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11 Common Dog Paw Problems: What You Need to Know

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Majid Tanveer, DVM

As a pet parent, you must be informed about potential issues in your dog. One of them is paw problems! Not only can these cause discomfort and pain, but they also limit his ability to get around and engage with the world.

What difficulties are impacting your dog’s paws? Is he in pain, or does he need extra care and attention? What might be the root cause, and how can they be managed?

Numerous issues can affect your dog’s paws, ranging from fungal and yeast infections to dryness and cracking. Sharp objects can get stuck in the paw pads, leading to wounds like punctures, lacerations, and abrasions. Burns or blisters caused by rough terrain can also be concerning for dog owners. 

Let’s delve into the various sources of paw ailments and discuss how you can preemptively protect your dog from them.

Overview of Dog Paws

An intricate assembly of bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, muscles, skin, blood vessels, and nerves – not to mention fur pads and claws – makes up your pup’s paws. 

These parts absorb shock and friction while stabilizing slippery surfaces or steep inclines. Further still, your pup’s paws can detect the slightest touches, aiding in balance and alertness.

Ensuring your dog’s paws are adequately protected and cared for is essential to keep them functioning efficiently.

11 Common Paw Problems in Dogs

Our furry friends may suffer from various issues related to their paws due to either environment or diet. But multiple problems can arise which need attention. So it’s essential to keep an eye on them.

1. Allergies

Dogs often lick, bite, or chew their paws to relieve itchy symptoms of allergies. Between skin infections and anal gland issues, and chronic ear, dogs can suffer from various allergies and the discomfort that comes with them.

During the warmer months of spring and summer, many dogs with allergies to molds and pollens will frequently lick their paws after a walk outdoors – a reaction caused by exposure to airborne allergens such as:

  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Dust 
  • Grass

Licking or chewing excessively can cause irritation or injury and increase the risk of fungal and bacterial infections. So if you notice your dog excessively licking his paws, observe him closely and keep him away from allergens.

2. Fungal and Bacterial Infections

Paw inflammations may be caused by bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or viral infections, including:

  • Actinobacillosis
  • Furunculosis
  • Staphylococcus
  • Mycobacteriosis
  • Pseudomonas
  • Pyoderma
  • Actinomycosis
  • Nocardiosis

Pay attention to itching, redness, and greasy discharge between the toes – if these signs appear, keep your dog’s paws clean and dry, and use coconut oil or other antifungal agents for the paws. 

A yeast infection may be the cause of your pup’s odorous plight. Possible contributing factors include:

  • Allergies
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Weakened immune system

Symptoms like greasy skin, crusty paws, and swollen nail beds can indicate an infection. Antifungal creams, wipes, and oral medications are available to tackle it head-on.

3. Nail Issues in Dogs

Nail issues in dogs are common and can include discoloration, splitting, or crumbling of the nails. Causes include:

  • Genetics
  • Trauma
  • Infection
  • Dietary deficiencies

Long Toenails

Long nails can be damaging to your dog and may have serious consequences. It will make walking more challenging for him, but the prolonged contact with the hard ground causes the nail bed to push back into his skin painfully, putting pressure on all his toe joints.

In addition, overly long nails increase the risk of a fractured or torn nail when running or playing outdoors.

Ingrown Nails

Ingrown nails in dogs can be painful and lead to long-term damage if not properly trimmed or naturally worn down. When a nail grows into the paw pad, it can cause:

  • Infection
  • Deformed feet
  • Joint damage

Taking steps to trim nails is vital for preventing issues caused by ingrowth.

Torn Nails

When dogs unexpectedly limp and sometimes bleed after coming in from outside, it is usually due to their nail being caught on something.

Torn or fractured nails are not only extremely painful but can lead to excessive bleeding – so the best course of action is to trim the nails regularly and take extra care when outdoors.

Some rare nail abnormalities exist, such as symmetrical onychomadesis or Squamous cell carcinomas. These conditions are seldom encountered.

4. Burns and Blisters

Burns and blisters are a common issue with paws coming into contact with hot surfaces, such as 

  • Pavement in summer
  • Open fires
  • Dangerous materials

If your pup has suffered this type of injury, characterized by swollen red or blistered skin, use a cool compress like a damp, clean cloth to help relieve the pain and reduce swelling.

Burns on a dog’s paw pad can cause extreme discomfort, so it is imperative to provide swift medical attention. 

5. Dry and Cracked Paw Pads

Dogs’ paws are naturally equipped with a slightly rough surface to help them better grip surfaces. 

Nevertheless, with extreme temperature changes, exposure to hazardous chemicals or rough terrain, dry air, and constant licking of their paw pads, dogs can become dangerously dehydrated and even develop cracked skin. It is uncomfortable for the pup and puts dogs at risk of infection!

6. Cuts and Abrasions

With their tendency to explore and traverse various landscapes, dogs are vulnerable to wounds – from minor cuts and scrapes to more serious lacerations.

When walking your pup, you must be mindful of sharp objects that may injure him. 

When traversing rough terrain or tarred roads, equip your dog with the necessary protection. Small rocks, sticks, burrs, and even broken glass can easily penetrate his skin resulting in injury if not prevented.

