Dog Paw Injuries – Different Types, Infections, Treatments, and Prevention

Dog Paw Injuries

Even with the highest provided care, our dogs can still be involved in freak accidents. This is why we need to know the causes of different dog paw injuries and how to treat them.

There is not just one type of injury on dog paws. From cuts to allergies and parasites, what causes paw injuries in dogs cannot be summarised to one element. Here we will break down different causes for injury and pain on your dog’s paws. We will also explain how to best to treat them and help minimize pain. The first step is to identify the type of paw injury your dog has.

What Are Dog Paw Injuries?

Identifying if your dog has a paw injury is not always as obvious as you think. It is often portrayed that a dog will be whining greatly and limping on the injured leg. This is only one possible way a dog may handle a paw injury. It is important to know this is not the only identifier. Excess licking, reluctance to move or show the paw are other behavioral symptoms.

Severity

A paw injury may seem minor from behavior but can still be severe. A paw injury is summarised as something abnormal around, in or on the paw affecting the dog negatively. This may include nail problems, burns, and even growths on the dog’s paw pad. It is important to note that the dog may have a paw injury without feeling pain. They can feel discomfort without displaying notable symptoms. A good example of this is minor paw growth. These types of injuries can become severe quickly, which is why it is important to note them.

Types of Dog Paw Injuries

To properly care for our dogs as breeders and owners, we need to educate ourselves. Therefore we can understand different kinds of dog paw injuries. We are then able to identify the problem and work on proper treatment and preventative measures.

Allergies

An allergy can be identified through the increased grooming of the dog’s paws along with sneezing and coughing. Often the paws can be gnawed by the dog and licked to the point of irritation. This is due to an inflammation under the skin often feeling itchy to the dog. The allergy can often derive from hayfever, cleaning products in the home or something more unusual. Even if you do not see your dog interacting with their paws, they may still feel discomfort. Therefore it is important to monitor other allergy symptoms.

Fungal & Bacterial Infections

Fungal and bacterial infections can be noticed by similar symptoms to that of allergies but with extra. The skin of the paws can change coloration, often to yellow or brown. There may also be discharged from or in between the toes. Discoloration of the nails is also an indicator, usually, they will develop a brown or yellow tinge. Bacteria and fungi naturally live on the skin of most animals. Although, fungal and bacterial infections can spread from minor cuts or breed excessively due to an imbalance of the microbes. This is when irritation and swelling begin to form.

the different types of paw and pad injuries in dogs
Infographic of the different types of paw and pad injuries in dogs.

Nail Problems

Dog paw injuries include problems with their nails, such as long, ingrown, and torn toenails. Long toenails can affect a dog’s ability to walk. They can also begin to cause discomfort and pain when they are caught. Furthermore, the longer the nail, the higher the chance there is that they may be torn or trapped. If a dog is not exercised regularly, the toenail can become ingrown. This can be recognized from the sides or tip of the nail growing into the pad. Or notice behavior such as excess licking, limping or bleeding.

Torn toenails can be easily spotted. Most likely the dog will yelp when the toenail is torn and there will be pain and bleeding. Nail problems have the chance to become severe with the possibility of infection. Usually, this is due to the impaction of the nail into the dog’s flesh. Both ingrown and torn toenails present this possibility. Furthermore, all of these conditions can lead to severe pain and mobility problems.

Dry & Cracked Paw Pads

These can be noticed through discomfort and trouble walking. Check your dog’s paws and you will be able to see and feel they dry pad and spot cracks. Causes are usually from excess walking or dramatic temperature change. A dog kept in a warm household and then walked outside in cold temperatures are at risk of cracked paws. If a dog is dehydrated, this increases the likeliness that the dog’s paws are susceptible to cracks and dry pads.

Monitor your dog’s paws, if they begin to dry out, this could lead to cracking. Often, people believe that cracked paws come from high levels of heat outside. This is not true, heat can lead to burns and sores but cracked paws are not a result of high temperatures alone. This is also more commonly seen in dogs with hyperkeratosis, a thickening of the outside layer of skin, including their paw pad.

Cuts & Abrasions

Injuries like these can happen to any dog, they are usually circumstantial. A graze can occur from a floor or rough surface and take the top surface of skin off their paw pad, this is also known as abrasion. Cuts occur from a sharp edge penetrating the paw pad, they can heal by themselves but often they require stitches to heal. In severe cases, the paw pad of your dog can begin peeling and coming off or is even ripped off in one motion. This is a serious paw injury and requires immediate vet care.

If you see abrasions or cuts on your dog’s paws, they will often need veterinary care as they will be further injuring themselves by walking on it. Cuts have a high possibility of a large amount of bleeding, infection, and reopening. When a cut reopens, it can often split deeper and further and become a more severe injury than it initially was. Infection, without treatment, will lead to increased pain, swelling, discharge, and eventual cell death.

