Padology: Your Dog's Tough Feet

You are out on a hike with tough hiking boots and after a long day on a rocky trail your feet are screaming at you. Did you ever wonder how your bare-footed dog manages out there?

A dog's foot pads are composed of several layers of keratin, a harder form of skin cells. You can actually build up the toughness of your dog's pads. If you have a big trip or hike planned you can treat your dog's pads in the weeks before with a product called Pad-Tough. It is a botanical product with aloe and comfrey. It comes in a spray form and simply coat your dog's paw pads liberally before any rigorous activity. A four-ounce bottle cost s between $10 and $15.

Even so, cracks in your dog's foot armor can appear. Two of the best things to carry in your pack are an antibiotic ointment and gauze. Use the ointment to protect any exposed area from a cut or scrape and use the gauze to prevent your dog from licking the area.

On a recent tour one of the dogs got what appeared to be a tiny sliver of pine needle embedded in a foot pad. It took steady fingernails, a patient dog and perserverance to pry it out. It reminded me of a couple things: one, check your dog's pads from time to time on a long hike because we in shoes don't always know what is under foot and two, a tip for removing splinters in human hands might work for tough-to-get objects embedded in your dog's paws: use a piece of sticky tape to try and pull it out or, if your dog is resting, put a drop of white glue on the paw. When it dries, peel it off and the splinter will pull right out.