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When to take action on your Border Collies Feet
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When to take action on your Border Collies Feet

Dogs
Health & Safety

Border collies are extremely hardy dogs, whether they were born into a working dog family or not. They are runners and pacers, will travel for miles at a time on their walks, and still prick up their ears only minutes after returning, assuming they will be going out again. Whilst they look blissfully asleep, the slightest noise or rattle of a lead usually brings them rapidly into action.

Bearing in mind they will attempt any terrain however difficult it may be, and that they are totally unaware of danger, they can tend to get themselves into scrapes – accidents will happen as their desire to be out and investigate every nook and cranny to their best ability, can play havoc with their paws and surrounding area. Once running, nothing will get in their way, as they are on their own mission.

Border Collie Feet

A border collie that is a pure pedigree should have very compact feet and slightly oval in shape. When looking at the physiology of a border, it is quite surprising that such slim ankles and feet can withstand a high level of activity, particularly in working dogs. They show no pain and never moan (unless a slight whimper), whether or not they damage themselves on a daily basis. The only sign you will ever see of any pain, will just be demonstrated in limping and lack of speed.

It is best to check their feet on a regular basis, particularly if they cover any hard ground or infected soil areas, as their pads become very hard and crusty, resulting in cracking and possible infection. In this instance, it is advisable to keep them away from water that may also be infected, unless it is sea water, which miraculously can help cure sore pads.

You also need to watch out for newly sown grass or even gorse bushes, as not only do they collect every piece of debris that can be found, seeds will often get embedded between their claws and potentially cause problems.

Bathing Paws and when to see your vet

If you want to bathe paws in lightly salted water, that is fine, but make sure that the paws are dried thoroughly afterwards and exposed to the air when indoors. If the paw is cut and in danger of infection, make sure it is clean, wrap in gauze and tape it, add a sock or bootee and tape that, before attempting to take them out. You must give the wound time to heal, which will normally take 10-14 days to clear up completely. If you feel that the paw has become infected, call your vet who may prescribe a topical antibiotic and may certainly want to see your dog.

Should you cut your Border’s claws or not?

This is a very emotive subject, and in communication with other Border Collie owners, the jury appears to be out on this topic. From a personal point of view, I prefer a vet or a professional groomer qualified to cut claws to carry out the procedure. A lot of damage can be caused by hacking off what you think is the right thing to do, but this can not only cause your dog pain, but ultimately cause more problems. It’s the same for virtually any breed, but because of the claw construction (very hard and rigid in a border collie), it is better to leave it to experts. Many border collie owners also walk their dogs at least once a week on pathways and stony surfaces, which helps to grind down the claws.

Whether you decide on a professional to do the job, it must be done. Overly long claws can affect your border’s stance, gait, mobility and even go as far as to cause their toes to curl up or even worse, jammed back into the nail bed, causing great discomfort, limping and possible arthritis. The knock on effect can travel into the leg and hips. There is no need to put your dog through unnecessary pain when professional help is at hand.

If you have linoleum or tiled floors and you hear your dog tapping as he walks along the surface, then the claws are way too long, so you need to take action. Under no circumstances should the claws be longer than your dogs pads.

If you do want to attempt to cut claws yourself, be careful to ensure that you do not cut the quick (cuticle). This can cause heavy bleeding, resulting in infection and a very distressed hound. Within the quick are housed blood vessels and nerve endings, so you can imagine what pain you may cause. If you do decide to give your dog a pedicure, use very sharp clippers so as not to tear as opposed to cut the claws.

Dew Claws

If you have never heard of dew claws, they are claws that are present halfway up a dogs’ front and back limbs – they are fleshy and somewhat wobbly in some breeds, but in others are more firmly attached by tendons or muscles.

This is yet another topic to be handled on what to do, as it varies from breed to breed. Some dog breeds have dew claws removed shortly after birth, particularly those that have no specific need for them in day to day life.

With border collies, the dew claws can play an important part in their movement, almost being used as anchors when they do short, sharp turns, or cover rough terrain. In other dogs, they are used as a ‘gripping’ mechanism when catching prey or even eating bones.

Interestingly, there are other breeds who only have front dew claws, whilst a border collie can possibly have a double dew claw on its back legs, unusual as it is.

Removing dew claws in a border collie could result in the early onset of muscle problems with atrophy a possibility in agility or working dogs. However, they must be treated like any other nail-like claws and be trimmed regularly, to prevent catching on anything from carpets to sturdy bushes such as gorse. If your border catches the dew claws, there can be pain and excessive bleeding.

If you are worried about your borders’ claws or nails in any way, do consult your vet for the best course of action.

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