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Australian Shepherd Paws and Feet Care (FAQ Guide)

Australian Shepherd puppies are often known for their long tails and thick, double-coated fur, but most importantly their adorably big paws. Australian Shepherd owners often wonder why their puppies’ paws are so big. The fact is, looking at a puppy’s paws is a great way to indicate what your dog will look like as an adult!

An Australian Shepherd puppy’s paws may look huge compared to their bodies; although, their bodies typically catch up to those big feet eventually. Puppies that have larger paws typically indicate that they will be taller and weigh more as an adult. 

white harry dog paw pad and dog nails

It is easier to determine how big your Australian Shepherd will be a little farther into their growth, but don’t worry, puppies grow so fast that you should be able to get a better idea of their adult size at around 16 weeks!

Why are Australian Shepherd Puppy paws so big? 

Many Australian Shepherd owners become concerned after realizing their puppies’ paws are so large; however, after seeing multiple other Australian Shepherd owners’ comments, it is widely known that these pups having large paws is a very common occurrence!

Australian Shepherds often have front and back paws that are different in size. It is quite common for the front paws to be bigger than the back ones; although every dog is different, they might be perfectly even!

Even though it is common for Australian Shepherd puppies to have large paws, if you notice a difference in your dog’s paw size that is abnormal, there could be a more serious issue. It is best to get your dog to the vet right away if you notice any of their paws looking larger than they normally are.  

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Do Australian Shepherds have webbed paws? 

Purebred Australian Shepherds do not have webbed feet, even though they do love the water they don’t have the same connective tissue that other water dogs such as the Cocker Spaniel have.

If you separate your Australian Shepherd’s toes you should not be able to see the unique connected skin and tissue that causes paws to be webbed.

Australian Shepherds were originally bred as herding dogs for cattle and sheep. Having webbed paws is generally a characteristic of hunting dogs. This is because they are often working on harsher surfaces such as wet, muddy, or snowy terrain, webbed paws are also helpful for digging! 

Webbed paws are helpful for gripping onto harsher surfaces which makes it easier for a dog to move around. 

In rare cases, if you find an Aussie that does have webbed feet it may be due to overbreeding and an anomaly in the gene sequence.

Chess Dog 300 x 600

If your dog does have webbed feet it is nothing to worry about, it usually just means that your dog is a crossbreed with another breed such as a cocker spaniel.

Australian Shepherd paw problems

There are several reasons why your Australian Shepherd may be having issues with its paw(s). Factors such as cuts, tears, dry or cracked paw pads and nails, bacterial and fungal infections, burns, allergies, bug bites, etc. It is normally pretty easy to tell if your dog is struggling with a paw issue, these are some behaviors and symptoms that indicate you may want to have your dog’s paw(s) looked at: 

  • Licking the paw
  • Lesions
  • Bleeding
  • Limping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Red or inflamed 
  • Bad odor
  • Ulcers
  • Blisters
  • Discharge
  • Hair loss
  • Pododermatitis (when the paw skin gets inflamed and affects the nails and between the toes/paw pads.)

Although these symptoms are normally easily treatable, it is important to get the dog help right away seeing as some of these symptoms could be painful to your dog. 

If your Australian Shepherd licks its paws a lot Check out this article that can help you know why and what to do.

Australian Shepherd paw pad burns 

Although dog paws are very resilient, hot surfaces are one of the most dangerous encounters for the well-being of a dog’s paw pad. It is best to avoid hot pavement, gravel, dirt, blacktop, streets, parking lots, and any other surfaces that are hot, and take precautions such as:

  • Walking your dog when it is cool outside or there is shade available
  • Stay on grass
  • Use paw moisturizer, wax, and balm 
  • Use dog shoes 

There are several telling signs that your dog may have burnt paws, these include:

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If your dog’s paws have been subject to burn there are several immediate actions you should take:

  1. Bring them inside right away
  2. Use a cold compress or cold water
  3. Don’t let the dog lick the paw pad(s) (this could cause infection)

It is best to visit a vet right away if your dog’s paws have been burned. The vet can offer solutions that will prevent further damage, infection, or discomfort to the paw(s). 

Thankfully if a paw burn is given time to heal there should not be any long-term damage to the paw pad. Depending on the severity of the burn, healing can take up to 21 days or even longer in some cases. 

Protecting your Australian Shepherd’s paws in snow and ice

Australian Shepherds generally enjoy being outside and their thick double coats can help protect them from the elements, but special care needs to be taken to keep their paws safe in cold weather.

Exposure to ice and snow as well as the salt on sidewalks and driveways that are used in winter can damage an Australian Shepherd’s paws. Exessive exposure to cold can cause frostbite to the dog’s feet.

Here are some ways to protect your Australian Shepherd’s paws from the ice and snow. Be especially wary of ice salt as it has chemicals in it that can burn and damage a dog’s tender paw pads.

  • Keep your dog’s paws well-groomed
    • keeping the hair trimmed between the pads will keep ice and salt from clinging and getting stuck
  • Limit your dog’s exposure to the cold.
    • No longer than 30 min. (subtract 5 min. for every 5 degrees below freezing)
  • Pay attention to possible signs of discomfort.
    • shivering
    • lifting paws up quickly
    • licking
  • Create a barrier between dogs paws and the snow & Salt
    • Booties or paw covers (These are the best ones for not falling off!)
    • Put paw balm or vaseline on before taking your dog out.

How to heal an Australian Shepherd’s paw

A veterinarian can usually heal an irritated paw very fast. Oftentimes the use of antibiotics, creams, ointments, or sprays is given to help eliminate any discomfort your dog is feeling while also healing the paw and any infection that may be there. 

