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Your pet uses their paws daily to walk, run, and play. Taking proper care of their paws is integral to their overall health and wellness. Just like human feet, cat and dog paws allow for movement, provide protection, and help them maintain balance.
Every day, your dog or cat's paws are exposed to hazards like sharp objects, extreme temperatures, and rough terrains. Proper maintenance can prevent injuries, burns, and infection while ensuring your pet can maintain their mobility.1 At the same time, a pawdicure can protect humans and other animals. For instance, your cat kneading a blanket is cute, but it can be painful if they knead you with untrimmed claws.
The best way to care for your paws is with a pawdicure, a grooming process that focuses on the paws and nails. Keep reading to learn more about pet pawdicures and how to care for your pet's paws.
- What Is A Pawdicure?
- When Does My Pet Need A Pawdicure?
- What To Include In Your Pawdicure Kit
- How To Give Your Pet An At-Home Pawdicure
- Businesses That Offer Pawdicures
- Pawdicure: Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Notes
What Is A Pawdicure?
A pawdicure is a grooming procedure focused on caring for and maintaining the pet's paws, including the nails. Like a human manicure or pedicure, a pawdicure involves various treatments to keep their paws clean, healthy, and comfortable to support mobility and ensure your pet's overall well-being.
Typically included in a complete pawdicure service include:
- Nail trimming: It's a common misconception that cats scratch to keep their nails short. They actually stretch to shed their outer nail sheaths, mark their territory, stretch, and relieve stress. Scratching can sharpen the nails, making nail trims crucial. Nail trims are the most basic and essential part of a pawdicure. Keeping your pet's nails short prevents them from overgrowing, which can cause discomfort, mobility issues, and even injury. For instance, the nail can curl under into the paw pad, causing pain and infection.2 Long nails can also lead to a different posture, which can lead to joint issues.
- Nail filing: Nail filing occurs after trimming and is usually only for dogs because their nails remain fairly sharp after a trim. The nail file or dremel nail grinder will smooth the rough edges to make your pet more comfortable while ensuring they don't scratch themselves or others.
- Paw pad care: Paw pad care involves checking the pads for cats and dogs for cracks, cuts, dryness, foreign objects, and any other issues. Moisturizers can be applied to prevent or treat dry or cracked paw pads. However, if your dog has cracked paws, we recommend contacting your vet for medication to prevent infection. Keep in mind that anything you put on your pet's paws should be pet-safe since they may lick their paws afterward.
- Paw hair trimming: Some breeds have hair that grows long between paw pads. If this fur isn't trimmed, it can get matted or lead to a buildup of dirt that can cause skin issues. Trimming this hair ensures your pet's comfort, allowing them to walk comfortably.
When Does My Pet Need A Pawdicure?
How often a dog or cat needs a pawdicure primarily depends on their individual needs and lifestyle. Some signs your pet needs a pawdicure include:
- Overgrown nails: If you can hear your pet's nails clicking on the pavement during walks or hardwood floors inside, it's time for a trim. A dog's nails should barely touch the ground when standing on a flat surface. On the other hand, you should trim your cat's nails before they come to a sharp point. In general, you should avoid overgrown nails as best you can by trimming them every few weeks. By checking your dog or cat's nails regularly, you can determine the right nail trimming schedule for them.
- Torn or split nails: Torn and split nails can be incredibly painful for pets and lead to infections. A pawdicure can address the damage by trimming away and smoothing the affected nail. Keep in mind that if your cat or dog is already showing signs of an infection, you should take them to the vet for treatment.
- Paw pad dryness, cracking, and debris: Regularly check your dog and cat's paw pads. If you notice any issues, such as dryness, cracking, or debris stuck in them, a pawdicure can help clean and moisturize them. However, some paw pad conditions, such as infections, burns, and growths, should be treated by a vet. If your dog is chewing on their paws, it may indicate a skin issue. Contact your veterinarian for the next steps.
