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4 Fun Facts About Your Dog’s Paw Anatomy

Do you love your dog's paws? Do they bring you comfort and relaxation? If so, you're not alone! The paw is the most common area of the body that humans touch when they're petting or massaging their furry friends. In fact, many owners have even discovered that their dog's paws are incredibly sensitive to being touched and will enjoy it immensely if you rub them in just the right way. 

Dog paws are a very important part of a dog's anatomy. They are used for walking, running, and digging. Dogs also use their paws to communicate with other dogs and other animals.

In this article, we’ll dive into common paw problems and what you can do to fix them. But first, you need to learn about the anatomy of a dog’s paws to fully understand how to care for them properly.

Basic Dog Paw Anatomy 

The anatomy of a dog's paw is complex, but it's important to know how to care for your dog's paws as they are often subject to injury. 

  • The Forepaw and Hindpaw

  • The forepaw and hindpaw are the same, except for one difference: the toe bones. The toes on one side are longer than those on the other, and they look different due to this asymmetry. A dog's paw is divided into two halves: the front half (or forepaw) and the back half (or hindpaw). 

    Each paw has five toes that attach to muscles in their legs. This enables dogs to walk on their toes when running or use them as "hands" by picking up objects with their front paws while walking on all fours.

    There are two types of cartilage in a dog’s paws: hyaline and fibrocartilage. Hyaline cartilage is hard and tough, while fibrocartilage is more flexible and cushioned.

  • Claws

  • Claws on a dog paw are much like fingers on a human hand. Each one has a specific purpose, and the claws have different names.

    Claws can be used to grip the ground while running or climbing, or to defend against predators. They are made of keratin, the same substance that makes up human fingernails. 

    The claw is actually part of the dog's nail, which is attached to the end of the digit bone (or "finger"). The tip of each claw is called an ager/aginae and is responsible for holding prey in place during feeding.

    The other two portions of each canine nail are called unguis/ungulae. One side is pointed and used for digging, while the other side is flat and serves as a brace when walking on hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt.

  • Paw Pads and Webbing
  • The pad is the soft tissue that covers the bottom of your dog’s paw. It consists of several layers, including an outer layer called the epidermis and a middle one called the dermis. The third layer, subcutaneous fat, resides between those two. The epidermal cells are constantly dying and being replaced by new ones; this process takes place in all areas of your dog’s body except for its nose and mouth (where mucus prevents such cell death).

    The dermal layer contains blood vessels that bring oxygenated blood to the footpads, where it delivers nutrients to keep them healthy. These vessels also take away waste products which are then carried away by lymphatic fluid through small tubes located between cells in this region known as capillary plexuses.

  • Digital Pads and Tissues

  • There are four digital pads, two on the front paws and two on the back. The front ones, called metacarpal pads, are larger than the rear ones, which are called phalangeal pads. These soft, fleshy areas are covered by tough skin to protect them from rough terrain and other hazards.

  • Nail Beds

  • The nail bed is the soft tissue surrounding your dog’s nails. It contains blood vessels and nerves that run up the length of your pet's paw, connecting it to the rest of its body. 

    The nail bed is sensitive to pain, so if you accidentally cut their nails too short, they may react negatively and become hesitant to use their paws in the future. Keep this in mind when trimming or clipping your dog’s nails!

  • The Interdigital Furrow

  • The interdigital furrow is the space between each toe. The skin around it is thin and sensitive, and can be injured by any of the following:

    • The nail bed, which is at the bottom of each nail.
    • The interdigital furrow itself. This can happen if your dog's nails are too long and get caught in his paw pad as he walks or runs around. Over time, this can cause enough damage that you'll need to trim his nails more frequently!
    Any kind of puncture wound from sharp objects on hard surfaces like concrete or pavement (this includes stepping on glass shards).

    4 Fun Facts About Your Dog’s Paws:

    1) Dogs Have Sweat Glands in their Paws

    Dogs have sweat glands in their paw pads, and they can release moisture through them when they're hot or active. This helps them to cool down by evaporation, which is why dogs' feet get wet when they're running around on a hot day.

