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Dogs' paw health is often neglected by pet owners, but shouldn't be. Your dog's paw pads provide cushioning to reduce stress on their bones and joint, insulation in extreme weather and protection against rough terrain, among other things. Paws are not immune to injuries and other health problems, so let’s take a look at some of the most common dog paw problems and what you can do to prevent or treat them.

Signs of Paw Problems in Dogs

Common Signs of Paw Problems in DogsIf you notice any changes to your dog’s paws, it can be a sign of a paw related health condition or injury to his paw or leg. The most common symptoms of paw problems in dogs include:

  • Red and inflamed paws
  • Hair loss
  • Lesions
  • Ulcers with scabbing and blisters
  • Discharge
  • Bleeding
  • Foul smell

Cuts, tears and abrasions are common signs of paw injuries. Your dog’s pads may also seem dry or cracked, or have loose skin flaps. Pay attention to your pet's nails as well because cracked or torn nails can be very painful for the dog.

Injured dogs will often lick or chew the affected paw. You may also notice limping, or your pooch may avoid or refuse to walk and put any weight on one of his paws. The pet may also refuse playing, spend more time resting and licking paws, and even lose appetite.

ALSO READ: Dog Paw Care Guide – 7 Things Every Pet Owner Must Know

7 Most Common Dog Paw Problems

Dog paw problems due to allergies

1. Allergies

Dogs can suffer from allergies just like humans do, including food allergies and seasonal allergies. If your pooch has an allergic reaction, the most common symptom is itchiness, particularly on his paws. Other symptoms you may notice include ear and skin infections, as well as anal gland issues.

Your dog will probably lick and bite his paws to relieve the itching, which can cause further irritation and make his paw vulnerable to secondary bacterial and fungal infections.

How to Prevent It:

It is nearly impossible to prevent allergies in canines, but it is possible to prevent allergic reactions if and when you know what your pup is allergic to. For example, if your dog is allergic to certain foods, make sure that he doesn’t ingest anything that may cause an allergic reaction.

How to Fix It:

While it is best to prevent an allergic reaction in the first place, this may not always be possible. If the allergic reaction occurs, the first stop should be a consultation with a veterinarian. Your vet will first try to figure out what your pup is allergic to through tests and possibly recommend elimination diet. They may also prescribe certain medications to help with the treatment. Cases of severe allergic reactions usually require hospitalization.

Bacterial and Fungal Infections on Dog Paws

2. Bacterial and Fungal Infections

Bacterial and fungal infections are a common cause of paw problems in dogs because many of them live on dogs' paw pads. If your dog licks and chews his paws and you notice redness, discharge or brown discoloration of the nails, he probably has an infection. The most common fungal infections include yeast and ringworm.

Infected paw of a dog
Infected paw of a dog.

How to Prevent It:

Since bacteria and fungi normally live in, on and around your dog’s paws, it is hard to prevent occasional infections. However, you can minimize the risks by keeping your dog’s paws clean at all times. Treat any wounds on your dog’s paws immediately because untreated wounds are a good breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.

Avoiding places where fungi and bacteria that are endemic reside is a good idea (such as stale pools of water, or running water after a strong rainfall), as well as keeping your pooch away from infected animals because these infections are usually contagious. Diets high in yeast can sometimes lead to yeast infection, so feed your dog a diet low in yeast.

How to Fix It:

Bacterial infections are usually treated by antibiotics, with addition of topical creams, sprays and shampoos. Your vet will prescribe the appropriate antibiotic treatment, which usually lasts from 3-6 weeks, but your dog will have to take the medication for another week after the symptoms go away.

Fungal infections are usually treated with topical creams and ointments such as hydrocortisone, as well as anti-fungal shampoos. Some of them may be prescription only, and most of them contain steroids like Itraconazole and Ketoconazole.

Parasites on the dog's paw

3. Parasites

Parasites like mites and ticks are common in dog’s paws, especially if your pooch spends a lot of time outdoors. Pain and infection are the most common signs of parasite related dog paw problems, with swelling and hair loss that sometimes occur. Ticks are especially problematic because they often embed between the dog’s toes and can be a cause of a variety of tickborne illnesses.

How to Prevent It:

There are many great products for tick prevention, including different types of tick collars, topical creams, sprays, powders and tablets. In addition to this, try to avoid areas that are tick-infested as much as you can and check your pooch regularly for ticks after his walk or other outdoor activity.

There are also different mite repellents you can use, but it’s also very important to keep your pooch away from mite-infested animals. Keep your home and your dog’s quarters clean and sanitized and groom your pooch regularly.

How to Fix It:

If you spot ticks on your dog’s paws, you will have to remove them or let your vet do it for you, which is probably a better option if ticks get between your dog’s toes. If you decide to do it yourself, use a special tick removal tool.

Mites are treated with medication, which can sometimes last for months, depending on the severity of the infestation.

Broken nail on dog's paw

4. Nail Problems

Toenails are probably the most sensitive part of your dog’s paw area and even something as simple as long toenails can have negative consequences, like inflicting pain when your dog walks.

With long nails, your dog is also more likely to suffer from a torn nail, or a fractured nail. This usually happens when a dog catches his toenail on something, which leads to limping or even bleeding. Injured nail is easy to recognize on closer inspection.

