How to Recognize Paw Pad Injuries and Prevent Them from Worsening
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on May 11, 2018
Posted in Dog
Both you and your pooch love going for runs and walks outside, playing in the yard or chasing each other around the house. All that leaping and bounding is supported by your dog’s paw pads—the cushiony parts of your dog’s feet.
Paw pads are crucial for everyday movement because they provide cushion while walking, protect bones and joints from shock, insulate the feet from extreme temperatures and provide traction to prevent your dog from slipping. Unfortunately, because your dog’s feet are used so often, paw pads are susceptible to injury.
Your dog injuring a paw pad is similar to you getting a cut on the ball of your foot—it will hurt and make it very difficult for your dog to walk comfortably until it is healed. Paw injuries are relatively common and usually heal within a few days, but it’s important to pay attention and treat them as soon as possible. Allowing your dog to walk on an untreated wound can prevent it from healing properly and can fill the wound with bacteria and debris, leading to infections and major health problems.
Signs of injury
Common paw pad injuries like abrasions, sores, burns, blisters and cuts have many of the same signs, so it should be easy to notice if your dog is suffering from a paw pad injury. These signs include:
- Refusing to walk on the foot
- Obsessive licking or chewing at the foot
- Inflamed or raw paws
- Loose flaps of skin on paws
If you notice that your furry friend is acting strange, particularly when it comes to walking, take a look at its paws to see if there is any sign of inflammation, debris, discoloration or cuts. If the injury looks serious, take your dog to the vet to have it checked out. However, many paw pad injuries can be treated at home with some standard bandages and antibiotic ointment.
Caring for cuts and tears
If you see that your pooch is bleeding from its paw or has a noticeable tear in its paw pad, you shouldn’t hesitate to treat it right away at home. Rinse the injured paw in cool water to help soothe the area and wash away any debris. If there are larger pieces of debris like glass or wood, carefully remove them with tweezers. Do not dig deeply to remove debris—if you can’t get it out, take your pup to the vet.
If the paw is bleeding, apply slight pressure with a clean towel for a few minutes. If the bleeding persists after 15 minutes, take your dog to the vet right away because the cut might be serious. Next, apply some antibacterial ointment to the injured area and wrap the injury using a nonstick gauze pad and self-adhesive bandage around the foot.
Change the bandage daily and keep the gauze pad clean and dry. Check on the healing process as you change the bandage and take note if the injury isn’t healing after a few days or if there appear to be signs of infection, at which point your dog should see a vet.
Caring for burns
Icy-cold and very hot surfaces like asphalt can cause mild to severe burns on your pooch’s paw pads. If your dog appears to be limping after a mid-summer or mid-winter walk in severe temperatures, soak the paw in room-temperature water.
Next, apply an antibiotic ointment and wrap the paw in a bandage, changing it out daily to keep it clean and monitoring the healing process. If the paw becomes discolored or looks infected, take your dog to the vet immediately.
Caring for dry skin
Your dog’s paw pads might not be severely injured but instead, dry and cracked. Dry paw pads can be very painful for your pooch and are often caused by walking in extreme temperatures. Use a moisturizing cream to keep paws from drying out and to prevent further injury.
Preventing paw injuries
Although paw injuries are common, there are a few things you can do to prevent them from happening to your dog’s feet.
- Avoid extreme temperatures: Letting your dog walk on icy surfaces or hot concrete and asphalt can wreak havoc on their paw pads. If you take a walk in extreme temperatures, try to stay on paths or grass that are safe for your pup’s paws.
- Watch for dangerous materials: If your dog is running around a parking lot, driveway or yard, pay close attention for any broken glass, shard of wood, metal or other materials that could puncture your dog’s paws.
- Don’t walk on rough surfaces: Avoid taking your dog for walks on gravel and rock pathways. These rough surfaces can cause abrasions on the paw pads and lead to inflammation or infection.
- Put on protective footwear: If your dog has a problem with paw pad injuries or you find yourself going for walks in potentially dangerous areas, put protective footwear like booties or socks on your dog to keep its feet safe.
By paying close attention to the areas your dog walks in and the signs of injury, you should be able to identify and treat paw pad problems right away. Careful treatment and active injury prevention keeps your pooch’s feet healthy and you and your dog happy!
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan