The Ultimate Guide to Care of the Aging Canine Foot
Dr Alison Moran,
BVSC (Hons1) MANZCVS (Med) GradDipAnimalChiro IVAS graduate (almost), Mona Vale Vet Hospital
You can make a big difference to your old friend’s everyday comfort through some simple foot care.
Reduce the slip
Look at the underside of your pal’s foot – is there a lot of feathery hair growing from between the foot pads? Trim it back and keep it short. Most of us have tiles and wooden floorboards these days. Those foot pads have no chance of giving your friend foot purchase if they have to walk on those slippery feathers.
Sprays such as “Show Foot” applied to the feet pads can reduce the amount of slip as well.
Trim those nails regularly
Try this – tie a plank of wood that is half again as long as your foot to your shoe and walk around. Can you feel how much your calf muscles are working? Ouch! This is kind of what it’s like to walk around with really long toe nails (if you are a dog).
Many elderly dogs have got really long nail beds (quicks) – meaning their nails cant be cut as short as they should. Dr Al can help with this, with time, the quicks can become shorter and the nails therefore be cut shorter.
Dr Al can teach you how to do this at home with the right equipment. Come in and ask us about our Doggy Podiatary service.
Just as our feet ache after standing on them for a long time – so do your old friends feet. You can make a huge difference to your pal’s mobility every day. Every time you relax together, reach for the feet and give them a massage. This should not hurt – if you find they are painful then you need to ask us about this next time you are in, your friend might have some arthritis or other disease going on that we need to help you manage.
Gently pull on the toes – don’t squeeze like you are milking them – just gently grasp each toe above the nail and slowly pull them. Hold the upper part of the paw with your other hand to stabilise it.
Get a firm ball – ping pong ball or golf ball would be good for a smaller dog, cricket ball for a Great Dane. Hold the ball on the underside of your dogs’ foot and gently bend the toes over the ball. Hold it for a minute or so. Try rolling the ball around gently at the same time. Think about it – every time your dog stands and walks, their toes are stretched out. The ball stretch will stetch the toes in the opposite direction – a lovely stretch for them.
Dr Al can help your friends mobility and comfort with more specialised techniques, she can also teach you how to do some more techniques at home.
A gentle workout for the feet
Consider the ground your dog is walking on. Its actually good for the feet to walk on all different kinds of ground – bark chips, grass, dirt, road. Its even useful to go walking on uneven ground surfaces eg bushland with lots of tree roots. Walking on lead in the sand can also be a really nice exercise for the toes, strengthening them and keeping them healthy.
Limit the damage
Your dogs’ feet have a time limit – invest in the future foot health of your furry friend. This should start from day ONE!
Keep your friend’s body weight down – studies have shown that for every 1kg extra of weight that a dog carries, this is equivalent to FIVE TIMES that amount going through those little joints. Dogs naturally carry about 65% of their body weight on the front legs, so its often those feet that get the most damaged with time.
Don’t let your dog jump down repeatedly from any height taller than their head. Couch dwellers and bed dwellers beware! Think about providing a simple step for your friend and teach them to jump onto the step before they jump onto the floor. Consider the car your friend jumps out of – if its high – then cable tie a couple of milkcrates together and keep them in the back of your car – a simple step for them to use.
Trim the nails, and any hair underneath that grows over the foot pads – do this regularly.
NO SCOOBY DOO’s!
If you have slippery floor surfaces, try to limit the amount of sliding and slipping your dog does. Even from a young age, these uncontrolled movements can be potentially damaging. Our elderly friends can actually get quite anxious with slippery floor surfaces. Consider getting toe grips or special boots to reduce the slip – you don’t have to carpet the house. Dr Al can help you with advice on footwear.