Most dogs love a nice neck or back massage, but the paws are often a neglected part of their body. It’s mostly because many dogs don’t enjoy having their paws touched. However, the health of the paws is crucial to proper movement and comfort. There can’t be proper and well-balanced movement if there is pain and discomfort anywhere in the paw area (nails, paw pads, digits).
First, let’s assess the paw:
- Are the nails properly trimmed? (this is imperative not just for dogs but cats and small pets as well), are they all similar length and shape? Are there any cracks?
Dogs walk on their toes and if the nails are long they adapt unhealthy posture and movement to compensate for the long nails. Imagine having long toe nails and trying to walk in high heels…OUCH!
- Check the paw pads, are there any cracks, cuts, abrasions?
- check in between digits for foreign body (fox tail, ticks, gum, gravel) and for fur discoloration (could suggest licking due to allergies, yeast or bacterial overgrowth, injury and/or pain).
- For dogs who spend a lot of time on hardwood floors or older dogs, it’s beneficial to shave the fur between paw pads to prevent slipping. This will help prevent muscular injury, keep the joint stable and allow the dog to move around with more confidence. Research has also shown that young dogs who slip are more likely to develop hip dysplasia (Canine Arthritis)
- From a TCM perspective paws are where a lot of acupoints are located and where meridian lines end.
- Reflexology stipulates that various internal organs are reflected in hands and feet (in this case paws).
- From an energetic perspective, the paws contain bud charkas through which the dog ground and connects with the earth’s magnetic field.
Even if we’re not familiar with these systems bringing our intention and touch to the area will help to stimulate and balance; since the goal of every living organism is to maintain (or regain) a state of homeostasis (balance) our gentle nudge may go a long way in assisting it in doing so.
And now let’s massage those paws!
- Start with gentle compressions of the paw
- Massage each paw pad with small circular movements
- Take each digit through range of motion (flexion and extension)
- Take the paw through gentle range of motion
- Finish with gently massaging the top and bottom of the paw and gentle compressions.
Remember, no gripping or tugging! Slowly you will be able to do longer sessions, and your dog will enjoy it more if they have control over when and how long the sessions last.