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Paws and claws are commonly injured in all species. Dogs, the trauma will happen when they are out on a walk. Cats, the trauma normally happens through fighting, as a lot of injuries happen on cats, it is through cat fights when they are outdoors. The nails are just made of keratin, they are very weak in some of these animals so they will break quite easily. You do not need a lot of pressure for that to happen. The worst thing is when they partially break and they do not fall off completely, because then that is painful for the animal and that is when they need to be seen quite urgently by a vet so that we can safely remove that nail and potentially bandage the foot if it needs bandaging because of bleeding from the broken nail as well.

You can get infections of paws and of claws as well. That can be from the dog. If you have a dog with an allergy, a skin allergy, they will lick their paws a lot because it is a very accessible place for them to get to and it is quite comforting for them to do that. So they then introduce the infection to the skin or to the claw because of the licking and probably because they have bacteria in their mouth, maybe because they have a dental disease as well, so they are introducing that infection.

You may find swelling of the foot when that happens, or they may just be very sensitive, they may be lame and not even want to weight bear on that foot if it is really infected and really inflamed. There may also be a smell coming from that foot and that might be the first trigger that you get that something has happened.

In the summer we find a lot of grass seed injuries to the foot. Sometimes they will present with a little puncture wound where you can see that the grass seed has gone in. That is handy if that happens, but a lot of the time the owner is unaware that the grass seed has entered the foot and by the time they become lame on it and uncomfortable, or by the time they come to the vet, the grass seed may have emigrated further up the leg and the swelling may not be on the foot anymore but that is where you are going to need to go to get that grass seed back out again.

The other things that we can get are tumours of the foot, or particularly the claw. In cats, they will have tumours of their toes, of their claws, normally secondary to another tumour that is happening somewhere else in their body. So if you do get a lump on a foot, it is always worth investigating because it may be quite serious. It could just be a foreign body that has gone in there or an infection, that would be most common for that to happen, but do not hang around and leave those things waiting because it is potentially something quite serious.

In summer when the floor gets very hot, you should never walk your dog or let your cat out on a surface that you yourself cannot put your hand safely down without it being too hot. The pads are very sensitive, they will get hot, they can get burnt and that can be a very serious condition to then treat. The skin on top of that pad or over the rest of the foot can slough off after burning and that dog will then become lame and cannot use that foot properly. So it is really important that they do not contact really hot surfaces. The opposite of that is very cold surfaces or snow and if they are outside playing in the snow they will love it, but most dogs won't realize that they are getting the snow trapped between their claws, especially the really long-haired dogs, German Shepherds, for example, Golden Retrievers, and they get blocks of that snow caught between the fur and between their toes, so even once they have come inside, it is still acting and causing frostbite to their feet.

If you live somewhere or you are having a week where you know there is a lot of snow and your dog does have really hairy feet, you may want to look at clipping out some of that fur so that the snow cannot attach quite so tightly to the foot. That would also be the case in the summer with things like grass seeds because if you have not got all that fur there then the seeds are not going to get caught in the fur and then enter the skin and cause those grass seed injuries.

If you do find that you have got clumps of snow in your dog's feet, the best thing is to try and remove them gently with some warm compress to try and melt the snow and pull them out. If it is a big block of snow or ice that is quite hard you may even want to just cut the fur around that and cut the block out with it because it could take some time to warm them up. And then once you have got that out, you do just want to very slowly warm the feet up, you do not want to go from a very cold to a very hot situation quickly, because the dog's body could then go into shock if it is going from an extreme... One extreme temperature to the other.