Your dog’s paw pads absorb the shock and pressure on his joints from standing and moving around. The paws’ function makes them prone to injury; thus, paw care should be included in your dog’s regular care routine.
Common paw injuries include lacerations, abrasions, punctures, or burns and blisters to the pad; dry, cracked pads; and foreign objects stuck between the toes. Symptoms of a paw injury are limping; bleeding; discoloration of the pad (which can be difficult to spot if the pad is a dark color); keeping the injured paw off the ground; and excessive chewing and/or licking of the paw.
If you see your dog showing any of these symptoms, then you’ll want to determine the cause of the problem. Be very careful when handling an injured dog; even the gentlest animal can bite if he’s in pain and feels threatened by your touching him. Placing a muzzle on your dog is a good way to protect yourself from a bite.
Abrasions, Lacerations, and Punctures
There are several blood vessels in your dog’s paw pads, so even a superficial cut can bleed a lot. The bleeding should stop quite soon after you’ve treated the wound. If it doesn’t, you should contact your vet.
For abrasions and small cuts, clean the wound with an antibacterial wash such as chlorhexidine diluted with water. Wrap the paw with a light bandage. It’s a good idea to have your dog wear an Elizabethan collar for a few days to keep him from licking and chewing at the bandage.
The bandage will become moist after a couple of days since your dog sweats through his paw pads. Moist bandages delay healing and can lead to infection, so change the bandage every two or three days.
The cut should heal in a few days depending on how deep it is. If it doesn’t and you’re not sure how to proceed, contact your vet.
If you’re dealing with a deep paw laceration, take your dog to your vet. He will stitch up the pad, bandage it, and maybe apply a splint to keep the cut from opening again.
Burns and Blisters
Your dog’s paw pads can easily burn and blister from walking on a hot surface. An indication of a burned and blistered pad is a loose flap or a red, ulcerated patch.
Apply an antibacterial wash to the affected area and cover the paw with a bandage until the pad is healed. If your dog has a loose flap of pad, you’ll have to wait for it to come off or you can ask your vet to trim it off.
Dry, Cracked Pads
Cracked pads are prone to collecting dust and debris, which can cause further injury. You can moisturize your dog’s pads with a special cream. Avoid using products made for humans as they tend to soften the pads too much, making them vulnerable to injury.
Foreign Objects Between the Toes
The most common culprits are small stones, burrs, pieces of glass, dried mud, and your dog’s matted fur. Trim matted fur and remove foreign objects with a pair of tweezers.
Always contact your vet if you’re not comfortable with treating an injury yourself, you’re not sure about the cause of the injury, the wound doesn’t seem to be healing, or your dog’s paw becomes swollen.
Reduce the risk of a paw pad injury by keeping your home and yard free of sharp objects. Be alert when you’re outside so you can avoid hazards such as broken glass and other debris. Also refrain from letting your dog walk on hot pavement in the summer, road salt in the winter, and graveled areas for long periods. If you won’t walk barefoot on a certain surface, don’t make your dog do so.