Our beloved canines have various fascinating anatomical features that differentiate them from other species. Even some of the physical characteristics of dogs differ dramatically from one breed to the next. Although humans are able to recognize many of their body parts and intuitively comprehend their functions with time, studying a dog’s anatomy might leave us with more interesting questions such as what’s a dog’s paw and how many paws does a dog have?
To begin with, a dog’s paw is the sensitive foot-like part of a dog that possesses claws. Usually, dogs have four beautiful paws: two attached to their forelegs and two on their hind legs. The shape of a dog’s paws may differ from breed to breed due to huge variations in those specific types of dogs, but their basic structure remains the same.
Dog Paw Anatomy (Components)
Dog paws are made up of the same five fundamental components, whether we’re talking about the paws on the forelegs or the hind limbs.
Here are the five basic components of dog paws:
- Claws: Regardless of whether they are referred to as toes or digits, each toe terminates in a claw, and each digit develops out of the bone and shares its circulatory system with the other toes. The claws are the nail-like structures protruding from a canine’s many toes.
- Dewclaws: Also known as “dew claws,” these are the tiny claws on a dog’s forelegs that are similar to, but not identical to, the human thumb. Dewclaws are present on the front paws of all dogs. Some canine species are born with single or double dewclaws on their rear legs, but not all of them share this trait.
- Carpel pad: In dogs, this is a tiny, conical pad that sits immediately upside the dewclaw on the front leg. This pad is located in the area most similar to what would be a wrist on a human being.
- Digital pads: Dog feet, both hind and rear, are equipped with digital pads, which are also known as toe pads. Each of the four toes on a dog’s foot is protected by a digital pad.
- Metacarpal/metatarsal pads: The metacarpal pad is the biggest paw pad on a pup’s front feet. It has a heart-shaped appearance. Similarly, the metatarsal pad is considered the biggest paw pad on the hind feet, and it is located towards the heel.
Shapes of Canine Paws
Dog paws are classified into three fundamental shapes:
- Cat paws
- Hare paws
- Webbed paws
Variations in these shapes develop over time, depending upon the dog’s regular tasks. Due to the large number of cross-breed dogs on the market, these categories are not entirely exclusive. Some dogs, for example, may have webbed feet as well as hare feet at the same time.
Read on for more details about these different paw shapes.
As defined by the AKC, a dog with cat paws simply has a tidy and spherical paw that is distinguished by elevated toes that are tightly clasped together. Because of its rounded and compact shape, this paw form is strikingly reminiscent of the paw shapes found on felines.
Because cat paw dogs have short third digital bones in their paws, these paws aid in increasing a dog’s endurance by using less energy to lift them off the ground. When walking on rugged terrain, this paw shape also help provide a firm grip for dogs and assists in preventing them from becoming injured.
As a result, these catlike paws are frequently found in working dogs who have been bred to have significant stamina in the field. Depending on the breed in question, cat feet may either be a very desirable attribute or a severe flaw.
Dog Breeds That Have Cat Paws:
- Airedale Terrier
- Giant Schnauzer
- Bull Terrier
- Doberman Pinscher
- Old English Sheepdog
This paw form is distinguished by the presence of two middle toes that are longer than the outer and inner toes. For canines with hare paws, these dogs’ feet look longer than usual in appearance because their toes do not arch as much as they should.
As can be expected with the name and form of these paws, they are built to rapidly jump to movement. They allow dogs with this type of paw to have the benefit of being able to move more quickly than many other breeds with different types of feet. As a result, numerous dogs with hare-like feet were genetically selected to run at fast speeds for short periods of time, resulting in the development of the hare-like foot.
Dog Breeds That Have Hare Paws:
Because of their similarity to the feet of aquatic species such as waterfowl, ducks, swans, and amphibians, these types of paws have been given the name “webbed feet.”
Dogs with webbed feet have toes that are joined by a skin membrane between them. Breeds with this sort of paw shape are frequently carefully developed to work in water, whether to rescue dropped birds, capture fishing lines, or track down foxes in local streams and rivers.
Dog Breeds That Have Webbed Paws:
- Portuguese Water Dogs
- Nova Scotia Duck (NSC) Tolling Retriever
- German Pointers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Additional Dog Paw Facts
Still wanting to learn more about our canine companions’ unique feet? Here are some additional facts you may find interesting.
Dog paws are somewhat resistant to cold weather
Dogs’ pads include a thick layer of fat deposits that prevent our furry companions’ feet from becoming icicles in extremely cold conditions. When the pads become cold, the arteries in the foot transport the cold blood back to the body where the body heat subsequently warms it up. As a result of this intriguing biological mechanism, experts now believe that our pet dogs originated in colder climates than we are accustomed to now.
Dogs utilize their paws as stress relievers
If your pup begins to lick or chew its paws excessively, this might indicate that your furry buddy is experiencing stress or anxiety. It is also possible that excessive licking or nibbling can result in your dog’s paws becoming infected, requiring a trip to the veterinarian.
Dog paws are sensitive to heat
Dogs’ feet can blister and burn when they walk on hot surfaces (such as hot sidewalks), so use caution when walking your dog during the summer season.
Canines sweat via the pads of their paws
In the inner layer of a canine paw’s skin, there are sweat glands that transfer perspiration to the outside layer, helping to cool the heated dog down while also keeping the pads from becoming dried out. Additionally, when a dog is frightened or agitated, its paws will shed wetness and “sweat” in the same way as people experience sweaty hands induced by nervousness.
Dogs walk on their toes as they run
Canines are digitigrade animals, which means that—unlike humans, who bear the majority of their weight on their heels—dogs bear the majority of their weight on their toes, making their toe bones extremely valuable.
Dog paws sometimes have a popcorn-like fragrance to them
If you’ve ever noticed your canine’s paws smelling like corn crackers or popcorn, it’s likely that they have a condition known as ‘Frito Feet,’ which is caused by a particular bacterial infection. Because our canine friends’ paws are constantly in contact with various ground surfaces, they naturally come into contact with and accumulate a large number of germs. When dogs sweat, the mix of bacteria and dampness produces a salty, corn-snack-like odor that can be quite unpleasant.
What does it indicate when a dog has an extra toe?
A “dewclaw” is the term used to describe an aberrant toe or toes that are placed on either side of a regular toe, similarly to how we humans have thumbs out to the sides of our fingers. Dewclaws are common on the forelegs of nearly all dog breeds, but only occur on the hind legs of certain other breeds (such as Great Pyrenees dogs). Sometimes, a dog may have additional dewclaws besides their main ones, and when a dog is born with an extra dewclaw present besides what is considered normal for their breed, this is referred to as being “double dewclawed.”
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Family Dog Expert Author
Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.