Dog Paw Anatomy – Here is All You Need to Know

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We can all agree that humans’ feet are very vulnerable. Regardless of where we go, we will need to wear shoes to help protect ourselves from sharp items and the temperature beneath us.

Whereas dogs’ paws are the opposite which they are incredibly durable, and you can hardly see dogs wear boots. Let’s find out what their cute little paws are made up of! 

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Parts of a Dog Paw

Dog Paw Anatomy

1. Claws and Dewclaws

Just like humans, dogs have nails at the end of each of their toes. Their claws grow from the bones and the purpose is to provide them stability, allow them to dig, as well as defending themselves if needed.

Most dogs have dewclaws on their front legs and sometimes on their hind legs. These claws are also referred to as “dog thumbs” and some breeds have double dewclaws which are known as polydactyl.

Dog dewclaws don’t benefit them much while they walk, but can be really useful when they are running at a high speed or if the ground is slippery. These claws give them extra traction, hence more stable. Apart from that, dogs will also use them to grasp things such as toys and bones. 

2. Digital Pads, Metacarpal Pads, and Metatarsal Pads

And of course, they have paw pads too.

They have four digital pads on each of their four toes. The metacarpal pads are the large heart-shaped pad in the center of their front paws, whereas metatarsal pads are on their rear paws.

The intention of these pads is to provide them a better grip and work as insulators to keep their feet warm in extreme climates. The pads also function as shock absorbers to protect their joints and bones while they walk or run on all terrains. 

3. Carpal Pads

You also notice there is one tiny little pad located above the dewclaw which is also known as carpal pad.

It works like a braking system to prevent them from slipping while they walk on slippery terrains or on a slope. 

Different Types of Paws

1. Cat feet

The American Kennel Club (AKC) defines cat feet as round, compact, and toes are held together closely. This type of paw provides a better grip and endurance and can be found in many large size working dogs such as the Doberman Pinscher, Kuvasz, and Giant Schnauzer. 

2. Hare feet

Hare feet, on the other hand, have two longer central toes, hence look longer. Just like its name indicates, this is a hare-like foot, which means it is more powerful, and dogs with this type of paw are able to run faster and longer. The Greyhound is a great example of this. 

3. Webbed feet

The purpose of the webbed feet is to help dogs swim and retrieve in water. It all makes sense if you look at dog breeds such as the Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland, and Portuguese Water Dog. They are all excellent swimmers. 


Now you understand how powerful the dog paws are, and that’s why you can’t really see any dogs wear boots. That said, dog paws are not unbreakable, they can still be damaged and cut by sharp items like broken glass or splinters.

Thus, you must take good care of their paws to ensure they are safe and healthy. Additionally, if you are a hiker and love to take your dog with you on a trail, especially if the terrain is rough and rocky, you should buy them a pair of good quality hiking boots