- Tangled or matted fur: Breeds with longer hair can become tangled or matted around the paws, trapping dirt or debris and leading to discomfort and skin issues. A pawdicure prevents this by allowing you to trim away the hair before it becomes matted or tangled.
- If they have an active lifestyle: If your pet has an active lifestyle and is always playing, hiking, running, or jumping, their nails may undergo more wear and tear. Walking on pavement and sidewalks can help file down the nails to keep them short between trims. However, the more your dog uses their paws, the more likely they will wear them. The same is true for cats, even though they primarily live an indoor lifestyle.
- For regular maintenance: You should routinely check your pet's paws after long walks, during hot or cold weather, and after hiking. As a general guideline, check their nails every two weeks or so to determine if they need a trim.
What To Include In Your Pawdicure Kit
Preparing for a pet pawdicure is essential for a smooth and stress-free grooming experience for you and your pet. By ensuring you have all the necessary supplies before you begin, you can complete the pawdicure quickly, drastically reducing your pet's anxiety. Here are a few items to include in your pawdicure kit:
- Nail clippers: Choose a pair of high-quality pet nail clippers designed for pets. You can choose the guillotine or scissor style, depending on your preferences and pet size. The guillotine style typically works better on cats.2
- Styptic powder: Having styptic powder available is crucial in case you accidentally cut the quick of the nail. It will stop the bleeding and help you and your pet stay calm if mistakes happen.
- Nail file: Using a nail file on your dog's nails can help smooth rough edges after clipping to prevent nails from snagging on furniture or carpets.
- Paw balm: A paw balm moisturizes the paws and protects them from getting dry and cracked, especially during extreme weather.
- Cotton pads: Cotton pads are good to have on hand for cleaning your pet’s paws.
- Pet grooming wipes: Grooming wipes make cleaning the area easy. You can use them after every walk to remove dirt or debris and clean between the toes.
- Treats: Having treats during a pawdicure can help your pet have a more positive experience, helping them stay calm the next time you have to trim their nails. Treats can also be a good distraction that allow you to accomplish everything you need to do.
- Towel: Towels can keep your pet comfortable during a pawdicure and be used to wipe their paws.
- Paw fur trimmer: A paw fur trimmer can help trim longer hair between the paw pads to prevent matting and tangling.
Always use pet-specific grooming tools and products, as human products may contain ingredients harmful to pets.
How To Give Your Pet An At-Home Pawdicure
Giving your pet an at-home pawdicure can be a great way to maintain their paw health between grooming sessions with a professional. It's also ideal for dogs that may experience anxiety at the vet or groomer. However, learning the proper techniques is essential because it ensures you use the appropriate tools and avoid injuring your pet.
As a general rule, always make sure your pet is calm and comfortable before starting. Some pets may not like their paws touched, making the process even more complicated. You want your pet calm to ensure their safety and your own during the pawdicure. A stressed or anxious pet may fidget. In addition, a stressful experience is more likely to make them wary of future pawdicures.
You can gradually prepare your pet for the pawdicure process by using positive reinforcement and taking it one step at a time. Unfortunately, every pet is different. If your dog runs when they see the clippers, you'll need to start by getting them comfortable around the clippers before trying to trim their nails.
Don't be afraid to stop the pet pawdicure if your pet is experiencing distress or discomfort.
Use these general steps to guide your pet pawdicure process:
1. Inspect their paws
Before beginning, always inspect your dog or cat's paws to look for signs of cracks, dryness, infection, debris, dirt, and tangled and matted fur. If you notice redness and inflammation, it's always a good idea to consult your vet because it could mean your pet is suffering from an infection and pain.
You'll want to treat your pet's paw condition before continuing with the pawdicure. Luckily, your vet can help treat paw issues like broken nails, cracked paw pads, and dermatitis. If they notice signs of infection, they might use topical medications like Animax Ointment to help them heal.
You should inspect your pet's paws regularly. However, since dogs spend more time outside, you should inspect their paws more often than a cat's, especially if your dog has recently walked on hot pavement or ice, snow, and salt. You can prevent paw issues due to extreme weather by investing in good dog boots for walks.
