Pet Tips

Why Dog Paws and Cat Paws Sweat – Pet tip 124

Here’s the scenario: You’re at the veterinarian for your cat or dog’s vaccines. The doctor asks you to put your pet on the scale to weigh it. When you pick up your pet, little wet paw prints are left behind. Have you ever wondered why it is your pet’s paws sweat? Lets examine the animal paw pad and its functions to come to a stimulating answer to this question.

The anatomy of the footpad of cats and dogs is quite unique from any part of the human body. Touch the bottom of your pet’s feet to feel the squishy, yet solid footpad. The footpad has these qualities, in essence, to enable it to perform its function of acting as a cushion for your pet’s foot. This makes walking much more comfortable. Just imagine walking around all day outside with no shoes on – it would not be a pleasant feeling! However, unlike people, animals cannot remove their ‘shoes’ as they are a part of the bottom of their foot. There are 6 separate pads on the bottom of the paw. The large, heart-shaped pad and 4 smaller pads towards the front of the paw help to bear the weight of the animal, acting as cushions and shock absorbers. But wait! That’s not all. There is another somewhat inconspicuous pad found further back on the front limbs of the dog and cat. This may seem like a rather odd location for a pad because the animal does not use it to walk on, but it does have a very important function. This other pad can be used for traction when going down a slope or stopping. This ‘extra’ pad is not found on the back limbs of dogs or cats. Now educated on the subject of anatomy of pet paws and their function, we may apply this knowledge to delve a little deeper into the mystery of sweaty paws.

It seems that pet paws are there to protect the animal’s foot, so how do they also sweat? The footpad is made up of very thick epidermis. Epidermis is the outermost layer of skin, the layer that is exposed to the outside environment. Underneath the surface layer of skin is a deeper layer called the dermis. It is in the dermis that the glands that produce sweat are found. Sweat is made in the gland and then travels in a duct through the dermis and epidermis to emerge onto the skin’s surface. The footpad is just thicker skin that still has the same functioning sweat glands that thinner skin has. As a result of the thickness of the footpad, sweat is only noticeably secreted when the animal is particularly nervous.

On an important diversion, there are many problems that can occur with your pet’s footpads that may hinder its ability to properly perform the functions discussed. Fortunately these problems can usually be easily avoided. Since footpads are composed of thick skin they can easily be punctured by sharp objects, and even burned by hot asphalt. Moreover, excessive walking or running can cause irritation or drying of the pads, in which cracking may occur. Any injury to the pads of the paws should be resolved as they have the potential to become infected, painful when walking, and just plain irritating for your pet. In between the pads is fur, which should be routinely examined as environmental objects often get stuck there. For example, in the summer dirt can quickly accumulate or burrs, which make walking very uncomfortable. In the winter, snow or salt can accumulate in the fur in-between the paw pads. Whether they enjoy you probing their paws or not, your pet will thank you for routinely examining its pads and paws for foreign objects. You may just find something early that will save lots of trouble and money later. Just as importantly, this will acclimatize your dog or cat to having its paws touched so that if it becomes injured in the future it will be much easier to handle for you, the animal, and the veterinarian. Now that we have arrived back at the subject of the veterinarian, let’s answer that burning question: Why do your pet’s paws sweat when it goes to the veterinarian clinic?

At the vet clinic, your pet is sweating from its footpads because it is nervous. What purpose does this have? It has been discovered in research that all animals that possess sweat glands in their paws sweat when they are running. This sweat prevents the animal from slipping on the surface its paws come into contact with, and thus, makes it able to run faster and more purposefully. Naturally, an animal at the vet clinic or in another stressful situation will be looking for the closest exit, and sweating from the paw pads is the body’s way of priming your pet for the quickest escape possible should the situation escalate. Your pet is exceedingly anxious, so try to comfort it, and be wary that they are looking to make the great escape!

By Laura Platt – writer

3 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar candace says:


    I was wondering if maybe someone could tell me how to get my dog to relax when we are gone. She does not bark nor chew anything, but she will whimper a little and sweat A LOT from her paws!! It would not be so bad but well the sweat makes the floor greasy and it is hard to clean!

    HELP ME!

  2. Avatar Amanda says:

    Hi there, my cat had kittens about a week ago… However one the kitten’s born was born with only one toe with a claw at the end of it, no other toes are on that foot… do you have any other information on cat toes??

    • Avatar Marko says:

      Like some humans that can be born with defects cats can have birth defects too – I’d ask my vet for more additional information on this.
      Good luck

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