Parasites

Parasites are not usually directed at the paws, for example, heartworm will affect the heart primarily. However, symptoms will often manifest on the paws of dogs. For example, ticks and fleas often lead to fur loss due to skin irritation, this can be found around the paws. Furthermore, due to the irritation, the skin between a dog’s toes may be red and have saliva marks on them. Behaviourally, a dog will also gnaw on their paws and lick them excessively due to irritation.

However, some parasites can directly affect your dog’s paws. Hookworms are a form of parasites that often digs their way through your dog’s paws. This can lead to irritation, inflammation and general itchiness, particularly between their toes. Monitor for chewing and licking between the toes.

Cysts & Growths

Growths, lumps, and cysts are commonly found in between dog paws, particularly interdigital nodules, a type of growth. Although cysts can be found on the base of dog paws, they are usually found between the toes. Checking your dog if they are repeatedly licking between their toes may identify a cyst to be the cause. Cysts need to be monitored that the dog does not cause it to burst. Growths also need to be regularly checked as growths such as lipomas will continue to grow and may impede the dog’s movement. Also, if they are chewed regularly, they may become infected and affect other areas of your dog’s health.

Severity vs owners' worries

Cysts and growths are usually not serious. Many owners will become distressed at the sight of them but quite often they are harmless. If they are under the skin of your dog’s paws and you can move them, they are usually lipomas, an area of fat growth and harmless. Interdigital nodules between the toes are also easy to treat. Blisters can be seen anywhere on the paw but usually the pad base. Worrying signs may include bleeding, discharge of yellow, brown or green coloring and difficulty in moving the lumps. But even in this case, there is still a relatively high chance that it is a harmless lump and just infected or irritated.

Owners will regularly blame themselves when a dog gains a paw injury, but there can sometimes be unavoidable and just circumstantial. Understanding treatment methods, first aid and when to contact a vet can minimize pain and help towards the road of recovery. We can prevent injuries as much as we can, but these things will still happen from time to time and occasionally an individual may just be unlucky. Such as a dog going for a walk in their normal area and cutting their paw on a piece of glass. Do not assign blame, instead, help your pooch get back to themselves.

Stop a dog paw from bleeding

If there is any bleeding, the first step is to apply pressure. This can be done using a tissue or a towel, make sure they are clean though. Firmly pressing the wound with the tissue for thirty seconds to a minute allows the blood to clot and may stop bleeding, although this is not always the case. You may have to apply pressure for up to five minutes to allow for clotting, depending on the size of the wound. If there is a lot of bleeding or the cut is particularly deep, a tourniquet may need applying but this should only be done when told to do so by an expert. Vet help is recommended when an injury is bleeding in case stitches are required.

Proper Cleaning

You will firstly have to remove any excess hair in the wound to make sure you can clean the area properly. This may not be the case on your dog’s paw pad but can certainly affect the paw surface and toes. Soak the paw in a bowl of warm water with a small amount of salt to flush out the wound, do this for five to ten minutes. Expect difficulty with this step due to your dog flinching or pulling their paw back. Consider muzzling them during this or taking them to the vet straight away if they have aggressive tendencies. A low percentage iodine solution in a bowl of water can be used instead of or afterward to sterilize the wound. Soak the paw in this for another five to ten minutes. Dry the wound to finish the cleaning process.

Use bandages

Whether it be for the trip to the vets or for a mild injury you can sort at home, it is always wise to know how to bandage your dog’s paws correctly. Follow our step by step instructions so you know how to!

  1. Place a non-stick absorbent pad over the wound, make sure this covers the entirety of the wound and only wrap it once bleeding has stopped.
  2. Wrap gauze over the pad. Make sure this isn’t done so tightly that it causes discomfort but not too loosely so it may fall off. Take the end with medical tape.
  3. Next wrap stretch gauze over this. Follow the instructions for 2.
Pet First Aid – How to bandage your pet’s paw in case of emergency (YouTube Video)

Apply antibiotics and ointments

Although you can get antibiotics and ointments over the counter for dogs, when it is to treat paw injuries, you should only use what is vet prescribed. This is because the ointment or antibiotic you get over the counter may help with certain paw injuries but make others worse. For example, Neosporin can be great to treat and prevent bacteria but can cause illness if ingested, which is likely when the injury is on the paw. Furthermore, this treatment will not aid in deep wounds and can cause further bleeding, inflammation, and irritation. Professionals will know what to recommend if any treatments of this kind are needed.

How to prevent dog paw injuries?

Other types of dog injuries are preventable with maintained care and regular checks. Proper hygiene and regularly checking paw health can prevent injuries before they start. Also checking outside conditions both in weather and where you are walking, for example, the surface terrain and if there are any objects that could injure your dog on the ground. If you are aware of your dog already possessing an old paw injury, identifying things that could make the injury worse is important. These checks will also prevent dog paw injuries.