7. Growths and Cysts 

Growth, cysts, and lumps are expected between toes or paws. Filled with air or fluid, cysts can be painful and quickly become infected if ruptured. 

Pay attention to any changes in size, color, or texture of the skin in your pup’s paw area! If you spot one, it’s best to have it checked out as soon as possible.

8. Parasites

Ticks tend to hide between your dog’s toes, leading to significant issues such as infection and pain. To ensure your pup’s health, make it a daily routine to wash and inspect his feet for any parasites.

If you find ticks on him, use tweezers or specialized tools designed explicitly for easy tick removal. The parasite’s head and body must be detached from its host.

Dogs may suffer from an infestation of mites, which may cause the following:

  • Swelling
  • Scaling
  • Hair loss

9. Zinc deficiency

Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes have difficulty absorbing zinc due to a genetic predisposition or an inadequate diet. Calcium binds with zinc, preventing its absorption, which can lead to deficiency in young puppies and dogs.

Puppies afflicted with zinc deficiency suffer from a plethora of symptoms, such as:

  • Slowed growth
  • Diarrhea
  • Cracked paw pads
  • Relentless infections

Unfortunately, these puppies rarely respond to treatments that feature zinc supplementation, leading many of them to an inevitable demise or euthanasia.

It is essential to monitor their diets closely to ensure they receive the right amount of zinc for health.

10. Pemphigus Foliaceus

Pemphigus Foliaceus (PF) is an auto-immune condition that causes fluid-filled blisters or crusty skin on the paw pads.

The condition occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the outer layers of these pads. To prevent further blistering, corticosteroids are often prescribed for continued use. Proper treatment may alleviate the thickening and cracking of the paw pads.

11. Plantar Vitiligo 

Vitiligo in dogs is a genetic disorder stemming from a defect in melanocyte production of melanin synthesis. It results in areas of the skin lacking pigmentation, including paw pads – an aesthetic issue that does not affect the animal’s welfare.

Plantar vitiligo refers explicitly to the condition when it affects the plantar pads. This disorder can affect other areas of the body as well.

Signs and Symptoms of Paw Problems in Dogs

If your dog is exhibiting any of the following behaviors or signs, it may be suffering from paw pain and discomfort:

  • Incessantly licking or chewing paws
  • Limping/lameness
  • Redness and inflammation in the fur around the paws
  • Lesions with discharge that can lead to hair loss
  • Scabbing ulcers
  • Unable to bear weight while walking
  • Scrapes, cuts, and tears on their nails
  • Dry/cracked paw pads with loose skin flaps
  • Cysts and growths forming
  • Bleeding accompanied by a foul odor from the feet

How to Prevent Dog Paw Problems

Despite the toughness of their pads, dog paws can suffer from regular wear and tear due to contact with surfaces. That’s why it is so vital that we take extra care when looking after our furry friends’ feet. 

To prevent any potential issues from arising, here are a few critical points for us all to keep in mind:

Walk in Safe Places

While taking a stroll, it is essential to remain alert and mindful of any hazardous materials that may harm you or your dog, such as 

  • Glass shards
  • Wire fragments
  • Nails 

To keep yourself safe, avoid areas known for these sharp objects and opt for safer routes instead.

Avoid Very Abrasive Terrain

Take your pup for walks on soft surfaces like grass or soil for optimal paw health. To protect the pads of their paws from abrasions, refrain from walking them on rough terrains such as: 

  • Asphalt
  • Tarmac
  • Stony areas

Keep the Paw Pads Dry

When a pup’s paw pads are exposed to water for an extended period, the skin softens and can be more prone to damage from contact with hard surfaces. 

That’s why it is essential to thoroughly dry off your dog’s feet after he has been out in wet weather or splashing around bodies of water.

When you bathe or groom your four-legged friend, limit his exposure as much as possible and ensure that his paws are completely dry afterward.

Avoid Areas With Foxtails

Foxtails, a type of diaspore, are arrow-shaped seed pods covered in sharp spikelets called awns. They can penetrate the paw skin and cause ulcers and infections that drain to the outside, forming fistulas. 

As soon as good weather arrives, it is advised to steer clear from cereal plantations to stay away from any issues related to foxtails.

Avoid Very Hot or Very Cold Ground

To protect the dog’s paw pads from severe burns, take him on walks during the cooler hours of the day or after dark

Special snowshoes – or any other type of canine footwear – can guard his feet against scorching heat or icy chill in cold climates and winter.

Pet Care Tip: Check out this video on safely checking a dog’s paws. It will show you the everyday problems of his paws and how to prevent them in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Dog Paws Heal Quickly?

Typically paw pads heal rapidly. Monitor your pup to ensure he doesn’t excessively lick his paw pads, as this can slow healing and cause further problems due to wetness or dirt accumulation.

Can I Put Coconut Oil on My Dog’s Paws?

You can use coconut oil to soothe and heal your pup’s dry, cracked paws. To avoid disappointment, make sure that the oil is fully absorbed. Thoroughly rub it in – otherwise, your dog may think it’s a yummy snack.

How Long Do Dog Paws Take To Heal?

Paw pads typically take two to three weeks for the healing process. Allowing enough rest time is vital for complete healing. However, a deeper puncture may require your pup to take it slow to give his paw the best chance of recovery.