Keeping your Kerry in good health also includes keeping their feet in good condition. First, it's important to keep the hair between the foot pads trimmed neatly as long hair can mat together potentially leading to open sores and pressure wounds. Hair left too long can also collect foreign material like burrs, snow, and chemical de-icers that can cause injuries to the foot.
In addition to keeping the hair properly maintained, the nails need to be kept trimmed too. Allowing your dog's nails to become too long can lead to them curling under and piercing the pads and can make it easier for the nail to catch and tear. Long nails can also cause the toes to stretch apart, possibly disfiguring the foot, and splaying of the feet which inhibits proper traction and can lead to other injuries. Don't forget the dew claws, for those who have them.
An indication that the nails are in need of a trim is if they touch the floor when the dog is standing on a hard surface. Leaving the nails too long between trimming will also allow the quick (the inner, fleshy part of the nail, with nerve and blood supply) to grow out, increasing the chances of cutting the quick with the next trim which is very painful and distressing for your dog and can lead to profuse bleeding.
As Kerries typically have black nails it can be hard to determine where the quick is. Err on the side of caution, its better to cut not enough than too much. Clip off the tip even if they are long and repeat the process in a week or so; keep snipping the ends and as you cut the nails regularly the quick will recede. Many people also like to use a dremel file or something similar. With these you can take off just a little of the nail at a time and the nail end is smoother, lessening the chances of having hitches in the nail. If you accidently cut the quick use a styptic pencil or powder, corn starch will work in a pinch. Hold pressure to the end of the nail until the bleeding stops.You should also check your dogs' feet regularly. Just like checking ears, eyes, teeth/mouth, and body condition, checking the feet will help you catch issues before they become more serious.
Think about what your dog's feet go through in a day! He or she is prone to punctures, scrapes, and any number of foreign bodies. Chemicals such as fertilizer and de-icers can also cause irritation to the feet, not to mention ingestion through licking.
As we all know, Kerries have hair that grows between the pads of their feet. If walking in the winter without any protection, snow and ice can build up between the pads, causing pain and injuries to the foot. If an ice ball is left between the pads it can also impede blood flow to the foot and toes, potentially leading to long term disabilities. Keeping the hair neatly trimmed is good practice, putting fleece booties on is also helpful.
You don't need anything fancy; I use very simple fleece booties that I buy from a dog sledding supply store. Using booties also protects your dogs' feet from salt and chemical de-icers which are very irritating to the foot pads and can cause cracking, burning and pain, as well as possibly being toxic with ingestion. If you don't use booties be sure to rinse your dogs' feet well after being outside.
We don't always think about protecting our dogs' feet in the summer, but in the summer heat pavement and sand can be hot enough to burn the pads. Be sure that your dog has a cool surface to walk on.
Never force your dog to walk on hot pavement or sand, make sure there is grass or something cool for them to walk on. Burned pads might not be obvious to see but some signs include limping or refusing to walk, licking or chewing at the feet, pads that appear darker in color than usual, or pads where there may be part of the pad missing in extreme burns, blisters or redness.
If you do notice a burn on the pad of the foot, flush with cool water or a cool compress and get your dog to grass or some other cool surface. If you suspect a burned foot pad your veterinarian should assess your dog for signs of a deeper burn, blisters and possibly infection. The best treatment is to prevent the burn in the first place.
Be mindful of where you are asking your dog to walk. If they have to stand on a hot surface such as asphalt maybe while loading into the car or boat, lay a wet towel on the ground for them to stand on.
Injuries and Toe Trauma
Foot pads can become injured through wear, cuts, foreign bodies, and they can also dry out and crack from overuse or exposure to the elements.
Again, prevention is the key. Keep toenails trimmed to avoid tearing and pressure on the pad. If a toenail does get torn, apply pressure to stop the bleeding.
If possible remove any pieces that may be broken as the broken end often causes the dog more pain and can continue to bleed. Gently wash the nail with mild soap and water and keep clean.
If the nail isn't completely torn off, your veterinarian may have to remove to nail as a nail hanging by the quick is not only very painful, but can get infected easily and usually will continue to bleed.
To treat minor cuts, keep the wound clean and bandaged. The pads of the foot are slow to heal, so give it time and rest before your dog returns to activity. Deep cuts may require suturing to heal properly. Keep dry and cracked pads well moisturized with an ointment that is pet safe.
If your dog steps in something gooey like gum, sap or tar, soften it up by rubbing the foot with butter or shortening or soak the foot in water and olive oil, then work it off. Applying ice to gum also works to make it brittle and easier to remove.
Foreign bodies such as grass seeds, burrs, and foxtails may become embedded in the paw. These can be removed with tweezers and then the area cleaned to prevent infection.
Kerries are also prone to corns on they're feet. These usually grow and fall out, leaving a hole in the pad that heals. If the corn is large and impeding walking, or causing pain, your vet can remove it for comfort.
With a little care and attention, your Kerry can have "happy feet."