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Ten Fascinating Facts About Dog Paws

We often take a dog's paws for granted, but those paws are quite fascinating body parts that are worthy of being discovered! For a lifetime of walking on rocks, snow and asphalt, those dog paws are sure a work of art on their own considering how many pairs of shoes us common mortal humans must go through throughout our lives. Whether you own a Labrador, great dane or a Chihuahua, those paws are certainly remarkable yet, often, ho-hum, so underestimated. So today is the day to give an all paws up as we celebrate dog paws. So here are some fresh, fascinating facts about your dog's paws we just fetched and thought to share.

dog paws 10

1) Tough & Thick-Skinned 

Think you are thick-skinned? Well, a dog's paws are far more thick skinned than you, literally... Indeed, turns out that the outer surface of a dog's paw pads boast the toughest AND thickest skin in the body.

The foundation of your dog's paws is composed of thick layers of fat and connective tissue and it comprises five, (yes five!) layers of skin.

For dog geeks, the layers include, the following: the deepest layer known as the stratum basale, next, comes the stratum spinosum, followed by the stratum granulosum, the stratum lucidum, and finally, the outermost layer, which is the stratum corneum.

2) Not What You Think

We often compare our dog's paws to our hands and feet, but turns we often confuse some body parts for others. First off, an important clarification: humans are plantigrades, meaning that we walk on the soles of our feet; whereas, dogs are digitigrades, meaning that they walk on their toes.

When we see things from this perspective, we notice that when it comes to anatomy it makes a whole lot of difference. So turns out that those paws don't really correspond to our hands and feet as we might think if we take a look at these illustrations.  At a closer look, we'll notice how the bones that correspond to our wrists and ankles are set much higher than we would think.

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dog corn chip feet

3) That Frito Feet Smell

Did your dog's feet ever made you crave Fritos, popcorn or Doritos? Turns out, the Frito Feet Mystery in dogs has finally been solved! If you're looking for the source of the smell, you should point your finger towards a strain of Gram negative bacteria known as proteus.

Proteus is likely to be held responsible for causing your dog's famous snack food smell, explains  Dr. Robert J. Silver, a Colorado-based veterinarian in an article for the Huffington Post. Do your dog's feet smell too much like Fritos? Here are some tips for dealing with a bad case of dog smelly feet: Dog Frito Feet Treatment.

newfoundland

4) If it Looks Like A Duck...

If your dog's feet look like a ducks'... he's not a duck. Sure there are many dog breeds with webbed feet, but dogs don't have completely webbed feet like ducks, swans or geese do. If dogs really had webbed feet in the same way as ducks, they would have a hard time walking on certain surfaces and would end up "waddling" like a duck.

Sure, most dogs have some skin in between their toes, but this characteristic doesn't make them officially "webbed" in the real sense of the term, just as we aren't considered "webbed" just because we have skin found between the fingers.

While all dogs have some degree of "webbing," it's true though that certain breeds with a history of working in water have more webbing in their paws than others. Here is a list of them: dogs with webbed feet.

dog sweaty paws

5) Clammy Paw Pads

If you have ever noticed your dog leaving humid paw prints on the vet's examination table, you weren't seeing things. Just like humans get clammy hands, dogs may sweat from their paws, especially when they are stressed or nervous. It's a common myth that dogs don't sweat.

Unlike humans though, who tend to sweat profusely from sweat glands distributed over a large percentage of the body, dogs sweat discreetly from a few sweat glands located on their noses and paw pads.

These sweat glands though have a minor role in cooling dogs down, which is why dogs must rely on vaporizing water from their respiratory passages as their primary method to dissipate heat, according to Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology.

carpal pad

6) A Braking Device

If you take a close look as your dog's front legs, you may notice a mysterious pad hanging around the wrist area. Often referred to as "carpal pads" or "stopper pads, " these foot pads on the back of the dog's front legs are not there for decoration. Turns out, they actually have several functions.

One of them, as the name implies, has to do with the dog's ability to stop. When a dog canters, there's a moment when the carpal pad of the front leg touches the ground.

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Paw licking can be a sign of inflamed paws.

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To stop a dog from chewing his feet you will need to address the underlying cause for the itchiness. Without tackling the source of the problem, you risk being perpetually stuck in a chicken-or-egg dilemma, leaving your dog's feet-chewing behavior unresolved. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana shares the underlying causes for dogs chewing their feet and how to stop it.

