There’s so much to love about a dog: those big brown eyes (unless, of course, they’re blue, or green, or somewhere in between), the ears that turn towards you when you call his or her name (we hope), that fur which just seems so tantalizing when you run your hand through it, and those paws. Paws?
Other than those cute moments when your dog reaches up to “give me your paw,” and the torment you bestow on your best-beloved when their nails have to be cut, we don’t usually give much attention to this miraculous tip at the end of the dogs four appendages.
Whether gi-normous or tiny, goofus-like or dainty, sensitive or not, a dog’s trotters are a fascinating study in anatomy and adaptation.
Consider the following:
1. Sweat glands within the inner layer of skin on the paw provide perspiration, which helps cool dogs and keep their pads from getting too dry. In reverse, paws also exude moisture when a dog gets anxious, nervous or is under stress. So, just like us, dogs can get “sweaty palms.”
2. The pads of most dogs are sensitive enough to distinguish among various types of terrain.
3. Dog’s toes are equivalent to our fingers and toes, although they are unable to move each toe independently or wiggle them (or use them to express our extreme irritation with bad drivers). Dogs are digitigrade animals. This fancy word (remember it in case you get on Jeopardy), means their digits — not their heels — take most of their weight when they walk.
4. The pads also offer protection when walking on rough terrain. Dogs that are outside a lot and exposed to rough surfaces have thicker, rougher paw skin; dogs that stay in more and walk on smoother surfaces have softer pads.
5. The Newfoundlands have the longest toes of all breeds. Labrador retrievers also have large paws which, like the Newfoundland, are webbed, making both breeds excellent swimmers. Other breeds with webbed feet include the Chesapeake Bay retriever, Portuguese water dog, field Spaniel and German wirehaired pointer.
6. Breeds from cold climates, also tend to have exceptionally large paws, providing them with greater surface areas. These big, floppy paws help the dogs tread more easily and rapidly on snow and ice.
7. While many dogs resist having their paws touched, if you start massaging your pups’ paws from an early age, he/she will soon love it. Just as many people report enjoying having their hands massaged, so does your dog. According to the ASPCA, a paw massage will relax your dog and promote better circulation. They recommend rubbing between the pads on the bottom of the paw, and then rubbing between each toe.
8. Some breeds have something called “cat feet.” Their paws have a short third digital bone, resulting in a compact feline-like foot. Anatomists have demonstrated that this design uses less energy to lift and, subsequently, increases the dog’s endurance. The name probably came about based on the dog paws similarity to cats’ feet prints, which are round and compact. The following breeds all have “cat feet”: Airedale terrier, Akita, bull terrier, Doberman pinscher, Finnish spitz, giant schnauzer, kuvasz, Newfoundland, keeshond, and the old English sheepdog all have cat feet. (Meow….)
9. A dog’s paw pads act like shock absorbers, helping to protect the bones and joints in the foot. The carpal pads (those are the ones toward the back of the paw) work like brakes, of sorts, and help the dog navigate slippery or steep slopes.
10. The exact etymology for the word “paw” may have derived from the Gallo-Roman root form “pauta,” which evolved in the late 14th century as the Old French word “patin.” Patin means clog, which is a type of shoe.
OK, I’ve said enough and will PAWS for now . . .
But, for your further edification!
Click on: Anatomy of Dog Paws [Courtesy of eHow.com]
or watch this video: Dog Paw Health Problems [Courtesy of eHow.com]