The paws are also one of the best hiding places on an Australian Shepherd for mites, ticks, and other parasites. Keeping check between your dog’s toes and all over their body, especially after being outside can help prevent this. Using anti-parasite methods such as tick collars, creams, and medicines can also help in avoiding these parasites. 

If your Australian Shepherd is licking their paws a lot, this could be due to any of the factors listed previously; although, it is normally itchiness caused by allergies. Australian Shepherds are prone to food and seasonal allergies. Certain medicines can normally be given to prevent bad allergies.  

Tip: Keeping your Australian Shepherd’s paws clean is key to preventing a lot of the issues above!

This portable paw washer can be useful to help your dog’s paws stay clean and healthy.

How to groom my Australian Shepherd’s paws at home

Our dogs are our family, we take care of them and give them as much love as possible. Although Australian Shepherd owners are great at maintaining their dog’s fur, dental health, etc. the dogs’ paws are sometimes forgotten as a key part of grooming.

The truth is, keeping their paws clean, trimmed, and healthy is necessary for providing your Australian Shepherd with the most comfort possible!

Grooming an Australian Shepherd’s paws is quite easy! There are several tools you will need: 

  • Dog clippers/trimmers
  • Haircutting scissors 
  • Nail clippers
  • Brush/comb 

The Andis Proclip Detachable Blade Clipper came highly recommended with reviewers stating that they are “perfect for Australian Shepherd hair!” 

Steps for grooming the paw: 

  1. As you hold the paw, it is important to comb the paw hair in the direction of hair growth. 
  2. Turn the paw so the pad is facing upward.
  3. You can use the clipper/trimmer to rid the hair between the toe pads — using the trimmer removes more hair between the toes so it is less likely for your Australian Shepherd to get debris, mud, snow, etc. stuck in their paws. 
  4. Using the scissors, gently clip the hair down to the top of the toenails — by using scissors during this step, you will get a nicer shape to the paw. 

Grooming Tip: Start early! If you begin touching your Australian Shepherds’ paws often when they are a puppy and introducing them to the grooming tools, they will be less anxious when the actual time to groom them arrives. 

If you notice your Australian Shepherd’s paw pads are suffering from dryness, it may be time to consider a paw balm, wax, or moisturizer which can help hydrate the paw pad and ease any discomfort your dog may be feeling! 

Some Australian Shepherd owners wonder why their dogs’ paws pads have a coarse hair-like covering. This can be due to a protein called keratin that produces what is named hyperkeratosis, or what people often call “hair feet.”

This condition occurs mostly in middle-aged or older Australian Shepherds and is nothing to worry about!

When you bathe your Australian Shepherd or when their paws get wet be sure to make sure they get dried thoroughly.

Australian Shepherd paws can hold a lot of water and drying them thoroughly can help keep bacteria from growing.

Australian Shepherd nail care

Keeping your Australian Shepherd’s nails trimmed is essential in maintaining their health. Seeing as this is one of the most sensitive parts of the paw other than the pads, it is important to keep their nails nice and healthy to avoid tears or fractures that could cause more complicated issues like ingrown toenails. 

Ways to keep your Australian Shepherds nails healthy and strong:

Always visit your vet to see what diet and other methods are best for your dog in particular! 

How to clip my Australian Shepherd’s nails at home

Cutting a dog’s nails is a necessary task to avoid ingrown toenails, posture issues, skeletal damage, etc. However, some owners want to avoid the price of taking their dog to the vet or groomers every 1–2 months or so to have their dog’s nails trimmed; which can cost between $10–$40 for nails and $40–$100 for full grooming depending on the groomer. Some owners wonder, why take them to the groomer when they could clip their nails and groom their paws at home? 

Australian Shepherd owners that choose to clip their dog’s nails at home often worry about accidentally hurting them. There are several things to watch out for so you don’t injure your pup:

  • Don’t clip the nail too short (Exposing the nail quick can be dangerous seeing as it is filled with blood vessels and nerves.)
  • Don’t force your dog to cooperate (Providing a stress-free environment for the dog while clipping its nails will allow for it to trust you and result in an easy and quick nail trimming session. Distracting your dog with treat of a lick mat with peanut butter on it can be useful.)
  • Go slow while clipping the nail! There is no reason to rush, rushing may cause an accidental slip with the nail clippers resulting in unwanted injury. 
  • Like grooming the hair of the paw, it is important to introduce the dog to the nail tools early on to ease their stress. 

Your dog’s nail type and length will determine which nail tools are best to use:

  • Scissor clippers
  • Guillotine Clippers
  • Grinder
  • Dog nail file 
  • Dog nail buffer

Steps to cutting your dog’s nails: 

  1. Identify where the quick of the nail ends. On white & light-colored nails you can see where the nail turns from pink to white. This is where the quick ends. On black or brown nails it’s harder to see. With dark-colored nails only cut a small bit at a time.
  2. Cut at least 2 millimeters away from the end of the quick.
  3. Grip the paw and steady the nail trimming tool in place, cut firmly and smoothly. 
  4. As you trim, the dead nail will appear dry and powdery, keep cutting until you begin to see a darker circle in the center of the nail which indicates you are approaching the quick and should stop trimming. 
  5. You can file your dog’s nails after trimming to ensure there are no sharp edges. I use this nail grinder for my dog and find it has done a really great job of smoothing my dog’s nails out.

Nail Trimming Tip: cutting slowly and taking a small snip at a time is recommended if you are not too confident about where to cut the nail!

Up Next: Australian Shepherd Hair Care (Complete Grooming Guide!)

While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.

Australian Shepherd Hair Care (Complete Grooming Guide!)
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