    The main reason that dogs sweat through their paws is to cool down. When body temperature goes up, it causes the glands in a dog’s paw pads to release water. This happens even when there's no visible sweating. You may see paw prints on the floor after your dog has been running around, but if you look closely at his feet, there will be no obvious dampness or sweat on them. As soon as the moisture leaves the pads, it evaporates quickly and cools his feet.

    The amount of sweating that occurs depends on several factors: how hot it is, how much exercise is involved (running vs. walking), whether your dog has fur on his feet or not, and whether there are injuries present that might prevent him from moving freely or cause pain (such as arthritis).

    2) Dogs Run on Their Toes

    The pads of the dog's feet are where most of the strength and sensation lie. They have a pad under each toe, connected to the toes by ligaments (connective tissue). The pads are covered in hair, which keeps them soft and moist. 

    They're sensitive to touch and temperature changes, so your dog can tell if you're petting them on the paw or if there is an object in its path that could hurt them.

    The paws also work as shock absorbers when running or jumping; they help cushion impact when landing from a jump, protect from sharp objects like rocks or glass that may be on the ground, give traction when climbing stairs, and prevent slipping while walking on ice or snow.

    3) Some Dogs Have Fur Between their Pads

    Some dogs have hair between the pads of their feet. These are called “haired-footed” dogs and include retrievers, spaniels, and most terriers.

    A dog that has hair between their paws is more likely to get cracked paws than a dog with smooth soles (known as “barefoot”). This is because when a dog's foot sinks into snow or mud, the fur is compressed into the cracks and may act like glue to trap dirt. 

    To prevent cracked dog paws:

    • Brush your pet's feet regularly; this will keep your pet comfortable while preventing injuries
    • If you see signs of stress on your pet's paws (e.g., redness), look for cracked paw pads and talk to your vet about paw balm or other options for comfort
    4) Dogs Lick Their Paws on Purpose

    Dogs frequently lick their paws to alleviate dryness and cracks. Just like you, your dog needs a cool place on hot days. Their tongue feels great when it’s hot outside and helps them cool down faster. It also cleans their feet of any dirt that has accumulated while they have been walking around outside.

    In addition to cooling down, dog paw licking is a way to clean themselves after digging in the dirt or rolling around in grass or other types of vegetation. Rolling in something smelly might be fun for your pup, but it doesn’t do much good if they don't have time to clean themselves up afterward! By licking off any excess dirt, a dog can get back into the house without leaving behind an unwanted odor (or worse).

    Another reason why dogs keep licking their paws more frequently is because they may have developed dry skin or cracked pads from spending too much time outdoors during the colder months, where there is less moisture available from rain or snow.

    How CBD Can Help

    CBD dog treats, like Canine Cush, can help alleviate some of the problems your dog experiences with his paw pads, or they can work as a preventative. 

    The following are ways CBD can help your dog’s paws:

    • Helps in relieving pain if there is an injury or degenerative condition like arthritis
    • Reduces inflammation 
    • Helps in tackling allergy symptoms by controlling histamine levels
    • Contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 amino acids to heal dry skin if that is causing cracking 

    If Your Dog is in Pain

    It's important to recognize when your dog is in pain because pain is a warning sign. If your dog is limping, licking their paws excessively, holding up their paw, or sitting down, these are all signs of possible pain. Although these signs may also indicate other things, such as an injury or arthritis, they're definitely worth taking note of and should be checked out by a vet if you see them.

    If your dog doesn't show any visible signs of pain but it seems like something might be wrong with their paws anyway, like if they're unusually hesitant about running on rough ground or not showing you their belly when you ask for it, it's worth taking them to the vet just to get an opinion on whether there could be anything wrong with their paws that would cause them discomfort without being readily apparent to humans (like most injuries).

    Remain Observant

    We hope that this information has helped to demystify your dog's paws. Keep an eye out for any issues your dog may be having and note them. As a pack animal, dogs will strive to conceal their discomfort for as long as they can; therefore, if they show signs of distress, they are unable to conceal it, and it's an issue that must be taken care of as soon as possible.

    Read more:

    Canine Anatomy

    Color Atlas of Small Animal Anatomy

    Cannabidiol as a treatment for arthritis and joint pain

    Cannabidiol: A Brief Review of Its Therapeutic and Pharmacologic Efficacy in the Management of Joint Disease

    Effects of cannabidiol without delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on canine atopic dermatitis