Yesterday I took my 2 dogs to a dog park that we had not gone to before. I was a bit dismayed that the area's grass was almost completely gone and the majority of the area was dried out dirt, almost sand-like. Every time the wind blew there would be a cloud of dust about. We stayed for about an hour, both of my dogs ran around and played a lot. We came home, everything was fine. They went for 2 more walks afterwards (about 2 hours later then 5 hours after that) before going to bed for the night. This morning when I took them out for their morning walk, I noticed one of my dogs was limping and falling down. I brought them back inside right away and examined his feet. On both of his hind feet and one of his front feet he has an area of the paw skin that looks like a layer has been shaved off. I don't know exactly what it's called, but from googling I think it is a "torn pad." It looks just like the foot in the image on this site: http://k9-crazy.blogspot.com/2005/07/dog-foot-care.html
He is not bleeding, and the under-skin is the same color as the over-skin, just softer.
Now I have a few different questions pertaining to this. Aside from going to the vet, is there anything I can do to help this heal a bit faster, and also prevent it from happening again? And before anyone jumps on me for trying to avoid the vet, the reason for that is because in the past I've been very quick to run to the vet anytime the slightest thing is wrong, and literally every time I have been sent home with nothing done to the dog, and a bill for just having walked in the office. The vet always says to leave it alone and that the issues will resolve on their own, which they always have. I'm just trying to avoid another needless bill, if it is needless. If my dog does need medical treatment from a professional, or something I cannot do on my own for him, then I will definitely take him to the vet.
So with that said, is there anything I could or should do for him to relieve the pain and help his feet heal faster? And second, what can I do to prevent this in the future?
I have read different things from different sites and I am a bit confused about what healthy/normal dog feet should look and feel like. I have had dogs all my life, but this is the first time I have encountered this on one of my dog's feet.
Right now I only have the 2 dogs, one male and one female. The male is the one with the injuries, and his pads are very dry and very hard and very thick, and it looks like there are other places that are cracking and look like they may peel off soon. My other dog (the female), her pads are firm, but not exactly hard, and they do not appear dry or cracked, or even thick. They're firm but smooth. They look and feel exactly like the exposed under-layer of my injured dog's feet. And this dog with the softer feet has no injuries, and has never had any. Both dogs are on the same diet and one never goes anywhere without the other and they pretty much play the same and get walked on concrete and grass just as much as the other (they get walked together always).
So I have to ask.. what do healthy paw pads feel like? And what can I do to make my doggies' feet healthier?