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Dog Paw Pad Injuries: What Owners Need to Know!

Two dog paws

Because most dogs don't wear shoes or other protective paw wear, it is not uncommon for them to sustain injuries to their paws. Though our dogs' pads are toughened and thicken over time, their pads are still susceptible to injuries caused by sharp objects like broken glass, chemicals that can cause burns, and heat from hot sidewalks that cause blistering. 

What Are Dog Paw Pads?

There are three kinds of pads on our dog's paws, the digital pads under each toe, the metacarpal pad, the primary pad, and the metatarsal pad located just above the foot.

A dog's paw pads help give balance and traction, protect them from extreme temperatures, and provide shock absorption as they run and jump.

Additionally, your dog's paw pads have merocrine glands. These glands help to regulate your dog's internal temperature by acting as sweat glands.

The outer layer of skin on the pad may become callused over time, especially if your dog spends time hiking on the harder ground or walking on cement and asphalt. However, your dog's pads may be softer if they spend most of the time on grass or other smooth surfaces.

You can help keep your dog's paws softer and more pliable by using balms, which act to protect and heal paw pads.

What Causes Injuries To The Dog Paw Pad?

There are several ways dogs can injure their pads from the daily morning walk, or the afternoon hike in the woods, or even walking through a spill in the kitchen. There is a multitude of ways dogs can injure their paw pads, including:

  • Cuts, abrasions, scrapes from sharp objects like glass and rocks can easily cut through a dog’s pad.  
  • Punctures – dogs experience puncture wounds from a variety of things, but most often, it is from sticks in the woods or yard.
  • Burns from hot terrain – When the temperatures rise, the ground warms up and can cause burns to your dog’s pads. Your dog will not always react to the hot asphalt until it’s too late. Some surfaces can easily reach 145°F or more.
  • Chemical Burns–Several household products cause chemical burns, like Cleaners (toilet, drain, metal, oven), Fertilizers, Cement, Bleach, Pool chlorinators, and some laundry detergents.
  • Cracks – Paw pads can crack when they get dried out and from extreme temperatures and terrain.
  • Bug bites or stings – Because many bugs travel and live on the ground, it is easy to see how dogs’ can get stingers or bug bites on the pads of their feet. Though a mosquito is unlikely to be bothersome, fire ants and ground wasps can cause serious injury.
  • Foreign objects – Though their pads are tough, dogs can get foreign objects embedded in their pads. Things such as sticks, thorns, and pebbles can become a problem when stuck in your dog’s paw pad.
  • Frostbite – Though your dog has a fat layer to aid in temperature regulation, in extreme cold, they can still get frostbite on the pads of their feet.

Signs of an Injured Paw Pad  

Some dogs are quite stoic and do not show signs of injury as evident as limping or favoring their paw. However, there are several other red flagswe can look for to know if our dogs are injured.

  • Excessively licking the paw pad
  • Limping or favoring the foot
  • Whining and whimpering
  • Excessive panting
  • Loss of interest in usual activities like playing or going for walks
  • Changes in behavior like hiding or going off by themselves
  • Lethargy

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What to do if your dog has an injured pad?  

If it is a minor wound or injury that you can confidently care for at home, here are some essential first aid tips on how to handle an injured paw pad.

  • Gently but thoroughly clean the wound with cold water
  • If the area is actively bleeding, and there is no debris, apply light pressure to the area. If the bleeding doesn't stop or is excessive, you will want to bring your dog to the vet immediately.
  • Safely remove any debris on the surface with clean tweezers. It would be best if you did not dig with a tweezer or attempt to widen the wound to remove foreign objects. If your dog has something deep in their paw pad, bring them to the vet.
  • If your dog has a cut or abrasion with dirt in the wound, you may need to soak the paw to help loosen it, then rinse with cold water.
  • You may use gentle antibacterial soap to help disinfect the wound, but avoid using harsh chemicals like rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.
  • Use a dry clean cloth or towel to gently pat the area dry, avoid rubbing as it may irritate the wound
  • Apply antibacterial ointment or coconut oil to the wound

To bandage the area, use a non-stick gauze pad over the injury, then gently but firmly wrap the area with a gauze roll, then use medical tape to secure it. You may also use vet wrap, which is elastic and sticks to itself. Don't wrap the foot too tight as it will cut off circulation.

  • You will want to be sure to wrap the toes to reduce the chances of swelling. Also, you may need to wrap above the ankle to help secure the bandage in place.
  • Check the dressings at least once a day and apply new wraps.  

If your dog is wearing a bandage on their foot, you must keep the bandages dry and clean. If your dog tries to chew or remove the bandage, you may need to use an Elizabethan collar, aka the dreaded cone. Also, you may want to buy canine boots to protect the dressing and add padding to the paw when your dog is outside.

Be sure you contact your vet for advice on properly dealing with chemical burns. Not all burns receive the same type of treatment. However, if you know your dog has come into contact with chemicals that can potentially cause harm, you will want to immediately flush the area with water for at least 20 minutes. Some chemical burns take hours to flush.  

Bring your dog to the veterinarian if your dog has any of the following:

  • Excessive or uncontrolled bleeding  
  • Deep lacerations that require sutures
  • Large or deeply embedded foreign object that may need surgical removal  
  • If there is discolored or foul-smelling discharge
  • Chemical burns
  • Severe burns

Keeping Your Dog’s Paw Pad Healthy

Though the pads on our dogs' paws can withstand a significant amount of wear and tear, it is essential that we check them regularly to ensure they are looking whole and healthy.  Not all dogs will show signs of pain, so it is up to us as their guardians to watch for injuries.

Injuries to paws may start small, such as a minor cut, but left unattended can quickly become infected, creating a more significant health issue. 

This is why it is crucial that we are paying attention to the temperature and surfaces our dogs walk on and equip them properly, whether boots in the winter to guard against the cold and salt or wax and balm to help protect and keep the pads healthy and supple.

Meet The Author 

Jessica Mabie author of Dog Paw Pad Injuries for dogs: What you need to know

Jessica Mabie

Canine Specialist & Writer

Jessica Mabie is a Freelance Writer residing in the Twin Cities. She specializes in writing about pets, travel, and food. Jessica graduated with a BA in English Literature from the University of Minnesota, TC.

Jessica has always loved dogs, and, at the age of 14, she started volunteering at a neighborhood vet clinic. While at the U of M, she continued her work with dogs as an obedience trainer and vet tech. Although she no longer works with dogs professionally, she does use her experience as a volunteer with American Brittany Rescue as well as aiding in her writing.

When not working, Jessica and her family spend a lot of time camping and hiking from spring to fall. So, if you happen to see her out and about with her family don’t hesitate to say “Hi!”, (You’ll know it’s her since few are so daring as to have 4 Britts).

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