All About Paws - Groomer to Groomer

All About Paws

By Mary Oquendo

As I write this article, I am sitting in the office of Pawsitively Pretty still wearing my paw-print grooming smock. I’m a little bummed today because I lost a paw print hoop earring. However, as I look around my office I see all sorts of paws on my walls, schedule book, and business cards. I know I’m not alone in my paw obsession. I bet all sorts of paws surround other groomers on a daily basis. And as much as we like them, I bet dogs and cats have a different take on it. After all, paws are part of their physical makeup.


A dog’s paw is made up of five parts with two types of nails and three different pads.

The claws or toenails are comprised of keratin. Keratin is primarily protein and makes up nails, hairs, feathers, hooves, and skin. There is a blood supply and nerve endings running through the center of the claw that is often referred to as the quick. The job of the claw is to provide traction while moving and to aid in digging.

Dewclaws can be found on both the front and rear legs. Dewclaws were once thought to be vestigial. Meaning that it once had a purpose, but no longer does. However, there are many instances in which dewclaws are actively used by dogs. A dog that participates in agility and other sports use declaws when running and negotiating tight turns. The dewclaws also offer stabilization on uneven surfaces. Many dogs use front dewclaws for gripping bones and toys when chewing. The Basenji, New Guinea Singing Dog, and Catahoula Leopard Dog have been known to climb trees using the front dewclaw. Dogs that work in snow and mountainous terrain such as Great Pyrenees, Briard, and Saint Bernard use the rear dewclaws to maintain stability. Front dewclaws contain more tendon and muscle than
rear dewclaws.

Digital, metacarpal, and carpal are the three different types of pads. The digital pads are connected with the claws. The metacarpal pad is the large center pad. The carpal pad is located behind the metacarpal pad close to where the leg begins. Pads are the pet’s braking system and shock absorbers. Pads contain a thick fatty layer and contain sweat glands. Their job is to protect the pet’s bones, ligaments, and joints. When a dog rubs his paws along the ground, the sweat gland leave a scent. A dog uses this odor to mark his territory.

Pets primarily use their toe bones rather than the back end of the paws when walking. It is because of this that keeping claws trimmed at the proper length is so important. A nail that is too long can redistribute their walking weight causing skeletal issues down the line.

Dog’s Paws also Come in Different Shapes

Water dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, and German Wire Haired Pointers have webbed paws.

Dogs with “cat paws” have a shorter third digital bone. It is a more efficient design that increases their endurance. Breeds include Akita, Doberman Pinscher, and Saint Bernard.

“Hare feet” look elegant, as the two middle toes are longer than the two outer toes. As there is no arch, the paw appears longer. Breeds include Toy Poodles, Samoyeds, and Greyhounds.

Cat Paws are Similar in Structure but Have a Couple of Noticeable Differences: 

  • The claws are an extension of the toes. When a cat is declawed, the veterinarian amputates the top section of the toe bone.
  • They leave a scent with their pads that only other cats can smell.
  • They can retract their claws into a skin pouch.

Safety Concerns For Groomers

Injuries to paws caused by groomers include:

  • Lacerations from clippers and scissors. Small cordless clippers are recommended for trimming the underside of pads.
  • Irritations from close clippering.
  • Burns on the bottom of paws by coming in contact with improperly rinsed cleaning products on counters and tabletops. Read the labels to follow rinsing protocols or use table covers on grooming tables.
  • Claws that are trimmed into the vein (quick) will bleed. As there are nerve endings in the vein, this can cause pain and discomfort to the pet.
  • Clipper damage to the nail bed can become infected.

Attending to injuries quickly will reduce pain and speed healing. A well-stocked pet first aid kit and the knowledge to aid the pet is a must.

During check in, examine the paws and note any pre-existing conditions that may impact grooming such as bacterial or other infections, fungus, tumors, and trauma.

Here are three ways to make those hardworking paws feel good and upsell grooming services:

  1. Keep claws at proper length. Explain the benefits of proper nail care with in-between nail trims, as well as offering filing or dremeling.
  2. Pets love to have their paws massaged. It’s a very similar sensation to people getting a foot rub after a long day. This could be a 10-minute add-on.
  3. Paw pad conditioners to keep the pad from drying and cracking. Not all of these products are safe for cats. Read the labels before applying to cat paws.

Not all pets enjoy their paws being touched. Use caution when handling such pets.

From the names of our businesses, to logos and everything in between, groomers love the visualization of paws. While various depictions of paws may be a marketing tool for us, they serve a far more important role for pets. ✂

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