Paw care is an imperative part of caring for sled dogs. If there is an injury to their pads or nails or they are generally in poor condition they can't run in the team. In fact one of the traits we look for in a good sled dog is great feet!
One of the first things you learn in sled dog care is that dogs come first. Now, this is a bit left field compared to what we are usually told. But with racing the dogs always came first.
The dogs slept first, ate first and the care they received was second to none. It's frowned upon in the mushing community if you put yourself first before the dogs. You look after yourself last.
Dogs when running in certain conditions wear "booties" these help protect their feet. Every time we ran so many miles we would stop and check their feet or change their booties if required. Snowballs are very common in sled dogs. This is when the snow builds up into little balls between their toes. If these are not removed it can cause frost bite or frost nip and cause pain and irritation. Speaking from experience frost nip and frost bite is extremely painful.
When it was time to rest the dogs, their feet were one of the first tasks that needed to be done. Their booties were removed and each paw was massaged with a special blend of oil. This also provided a great opportunity to spend some "special" moments with each dog. It also gave us the opportunity to observe any potential injuries or provide any added care.
To this day I still follow the "dogs first" mantra. Whether it is considered right or wrong it works for me and it has worked for all of the dogs I have had.
Willow is no exception to the 'dogs first" mantra. Her feet are examined a lot. Although there is no risk of frost nip or frost bite her feet still need taking care of.
Some of the more common paw problems we see in our dogs are as below:
- Nail issues
- Dry and cracked paws due (walking on rough surfaces)
- Burns and blisters (due to walking on hot concrete)
- Cuts and abrasions from walking on different terrain
- Grass seeds
The homeopathic remedies that I have used the most with paw issues are hypericum and calendula.
Hypericum (also known as St John's Wort) is Willow's choice when she has hurt her paw or her nails. I used this on Willow when she tore one of her nails off and was in extreme pain. The nails and paws are full of nerve endings so any damage done to these areas is incredibly painful for them. It's like us ripping our toenail off or cutting our foot.
I also use Hypericum in tincture form (concentrated liquid form). I dilute this in water and use it to clean any wounds. It also acts as an anti-septic agent too!
Calendula is also antiseptic and helps to promote healthy skin rejuvenation. It is a great remedy to apply to any cuts or lacerations on the paws. This can also be beneficial for any superficial burns and grazes in this area.
I do find that using the cream form can get a bit messy. With Willow I tend to clean the wound with the diluted hypericum tincture. I then follow up with hypericum and calendula in pill form which works well for us both.
I encourage you all especially over summer to make a note of checking your dog’s paws on a regular basis. Use this time to bond with your dog. Sometimes it is the small things that can make a huge difference in our relationship with our dogs.