You see them every day, and perhaps haven’t given them much thought–but what’s up with your dog’s paws? For starters, there are all sorts of different types: big and small, webbed, wide, and dainty, and there are reasons why certain traits belong to certain breeds.
Here are 8 fun facts about your dog’s furry feet, ranging from why they don’t need shoes (usually) to the source of that corn chip smell. High-fours to learning!
8. Dog paws are made up of five parts
The claws, the digital pads (the toes), the metacarpal pad (the pad in the middle), the dewclaw and the carpal pad (the pad farthest back). The digital and metacarpal pads protect the bones and joints of a dog’s foot by acting as shock absorbers, and the carpal pad acts as a rear brake helping dogs – particularly adventure seekers – navigate steep or slippery slopes and surfaces.
7. Dogs sweat through their paws
The inner layer of skin on a dog’s paw contains sweat glands – these transport perspiration to the outer layer, cooling the hot dog down as well as preventing the pads from drying out. And like humans, if a dog is nervous or stressed their paws will also exude moisture.
6. All dog paws are different!
Despite all dog paws being made up of five parts, there are still different styles of doggy feet. Dogs such as Bull Terriers, Old English Sheepdogs, and Akitas have ‘cat feet’. This shape of paw has a short third digital bone leaving the paw more compact like cats – it requires less energy to lift and in turn, increases the dog’s endurance. ‘Hare feet’ which have noticeably longer middle toes, enable faster running and can be found on breeds such as Greyhounds, Samoyeds, and Bedlington Terriers. Dogs that are native to some of the coldest countries in the world, such as the St. Bernard, have far wider paws than those of the same size and build. Their larger pads allow them to grip and walk safely on snow and ice.
5. The cold never bothered dogs
Ever wondered why your dog isn’t bothered by the snow? It’s because the pads of a dog’s paw have a thick layer of fatty tissue that protects them in cold weather. As the pads get cold, the cooler blood gets sent along the arteries back into the body to get warmed up.
4. Dogs are digitigrade animals
These means that unlike humans, dog’s digits will take on most of their weight when they walk, not their heels. This is why it’s so important to practice good paw care! Most dogs have 5 digits, digit 1 is the dewclaw, digit 2 is the index toe and so on.
3. Most dog paws have a distinct smell
We often refer to this as “Frito feet” or “popcorn feet”. The smell is actually due to bacteria on their paws that they pick up when walking. This bacteria mixed with sweaty paws gives off a yeasty smell similar to corn chips! Overly stinky paws and paws that are red and irritated are not normal and can mean that an infection is present so it’s best to have those checked out by your veterinarian!
2. Dogs have thumbs
Well, not exactly – but a dog’s dewclaw is thought to be the equivalent of a human thumb! The majority of canines have dewclaws on their front legs, however, some breeds also have them on their hind legs. Made up of bone and muscle – dewclaws are not essential to domestic dogs although some will use them to provide a firmer grip on something they are chewing.
1. Dogs use their paws as stress balls
If your dog begins to lick or chew their feet excessively, this could be a sign that your furry friend is feeling stressed. Excessive licking or chewing can result in your dog’s paws becoming infected and a visit to the vets may be needed.