The foundation of a functional rabbit dog lies in the paws. Although paws may seem pretty tough, that does not mean they don't require upkeep to remain in tiptop shape. After all, it takes healthy paws for rabbit dogs to be able to do their job and a serious paw injury can result in them being laid up for quite some time. Here are some tips for giving your rabbit dog's paws the best care possible:
Inspect paws regularly for any injury or trapped debris. Whether it is a walk around the neighborhood or a jaunt through the hunt field, paws should be checked daily after any kind of activity. Although some dogs may limp or try to lick at an injured paw, sometimes their behavior will be normal despite the fact that trouble is brewing. It could be that a small splinter or piece of debris is wedged between pads that could eventually lead to an abscess if left unattended, but the discomfort is not yet enough to show physical signs. However, a quick paw check will cause you to find and remove it before it becomes a serious issue, which is all the more reason to always take a peek.
As we discussed in a previous article, nail trimming is another very important part of paw car. Long nails can cause excess pressure on joints that can become very painful and alter the stance of rabbit dogs. Additionally, nails that grow too long can snag and become caught, resulting in a painful injury especially if the dog in question panics and pulls relentlessly rather than waiting for help to come along and free them. Trimming nails leaves less to snag, maintains ideal posture, and at the same time helps protect paws.
Paw pads are pretty hardy, but that doesn't mean they won't crack and even bleed at times. In fact, pads can actually dry out and require moisturizing to bring them back to health. Check paws regularly and if dryness is apparent, pick up some moisturizer that is specially designed for paws. Rub this in thoroughly as per the instructions, taking care to get all areas of the pads including between the toes.
Although the warm weather seasons are fading for most areas of the United States, it is still possible that paws can be burned on hot surfaces. Asphalt, for example, attract and hold heat that can burn paws and cause blistering. Surfaces such as this should be avoided in favor of more comfortable walking areas like grass. On the flipside, cold can also be damaging to paws. Cold air sometimes has a drying effect on paws that may require moisturizing. Another potential problem is chemicals that are used to de-ice roads and driveways, which can be toxic if allowed to get and remain on paws. Then there is the danger of too much ice and cold on paws during a long day in the field, making it worthwhile to consider adding boots or using Vaseline for protection from debris as well as prolonged exposure to the elements.
Despite our best intentions, sometimes a paw injury may still happen. Injuries that are severe may require vet care, but minor injuries can often be treated at home. If you notice a minor paw injury, a good place to start is with an antibacterial soap wash to clear away any drainage or debris. Once the paw is clean, dry it gently. You can then apply anti-bacterial ointment and loosely wrap with gauze and Vetwrap for protection while it heals, but take care to continue cleaning it and change bandages regularly. Do keep in mind that dogs will likely try to lick injured paws and chew at bandages so a cone that restricts movement may be required to allow the injured paw to heal.
Keeping the paws of your rabbit dogs healthy will go a long way toward ensuring their ability to function as a part of your rabbit hunting team. Think back to how uncomfortable it was the last time you injured your foot by stubbing a toe or stepping on a sharp object while barefoot; just as you do not want to be in that constant discomfort, neither do your rabbit dogs. Protect those paws in advance, but also be prepared to care for injury when it strikes and both you and your rabbit dogs will have many successful hunting days to come.
What type of paw injuries have your rabbit dogs had? How did you go about treating them? Share your story in the comments.