walk a lot, you are probably concerned with making sure their paw pads don’t tear, get cut, or otherwise get injured.
One of the biggest keys to preventing your dog’s paw pads from getting damaged is to toughen them up and make sure they are flexible while being durable.
In this article, I share what I’ve learned over the years about that.
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How Can I Make My Dog’s Paw Pads More Durable?
There are a couple primary ways to toughen up your dog’s paws.
The easiest and most natural way to toughen your dog’s foot pads
The best way to toughen your dog’s paw pads is to walk them regularly on hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete.
Walking your dog regularly on hard and rough surfaces will help them to develp callouses on their paws, thus thickening the surface and helping to prevent punctures and scrapes.
It’s like nature’s booties for dogs (a dog’s food pads are really quire durable and resilient on their own).
This method is the most natural and easiest because you probably already walk your dog every day (or at least most days).
All you have to do to harden their foot pads is to make sure that a good portion of the walks are on sidewalks, city streets, or paved paths.
You can also use a dog paw pad strengthener to help your dog’s food pads become tougher
There are products on the market formulated specifically for dogs that need to have tough and durable paw pads.
I’m not talking about your average paw balm. Those are designed to soften and moisturize, which can actually work against you.
While you want your dog’s paw pads to stay moisturized enough so they don’t crack and remain flexible, you don’t want to soften them.
You want to use a product specifically designed to make your dog’s paw pads more durable.
Tuff-Foot for Dogs
The #1 dog paw pad strengthener that has been recommended to me is Tuff-Foot for dogs.
I haven’t personally used it on my dogs because in the 15 years I’ve been hiking with them, we have very rarely had any foot pad issues.
However, because I am planning a 75-mile hike with my dog this year along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, I know I need to do all I could to protect her feet.
I ordered some and it’s on the way so I will eventually update here after a month or so of use (the recommended time to see results in the durability of foot pads).
For now, you will have to take my word that I have heard the most, and the best, feedback about the Tuff-Foot strengthener.
The product claims:
- It’s the only preparation made exclusively for the foot
- It is guaranteed to toughen soft, cracked, sore and tender feet
- Helps protect feet against bruises and soreness
Ingredients: Isopropyl Alcohol, Balsams, Peru, Tolu, Styrax, Aloe, Benzion
Instructions: Apply daily until feet are in good condition, then twice a week.
Pad Tough for Dogs
Pad Tough for dogs is one I more recently discovered but it is also designed to strengthen a dog’s paw pads and make them more durable.
The product claims:
- Toughens foot pads and elbows
- Helps protect skin from sores and abrasions
- Contains comfrey and aloe vera
- Quick drying formula
- Aids in healing
Ingredients: Isopropyl Alcohol, Purified Water, Comfrey Extract, Ethyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Benzoin, Storax, Tolu Balsam and Aloe Vera
Instructions: Coat pads liberally with pad-tough prior to field trials, shows, hunting or other rigorous exercise. Pad-tough should be used routinely prior to any extensive outdoor activity.
I also ordered this one to try and will eventually update this article with my thoughts.
Why Not Just Use Dog Boots?
I’m not a fan of boots for dogs. Not at all.
And it’s not just because they are near impossible to find good ones to fit Dachshunds or the complaints from larger dog owners about them constantly falling off and getting lost.
Here are my reasons:
- A dog boot, no matter how good it fits, will interfere with a dog’s natural gait
- A dog boot doesn’t allow a dog’s foot to fully articulate to take advantage of their natural grip
- Since one of the primary ways dogs sweat and dissipate heat is through their paw pads and dog boots interfere with this natural flow
- If the boots are used as a solution, instead of one of the two options above, they can result in your dog’s paw pads getting softer and less durable
But I do understand they are helpful or necessary for some dogs.
I won’t ever criticize anyone for making that choice for their dog.
However, I ask you to consider using them as a last resort, not a first one.
Addressing Dog Paw Pad Injuries
Even if you think you toughened up your dog’s paw pads enough and were careful, or you didn’t know you needed to because it was not an issue before, accidents can happen.
It can be quite shocking to suddenly find your dog’s paw pad has a big tear or cut.
So what do you do if that happens?
What to do if your dog’s paw pad get torn
The first thing you need to do is assess the tear – how big and deep it is.
The couple times my dog’s have torn their paw pads, it was only the top layer or two that were peeled back.
The pad layer that was exposed was not as tough and weathered as the layer that was hanging lose but there was no bleeding or weeping and the paw pad would still do it’s job.
So all I did was trim the flappy skin of the pad off and we kept going with no issues.
Of course, if the tear is deeper, it may require disinfectant, a bandage, and potentially medical attention from a veterinarian.
You can read more about how to treat paw pad tears from VCA Animal Hospitals here.
What to do if your dog’s paw pad gets cut
Cuts are usally more serious than a foot pad tear.
As I stated above, many food pad tears only affect the top layers of skin and there is no damage to the tissue underneath.
With foot pad cuts, they are deeper, often expose inner layer of skin, and a dog is often not able to continue walking on that foot.
A dog with a cut foot pad will likely need field first aid treatment at a minimum.
If the cut on your dog’s foot pad is deep, they will need medical attention from a veterinarian.
Cuts to the paw pads also typically require a longer healing time.
You can read more about what do if your dog cut’s their foot pad from Trupanion pet insurance here.
The best way to prevent paw pad tears and cuts is to toughen the surface of their foot pad.
The best way to do that is to walk your dog regularly on hard and rough surfaces so the foot pads naturally thicken up on their own.
You can also use a product specifically designed to thicken and toughen the skin on a dog’s paw pads.
I recommend going with the walking method alone or using both in conjunction.
It’s ok to moisturize your dog’s paw pads so they don’t get so thick and dry that they spit and crack but be cautious here – softening them too much can have the opposite effect of making them prone to injury.
Foot pads that are too soft are at risk of scrapes, cuts, and tears.