Another common nail problem in dogs are ingrown nails. These happen when the nails are not properly trimmed, or worn down by walking. There are some other nail problems that can happen, like symmetrical onychomadesis or nail bed carcinoma, but these problems are quite rare.

How to Prevent It:

Prevention of nails related dog paw problems is easily achieved. All you have to do is to clip your dog’s nails regularly. Don’t let his nails get too long and trim them as often as necessary. Of course, you have to do it the right way or you may injure your dog by accident, especially if you cut his quick and it starts bleeding.

A nutritionally balanced diet, with plenty of zinc and omega-3 fatty acids can keep your dog’s nails healthy and strong.

How to Fix It:

Application of topical ointments is usually enough to treat nail problems in dogs. If you accidentally cut the quick and the nail/paw starts bleeding, always have styptic powder or gel on hand. Ingrown toenails first have to be cut, and then treated with antibiotic ointments.

Dog Paw Injuries

5. Paw Injuries

Cuts, bruises, tears, lacerations and other injuries on dog’s paws are a common occurrence because dogs run around and play on different terrains. Your dog can cut himself on many things outdoors, including sticks, rocks, broken glass and debris of any other kind.

While most of these injuries are not serious, you need to treat them as soon as possible to prevent infections which, if not treated, can make the situation more dangerous.

How to Prevent It:

When you take your dog outside for a walk or to play, keep an eye out for any sharp objects that might hurt your pooch. If you are taking your pooch running or walking on rough ground or pavement, dog shoes or some other form of paw protection can help a lot, particularly in extreme weather like very hot days or very cold days in winter.

How to Fix It:

The first step in treating paw cuts is to clean up the wound with water or some antiseptic and remove the debris from his paw if there is any. If your dog is bleeding, apply pressure to the wound to stop it and put a clean towel with ice on it to improve constriction of the blood vessels. This is where styptic powder also comes in.

Minor paw injuries and wounds can be treated at home, but if your dog has a severe cut and you can’t stop the bleeding yourself, a trip to the vet may be necessary. Sutures may be required if your dog’s cut is too deep. Your vet may also prescribe antibiotics to keep the infections away.

Cream to Heal Dry and Cracked Paw Pads

6. Dry and Cracked Paw Pads

Dogs have strong and rough paw pads to help them get traction when they walk or run on smooth surfaces. However, your dog’s pads may become dry or cracked due to a number of reasons, including cold weather, hot pavement, dry air, rough surfaces, chemicals, and even excessive licking.

Some other conditions can also lead to these problems as well, such as allergies, nutritional problems, endocrine and autoimmune issues. Dog paw problems related specifically to dry and cracked pads need to be treated promptly because they can lead to infections and more serious complications.

How to Prevent It:

Keep your pet’s paws well-groomed and his toenails trimmed. If necessary, cut hair on his paws too. During very cold temperatures or very hot temperatures, you can further prevent these issues with protective balms put on your dog’s pads before you go outside or get him dog booties to keep him safe outdoors.

After the walk, wash your dog’s paws with lukewarm water after each walk to get any chemicals out of his pads and prevent any further damage.

How to Fix It:

First, clean your dog’s dry, cracked pads with lukewarm water and then put a healing balm on the pads before you cover them with a doggy sock or a dog bootie. If your efforts don’t help, take your dog to the vet to rule out possible underlying issues and to get some advice on further actions.

Burned dog paw

7. Burns

Your dog can get burns on his paw pads if he walks on hot surfaces like sand and asphalt when summer temperatures get very hot, but he can also get burns due to frostbite in winter. Some chemicals and deicing salts (that aren't pet-friendly) can also cause this problem.

Some of the symptoms of dog paw problems you may notice if your dog gets burned or frostbitten are blisters on his pads and paws, loose skin flaps and red patches on his skin. His paws may also become swollen in some cases.

How to Prevent It:

Keep your dog off the hot pavement, limit his exposure to extreme cold and always put protective dog boots on his paws if you absolutely have to go outside in extreme weather.

You can check whether it is too hot for your pooch to walk barefoot by putting a hand on the pavement. If you can’t keep your hand down for more than 10 seconds, it’s too hot.

Petroleum jelly can serve as a barrier against salt and other chemicals but if your dog comes in contact with them, wipe his paws right away. In winter, if you need to use salts or other chemicals around your house to keep the ice away, use only pet-friendly ice melters.

How to Fix It:

Minor burns and blisters can be treated at home with an antibacterial wash. Don’t forget to put booties on your dog’s paws after the wash to keep any dirt away and to protect his pads from getting irritated.

Serious burns are a medical emergency and require immediate veterinary care. Your vet will put some bandage on the affected area and treat your pooch with pain medication and antibiotics.

In Summary

Dogs have strong paw pads naturally built to keep them safe when walking barefoot. However, extreme weather, rough terrain, inappropriate nail care and other problems like bacterial or parasitic infections can hurt their paws and cause a lot of pain.

Keep your dog’s paws clean and well-groomed and his nails trimmed to prevent any dog paw problems. If you take your pooch out for a walk when it’s too hot or too cold, or in winter time when there is salt and other chemicals on the roads, always use protective dog booties to keep his paws safe.

Minor paw problems can be treated at home with topical paw creams and antibiotics, but serious problems like burns require prompt veterinary care.

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