Taking your dog on the trail with you, whether on your regular fishing trip or simply to hike or backpack, requires some knowledge of canine foot health. This is especially true if you have a large dog that you can't easily carry out on your own. The following tips can help you keep your pooch's feet healthy for the duration of your journey.
Tip #1: Protect the pad
Dogs have tough feet, but they aren't impervious. You need to take extra precautions, especially if the trail conditions are rough, rocky, or covered in snow or ice. Dog booties are designed to protect the paws from these dangers, although not all dogs like them. Another option is to use a non-toxic vegetable wax to wax the paw pads and provide protection. This works especially well in snow and ice. Your veterinarian can recommend a soft wax for this use.
Tip #2: Check regularly
Catching injury or irritation early is also an integral part of on trail paw health. At every break, take a few minutes to check your dog's paws. Remove anything that may have gotten stuck to the fur between the toes, such as sticks, grit, or small rocks. These will lead to irritation and injury over time. Also, look for the beginning signs of injury, such as raw areas, small cuts, or tenderness. It may be time to take a break or head back if there appears to be an injury forming.
Tip #3: Learn some minor first aid
There are three injuries common on the trail – broken nail, small abrasions, and chafed foot pad. Carrying clippers and knowing how to use them can allow you to fix a broken, hanging nail before it tears and hurts your dog. You should also have a pet-safe antibiotic cream and a self-adhering strip of gauze in your first aid kit to allow you to treat minor cuts and scrapes. Finally, ask your vet for a cream to help relieve dry or chafed paw pads. This alone can give some dogs relief while combining it with a gauze dressing can help your dog feel more foot comfort as they hike out if they are badly chafed or irritated.
For more help, talk to your vet about your dog's paw health. They can show you how to treat on-trail emergencies and help assess your dog's overall health to make sure they are ready for longer hikes.