2. Clean the paws
Once you've determined that your pet's paws are healthy, you can use a damp cloth or paw cleaning cloths to remove dirt and debris. Make sure to wipe between the toes where dirt can accumulate over time. For more stubborn dirt, use a pet-specific soap like a shampoo with lukewarm water and rinse and pat dry.
3. Trim the nails
Once the pet's paws are fully dry, you can trim their nails. For this part of the process, it might help to have a helper with you who can give the dog or cat treats to distract and reward them or keep them calm.
Begin by holding your pet's paw firmly but gently. Then, using your chosen pet nail clippers, you can trim the nail below the quick – the vein that runs into the nail. In light-colored nails, the quick is pinkish and easily visible. However, in dark nails, the quick is harder to detect, so don't go too short too quickly.
4. Trim excess fur around the paws
If your pet has long fur around their paws, you can use a pet-specific paw fur trimmer or scissors with rounded tips to trim the hair between the paw pads carefully. Keeping this fur short can prevent matting and reduce the amount of dirt or debris that might get trapped.
You may also choose to trim the long fur around the sides of the paws to neaten their appearance and prevent matting and tangling.
5. Moisturize the paws if needed
Inspect your pet's paws for cracks or dryness. If you notice any issues, you can apply a paw balm or moisturizer to hydrate and protect the paw pads, which can be especially beneficial for dogs who walk on hot pavement, snow, ice, and salt.
Ensure the moisturizer is fully absorbed or remove the excess to prevent them from slipping. Keep in mind that your pet will probably lick their paws, so the moisturizer should be pet-safe and created for paw pads.
Businesses That Offer Pawdicures
If you're unsure about handling a pawdicure yourself, it's always best to seek the help of a professional to ensure the procedure is safe. This can be especially beneficial for pets with dark-colored nails where the quick isn't visible. Some businesses that might offer pawdicures include:
- Veterinary clinics and animal hospitals
- Pet grooming salons and spas
- Pet boarding facilities and daycares
- Pet stores
- Mobile pet groomers
Pawdicure: Frequently Asked Questions
Are pawdicures safe?
When done correctly and with proper care, pawdicures are safe and necessary for your pet's health. Always use pet-specific products to ensure your pet's safety when performing a pawdicure at home, and avoid cutting the quick. You should always monitor your pet and reward them for good behavior while making the experience more positive for them.
If you're wary about performing a pet pawdicure at home, you're not alone. Many pet parents prefer a professional to trim their dog or cat's nails. Most veterinary offices provide nail trim services, but you can also take your pet to a groomer.
Consult a vet for guidance if you're worried about specific nail or paw issues.
Is it safe to use a nail file on pets?
Nail files are typically for dogs and allow you to smooth the rough edges that occur after nail trims. Many pet parents also use dremels or nail files regularly to prevent their dog's nails from growing out. Keep in mind that some dogs don't like their paws touched, so a nail trim without the file may be best, depending on how they do with the rest of the pawdicure procedure.
If you're unsure how to file your pet's nails, always talk to a professional groomer or vet.
Pawdicures are essential for both cats and dogs because they maintain overall paw health. Regular nail trimming can prevent overgrowth that causes discomfort, mobility issues, and injury. At the same time, cleaning the paws and trimming the fur around them reduces dirt accumulation and prevents uncomfortable matting, while moisturizing the paw pads prevents dryness and cracking that can lead to bleeding and infection.
A proper pawdicure ensures your pet's physical well-being and contributes to their comfort and happiness. Talk to a Dutch vet today about paw health. We can help guide you through the pawdicure process while diagnosing and treating various paw issues to protect your pet. Try Dutch today.
"Keeping Dogs' Paws Healthy." AKC Canine Health Foundation | Keeping Dogs' Paws Healthy, https://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/your-dogs-health/caring-for-your-dog/keeping-dogs-paws-healthy.html.
"The Importance of a Peticure." VMBS News, 11 Mar. 2022, https://vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk/the-importance-of-a-peticure/