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What Does Cortisol Do To Dogs?

What does cortisol do to dogs is something that dog owners may be wondering about. Also known as the stress hormone, cortisol plays a vital part of the dog's endocrine system. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana shares why, despite its popular name, this stress hormone does more than simply managing the dog's anxiety levels.

During this time, should the dog turn or stop suddenly, the carpal pad along with the dewclaw provides extra traction, and should the dog stop, they'll work as a braking device, explains veterinarian Chris Zink. Additionally, those stopper pads keep dogs from sliding when walking on steep, slippery slopes and provide an extra cushioning effect when the dog lands after a jump the moment the dog's leg touches the ground.

7) Getting Cold Feet

sleds

Ever wondered how your dog manages to romp happily on the snow without getting cold feet? Well, we must once again thank again those remarkable paws. There are several good reasons why dog feet won't freeze when running on the snow.

One of them is the structure of the dog's feet themselves, the thick skin, along with the thick layers of fat protect them from the cold, but there's more. Dogs have a higher temperature than us (101.5 Fahrenheit), and therefore, their paws are significantly warmer, explain D. Caroline Coile and Margaret H. Bohman in the book "Why do Dogs Like Balls."

Last but not least, several Northern dog breeds have hair between their toes that's snow and ice resistant. The oils in the hairs repel snow, as water and oil don't mix, so they help protect the pads of these pooches' feet. However, consider that paws, albeit tough, are still vulnerable. Dog paws get frostbite too, not to mention damage and cracks from walking on rock salt.

dewclaw dog

8) No Thumb Twiddling

You won't find Rover twiddling his thumbs or sending text messages, but dogs have a structure that is similar to our thumbs. These are called dewclaws and they're found high up the dog's leg. However, depending on the breed of dog, he may or may not have them.

Some breeders remove them when the puppies are very young. While these dewclaws are far from being effective as our opposable thumbs, they do have several functions. Consider that each dewclaw is attached to five tendons, which are each attached to a muscle.

The dewclaws provide support to Rover's lower legs, so when he makes those tight, swift turns as seen in the sport of agility, his legs are prevented from getting twisted or injured, further explains Christine Zink.

As a bonus, those dewclaws help him grasp objects such as toys, bones and sticks so he can chew on them and may come handy when he has to scratch a sudden itch, climb up or remove some foreign item stuck in his teeth!

9) Pooches with Unique Paws

The six toes of the lundenhund

The six toes of the lundehund

Not all dogs paws are created equal. Other than some dog breeds having webbed feet, there are several dogs with unique feet that are worth mentioning. Perhaps the most amazing of all, are the paws of the Lundehund dog breed which sports six toes.

Other remarkable paws are seen in the great Pyrenees dog boasting double dewclaws on the same paw (which by the way are considered part of the breed standard.)

The Akita instead is known for having what are known as "cat feet." According to the American Kennel Club, these feet are neat and round, with high-arched toes closely held together. What's so special about them? These feet require less energy to lift off the ground. Hare feet instead are found in greyhounds. The two centered toes, which are longer than the others, allow them to attain faster speeds.

imprint dog paw

10) A Paw is Forever

Dog paws hold a special place in our hearts. We watch our puppies prance on those paws, we hold them in our hands, and when our dogs are no longer with us, we want to remember those precious paws.

Dog paws are so cherished, that many dog owners decide to make imprints of their dog's paws before saying farewell transforming them into a precious, one-of-a kind keepsake. Several companies now offer keepsakes made of clay or metal so dog owners can immortalize those paws.

Dog paws are amazing, aren't they? Despite being tough, don't forget about them so protect them from being punctured from sharp objects, burnt by hot asphalt and irritated by ice or road salt. Remember to regularly inspect those paws, keep those nails nicely trimmed and keep the feet moisturized when they become cracked and dry. Your dog and his precious paws will thank you!

References:

  • Clinical Anatomy and Physiology for Veterinary Technicians, by Joanna M. Bassert and Thomas P. Colville, Mosby; 2 edition (December 21, 2007)
  • Peak Performance EBook: Coaching the Canine Athlete, Canine Sports Productions, 2011
  • Why Do Dogs Like Balls?: By D. Caroline Coile, Margaret H. Bonham, 2008, Sterling Publishing Co. Inc, NY

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