Speaking of Pets: Why it’s important to take care of your dog’s foot health

By Joan Merriam
Speaking of Pets

As a responsible pet caretaker, you should be familiar with your dog’s feet for many reasons.

Note the fur between the toes and the long nails in this picture: both can cause pain for your pet.
Special to the Daily

Furry Toes

You may think the fur on and between your dogs toes is sweet, but it can be a problem.

In the winter, that fur attracts and holds frozen snow (commonly known as “fur balls”), which if your dog walks for very long, can be extremely painful.

In other seasons, furry toes can be a great place for stickers to hide—and some of them, like foxtails, can work their way into the skin and beyond.

Support Local Journalism

Unless you take your pup to a groomer regularly, make a habit of trimming that fur on top of your dog’s feet and between its toes.


Probably the biggest mistake owners make is not keeping their dog’s nails trimmed. The easiest ways to tell if your pup’s nails are too long is if you hear clicking when it walks across wood or tile floor. Long nails can be painful, and can lead to deformed feet and injured tendons; they’re also more susceptible to injury and trauma if they snag on branches, obstructions, or carpet and fabric.

The best type of nail trimmer is called “guillotine” cutter, but you can also use a grinder made specifically for shortening your dog’s nails. No matter the type of trimmer, you need to avoid cutting into the nail’s quick, which is the dark blood vessel and nerve inside the nail. Since the quick grows with the nail, if you’ve let the nails grow too long, you’ll need to cut them gradually to force them to recede. It’s very painful if you cut the quick, so be careful.

If you’re squeamish about trimming your pup’s nails, take them to a reputable groomer, who can do it for a small fee.

Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever Joey and Maine coon cat Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at

Support Local Journalism