Possibly the underdog of our canine companions’ much-loved features – dog paws are fascinating pieces of anatomy and not to be sniffed at! Read our favourite facts about Fido’s feet.
1. 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.
2. Dog paws are weatherproof
The pads have a thick layer of fatty tissue that protects our furry friends’ feet from freezing in cold temperatures. When the pad gets cold, the arteries within the foot transfer the cold blood back to the body where it is then warmed up. This fascinating bodily process has led scientists to believe that our canine companions first evolved in colder climates.
3. But are sensitive to heat!
Hot surfaces, such as pavements, can cause dog’s feet to blister and burn so be careful when walking your pooch during the summer months.
4. Dogs walk on their toes
Man’s best friend is a digitigrade animal – unlike humans who take most of our weight on our heels, dogs take their weight on their toes meaning their toe bones are very important.
5. 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. Dog paws can smell like popcorn
If you’ve ever noticed your dog’s paws smelling like popcorn or corn chips, it’s likely they have ‘Frito Feet’. As our canine companions feet are always in contact with the ground, they naturally pick up lots of microorganisms and when dogs sweat, the combination of bacteria and moisture creates a salty snack-like smell.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. Some dogs have webbed feet
Dogs that are renowned for their swimming ability, such as Newfoundlands and Portuguese Water Dogs, have webbed feet for help push themselves through the water. Dachshunds also have webbed feet – and although their original purpose was to hunt and dig out small game, these unlikely looking dogs love to swim but should always be supervised.
10. 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 a 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.