Give your dog pedicures

A pedicure involves the care and maintenance of a dog’s nails. This includes cleaning, softening edges, controlling nail length and correcting any issues such as turning corners before they can begin. They will use and even give a regular moisturizer to aid with cracked or dry pads. If your dog’s nails are prone to problems or their breed is, investing in manicures is a good method of preventing a problem before it can occur. Be sure to check that the business giving the manicure has good reviews in regards to welfare. If you have any concerns, your vet will be able to provide nail care for your dog.

Proper hygiene

Wash your dog as often as may be required to encourage high standards of hygiene. This can help prevent infection if a graze has gone unnoticed on the paw pad, as dirt will be washed out of the wound and allow for clean healing. Similarly, abscesses and types of growths can become infected when excess dirt is left on their surface. Pores between the toes can also become blocked and lead to smaller growths. Make sure the paws are washed all over and between the toes.

Consider weather conditions

As previously mentioned, changing from a heated room to a cold walk can cause dry paws and cracks. Prevention of this can come in three forms. Walking your dog at certain times of the day to avoid particularly cold times. You can have a small adjustment time for your dog, for example, turn off the heating half an hour before walking your pooch so the transition in temperature is more gradual. Providing your dog with shoes to maintain a high temperature on their pads is the third solution, although many dogs will not walk comfortably in boots.

Do paw checks

Time without treatment can make existing problems much worse. Small cuts can become deeper and larger, increasing the chances of infection and causing more pain. Dry paws may become cracked and abscesses and growths can become larger or pop.

Examining the health of your dog’s paws can help to treat a small problem, change your behavior or theirs to prevent issues and help you identify paw injuries. Health checks also tell you how to fully prevent problems, such as getting your dog’s nails cut before they can become ingrown or torn.

Apply first aid

Similarly to the previous point, first aid can prevent a problem from becoming worse. Apply light topical treatment to small grazes after washing them to remove dirt, this will prevent infection. Bandage cuts to prevent your dog chewing or worsening their cut, also to prevent the cut tearing. You can also use medical tape on nails, make sure no fur is caught in them, to keep dog toes together and prevent them from irritating injuries between them. Make sure to contact a professional before acting upon any treatment such as these and go to a vet for professional first aid care.

Use dog socks or boots

Dog socks and winter boots will cover your dog’s entire paws and prevent dirt, sharp objects or anything else penetrating your dog’s paw and causing injuries.

However, many dogs will refuse to walk properly in these and cause themselves injury through biting, gnawing and walking oddly. Others may wear them well but do be sure to consider that they may overheat from wearing them, and also the boots will not prevent problems such as ingrown toenails or lipomas. These are more appropriately used for preventing an injury from becoming worse.

healing and treatment duration of an injured dog paw
Healing time for paw injuries ranges from a couple of days to several months. It’s very much dependant on the severity of the injury.

FAQs about Dog Paw Injuries

To further extensively answer your dog paw injury questions, we have gathered a few of the most commonly asked questioned right here.

Can a dog leg be amputated because of a paw injury?

A dog paw injury alone can cause a dog leg to be amputated. This result only occurs though through serious injury, blood loss or infection. In this case, the whole leg may not be amputated but the paw itself, depending on the breed, age, and movement ability. A vet will often decide what kind of amputation is appropriate for your individual and discuss their options with you.

Infection is the most common cause alongside severe injuries for paw removal. This is because an infection causes the cells in an area to die, therefore if an injury is left a long period the paws may begin to rot and be un-savable as a blood circulation already does not run through them. The chance of a paw injury leading to a dog amputation is unlikely though. More often than not, these injuries are minor and can be solved with the aid of a vet, unless the injury is very deep or very severe.

How long does it take for a dog’s paw to heal?

This is very dependant on the injury. Grazes can heal with a few days whereas deep cuts can take a month or longer to heal. Burns and cracks in the paws, however, can be a much more gradual process and take a few months.

A general rule for injuries in dog paws that have had blood drawn is that the deeper and further spread the wound, the longer the healing. Similarly, individual differences influence healing time, younger healthier individuals will be able to heal paw injuries much more quickly than an older weaker dog.

Injuries with infections will first need the infection treated with antibiotics which usually take a two-week course. Then the injury may heal alongside the infection. The severity of the infection, its spread across the dog and the size of the individual will all influence healing time and the length of antibiotic courses prescribed.

Are human wound ointments safe for dogs?

Some brands are deemed safe to use on dogs such as polymyxin B, Bacitracin and Neosporin. But as each topical ointment contains different ingredients, they cannot all be branded as dog-friendly.

Ointments created for humans can possess a wide range of adverse effects: Neomycin has been linked to the loss of good hearing, all ointments have a possible side effect of vomiting and depending on the size of the dog, ointments can also lead to vomiting and diarrhea.

Contact your vet to see if they recommended the human ointment you possess for your dog. If your vet says it is okay to use the ointment, always listen to the amount and dosage they recommended, for example, a pea-size amount twice a day. More can cause inflammation. It is also suggested to do a test of the ointment to check that your dog is not allergic. Putting a small amount of the ointment on your dog’s skin and leaving it for twenty-four hours to see if a rash or swelling develops.

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