In regard to the breed standard, both the AKC and JACA follow the same guidelines, only wording the description in a slightly different way.
Japanese Akita Club of America: Feet are cat-like, thickly padded, round, well knuckled and tight with a firm grip.
AKC: Cat feet, well knuckled up with thick pads. Feet straight ahead. (No turning in nor out)
While not mentioned above, all Akitas, both Japanese and American, do have fully webbed feet. This allows them to swim on the surface of water quite like an otter is able to. They use both their front and rear feet as opposed to the typical “doggie paddle” of only using front paws as most other canines will do. While they do have this innate ability, most do not prefer to swim and will only enter into a lake, pool or other body of water if highly encouraged to do so.
The paws are often referred to as “grips” and this is appropriate since the grip is rather strong.
While they are thick, this should not be mistaken as them being “indestructible” or not being susceptible to injury.
Dog owners think of paws as being tough, strong and in a way, like shoes for their dog! However, this is not true. They are made up mostly of Keratin, which is an exceptionally thick protein. However, this is a type of skin.
When our Akita is walking around on sand, rough surfaces, hot surfaces, snow and more, an owner must be aware that the dog’s feet are not invincible.
It is important to:
• Know how to care for an injuries
• Keep paws healthy
• Know about the specific canine diseases that could develop
The surface that an Akita walks on will have the greatest affect to the health of the dog’s paws. If you wish to take your Akita on hikes over rocky terrain or greatly increase their activity level, do keep in mind that over time, the paws of your Akita will usually adjust and thicken in reaction to the change. This does take some time and will be a gradual increase in the thickness. The Keratin which is the main component can strengthen with time.
Not as Tough As You May Think
Your Akita’s paws are not as tough as you may think. It is an “old wives’ tale” that a dog’s paw is tough enough to withstand just about anything and is not affected by temperature.
Many elements may cause discomfort or injury, including:
• Hot pavement – You will usually not notice just how hot the street, sidewalk or drive will get because you will most often have shoes on
• Small rocks and pebbles – These can get stuck inside the cracks between the pads or cause scratches
• Winter elements such as snow, ice and road salt can be harmful
• Bee or wasps can easily sting the bottom of a Akita’s foot
• Infection and disease
Signs & Treatment of Issues
Burns from hot pavement, cuts from rocks, irritation from rock salt or the pain of a bee sting can all cause tenderness and all can cause infection if not treated.
Signs that Something is Wrong:
• Any swelling – this can be the entire paw or a portion
• Secretions coming from a crack
• Excessive Chewing
• Excessive Licking
Treatment for Sores & Other Injuries
• If the injury is moderate to severe, it is important to bring your Akita to the veterinarian so that antibiotics can be prescribed to prevent infection.
• Canine paw lotion can be purchased without a prescription – This will condition and sooth the skin to promote healing
• Paw wax can be purchased without a prescription – Massaged in, it can be an aid for maintaining health to this area.
• For moderate to severe injury, a bandage should be applied and on top of that, a bootie. This will prevent your Akita from trying to remove the bandage. Your dog may feel more comfortable if you put a pair of dog boots on them, to make them balanced.
Any sore or injury will heal very slowly, because each step an Akita takes pulls on the edges of the healing sore and impede healing.
We need to think about how the cold, snow, ice and rock salt affect the paws of our Akita, just as it can affect the nose. These elements can cause cracking, blisters and/or infection. Rock salt (or any chemical used to melt ice and snow) is harmful. These substances will cling to the small hairs. Keep you Akita off these areas when at all possible. If it is unavoidable, be sure to wash their paws as soon as they re-enter the home. Even if you do not see any substance, washing is strongly recommended. You will want to do this immediately after coming in the house, before your Akita can lick it off. These winter chemicals can be toxic to a dog.
Prevention in the Winter
Before going outside, apply a bit of Vaseline or canine paw wax. This will help to protect your Akita’s paws in the harsh, winter elements.
Diseases & Serious Health Issues
Cracks– This can happen because of the irritants listed above or it may happen because of an allergic reaction to something in the home, such as the carpeting or carpet cleaner. Severe cracks should be looked at by a veterinarian.
Yeast Infection -The symptoms of this are:
• Greasy like substance on the bottoms of the feet
• Wax like substance
• A bad odor
This issue will be diagnosed with a smear that the veterinarian will then examine. This can be corrected with prescription anti-fungal medication.
Nasodigital hyperkeratosis - This is a canine health issue that can affect a dog’s nose, paws or both. This causes the pads to grow exceptionally large. A biopsy of the skin will determine if this disease is present. An experienced veterinarian will then be able to trim off excess skin. It is then very important to follow proper healing guidelines. Preventive treatment is then done to stop the pads from growing back to abnormal size; this is usually done by soaking the paws in a propylene-glycol solution.
Auto-immune disease of the skin – this is a somewhat serious canine disease in which the dog’s immune system goes out of control. The dog’s system will mistake healthy skin cells for unhealthy ones and begins to attack them.
• Sores, usually with a puss-like substance in them
• Crusty sores, which happens after the puss-like sores break open
• You may also see signs of this on the nose and ears, but not always
This is diagnosed with a test sample of the skin. Treatment is dosing with immune suppressing medication.
Licking and Chewing
Excessive licking and chewing of the feet often points to an allergic reaction which causing intense itching. Other issues are often ruled out first. Skin or blood testing can check for allergies and in many cases, a dog can be given injections to help their immune system compensate. Steroids will be given in moderate to severe cases.
• If your dog walks on road salt, wash off his or her paws as soon as you enter the home
• If your Akita gets any mud or dirt on their feet, wash this off also as soon as possible as it can cause irritation and excessive dryness.
• Beware of all surfaces that your Akita walks on – keep your dog on shaded ground when all possible when it is hot outside
• After taking your Akita for a walk, take a moment to check for any small pebbles that may have gotten stuck between pads, cracks, sores, blisters or bleeding
• When hiking or walking on rough terrain, stop every now and then to check your Akita’s paws. You will want to look for signs of burning, cracking or injury. With a very high pain tolerance, this breed will usually only begin limping once the injury is severe and they can’t hold the pain any longer
• As part of routine grooming, trim any hairs that are long enough to hang down off of the feet and passed the ground that would interfere with walking. There can be fur growing out too far on the bottom as well that should be trimmed to be flush with the pads.
• Paws that stay wet for long periods of time can cause problems. After baths, time outside in rain or puddles or after swimming… dry off the paws and make sure to get the area in between the toes.
• For dried cracked areas, apply canine paw lotion. It can be helpful to do this when your Akita is eating; they will pay attention to their food and not try to lick off the lotion. By the time they are done eating, the lotion will have been absorbed.
• For any blisters, sores, cracks or injury be sure to have the veterinarian check them out. Treatment will usually be antibiotics and bandages until it heals.
• If your Akita is stung by a bee or wasp on the paw, be sure to remove the stinger. Never use a tweezers. Use a credit card to scrape the stinger out.
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