Temperatures outside are turning and it looks like summer is coming to an end. Despite the colder temperatures, we find ourselves trying to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible with our dogs and this month we will discuss a common ailment – sore pads on a dog’s paws.
Symptoms of Sore Paw Pads in Dogs
Dogs with sore pads may have swollen, red or painful looking paws. There may be lameness associated with the sore pads where the dog limps or may even hold up the affected paw/paws. Licking may occur in cases where there is chronic irritation or itch. If the pad has been cut or scraped you may see bleeding. If there is infection you may also see pus discharge from the pad.
Causes of Sore Dog Paw Pads
Sore pads on dogs can have many causes. Some of the more common ones we see are:
- Trauma – crushing injuries from being stepped on or pinching can cause bruising and pain.
- Burns – a dog’s paw pads can be burned from heat or chemicals. Walking on hot pavement or asphalt can lead to thermal burns, while walking through caustic chemicals can cause chemical burns.
- Foreign Bodies – penetrating wounds from sharp objects like sticks, metal, glass or grass awns that imbed themselves in the pad.
- Wounds – cuts, scrapes, abrasions and bite wounds from other animals.
- Insect Bites/Stings – ants, wasps, bees or even fleas can bite and cause pain/irritation.
- Allergies – dogs with allergies will often develop bacterial or fungal infections between their pads. These infections are itchy and chronically irritated and can develop into “hot spots”.
- Frostbite – a type of burn that can develop in dogs that are outside too long or walk too long in freezing temperatures or icy/snowy conditions.
Prevention and Treatment of Sore Paw Pads
The prevention and treatment of sore paw pads on dogs is dependent on the cause.
In the case of trauma, the only prevention is to try and avoid stepping on or pinching your dog’s paw. If it should accidentally occur it is important to visually inspect the paw/pad and check for any signs of serious injury. In these cases, it may require a veterinary exam to rule out any broken bones or loss of blood supply to the toe/pad.
To prevent burns, even the mildest of which can make a dog’s pads sore, make sure you are aware of where you are walking your dog. Pavement and sand can get very hot in the summer and his/her paw pads can easily get burned. Also, watch for chemical spills or the presence of unknown chemical substances where you walk your dog. If your dog walks through an unknown chemical and is experiencing burning or irritation, do not allow him/her to lick it off and ingest it. Wash the paws with mild soap and water and make sure to put gloves on to prevent exposure to yourself. If burned pads peel or the skin starts to slough, they should be examined by a veterinarian. They may require further treatment, as they are very susceptible to infection.
Foreign Bodies & Wounds
Wounds and foreign bodies in a dog’s paw pads can be extremely sore for the animal. Luckily, they can be prevented relatively easily by avoiding their exposure to sharp objects on your walking path or off-leash area. Be aware of areas that may have broken glass, exposed sharp metal, broken sticks and foxtails or grass awns. In the unfortunate event that your dog does experience exposure to a foreign body, he/she should be seen by your veterinarian. The wound needs to be properly cleaned and explored. This often requires sedation to make sure that the foreign body has been completely removed. If the pad has been lacerated and localized pressure does not stop the bleeding, the pad may require stitches and bandaging.
Insect bites are difficult to prevent and if on a dog’s pads, can be very sore. If you know of hives, nests or anthills in your yard, remove them safely to prevent exposure. If your dog experiences an insect bite on or between its feet pads, you can usually treat it symptomatically. Remove the stinger and apply a cool compress. If there is a lot of swelling or redness or you are concerned about an allergic reaction contact your veterinarian right away.
Dogs that suffer from allergies will often lick between the pads of their feet. Allergies alter the skin and allow bacterial or fungal infections to grow and the pads to become sore. This condition is best prevented and treated with the help of your veterinarian to diagnose your dog’s symptoms properly, as it requires a multifaceted approach. If you suspect your dog is licking its paws because of allergies, please make an appointment to have him/her examined.
Frostbite on a dog’s paws can be prevented by not allowing your dog outside in the extreme cold or when the wind chill is high. Protective winter boots can help avoid sore pads when the weather is poor. If your dog has had prolonged exposure to extreme cold and the pads look pale, they may have frostbite. Warm the paw up slowly by wrapping them with warm towels. The colour should return and the pads will pink up. If the pads start to peel or if they turn black, make an appointment with your veterinarian, as this is a more serious injury.
If Your Dog Has Sore Pads
Sore dog pads will put a damper on your ability to walk or exercise your pet, so do your best to limit exposure to potential causes and treat them early if he/she experiences symptoms. If you have any questions regarding how to deal with sore pads on your dog please contact our clinic and we will be happy to help.