Common Dog Paw Issues

Common Dog Paw Issues

A dog’s paws are the animal’s contact with the world, just like our own hands and feet. It is critical that a dog’s paws be strong and healthy, and understanding common dog paw issues can help all dog owners be aware of their pet’s needs to keep their canine family members walking, running, and digging with ease.

About Dog Paws

Your dog’s feet and paws are complex structures with bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, muscles, skin, blood vessels, nerves, fur, pads, claws, and more. Together, these structures work efficiently as shock absorbers for your dog’s feet and joints, as well as providing friction and brakes on slippery surfaces and steep slopes. A dog’s paws aid the animal’s balance, and help it stay alert to its surroundings through sensitive touch. It is critical that paws are properly protected and cared for so they can continue to meet all the dog’s needs.

Most Common Dog Paw Problems

There are many different problems that can impact a dog’s paws. Which problems could affect different dogs will vary based on climate, overall health, activity level, and other factors, but these common dog paw issues are widespread and can affect all dog breeds and ages.

  • Allergies – Just like any animal, including humans, dogs can have allergies to pollen, dust, perfumes, and other substances. When those allergies act up, the skin on a dog’s paws can become very sensitive and the dog may lick, bite, or chew its paws to try and relieve the itching.
  • Infections – Fungal and bacterial infections can flourish in the dark, warm spaces between a dog’s toes, causing redness, swelling, itchiness, pus drainage, and other symptoms. Yeast infections and ringworm are some of the most common culprits.
  • Toenail Trouble – Overly long toenails, ingrown toenails, cracked and broken nails, or misaligned nails can all catch on the ground as a dog walks, or could become infected and painful, even digging into the dog’s pads or flesh if the problem is extreme.
  • Dry, Cracked Pads – Just like dry skin, a dog’s paw pads can dry out and become itchy and cracked, leading to infections. This could be caused by walking over rough or hot surfaces, dry climate conditions without enough humidity for healthy skin, or even excess licking.
  • Cuts and Scratches – As a dog walks over different surfaces, its paws may be cut or scratched by shards of glass, sharp rocks, thorns, burrs, and other items. Even small cuts and scratches can easily become infected and painful.
  • Parasites – Ticks will easily get between a dog’s toes and could pass on dangerous diseases as they suck the dog’s blood. Mite infestations are also common on a dog’s paws, and fleas and other parasites can also be an issue on paws.
  • Cysts – Filled with either fluid or air, cysts can be painful growths on a dog’s paws, and if the cysts burst, they can easily become infected. Other lumps, bumps, and growths may also appear on a dog’s toes, and should always be checked by a veterinarian.
  • Burns – A dog’s sensitive paws can quickly be burned if the dog walks, runs, or plays on hot surfaces such as sun-baked asphalt, concrete, or sand. This can lead to blistering and peeling skin as well as overall redness and the potential for infection.
  • Foreign Objects – Different sharp items could get stuck in a dog’s paw pads or between toes. Thorns, burrs, splinters, gravel, ice balls, and other items are commonly stuck on dog’s paws, and chemicals such as de-icers and winter salts can coat a dog’s paws, leading to toxic contamination and possible poisoning if the paws are not cleaned.

Protecting Your Dog’s Paws

With so many possible painful, even dangerous issues that can affect a dog’s paws, it is important to take proper care of the dog’s paws. Keeping the toenails properly trimmed is essential, and gently clipping very furry paws will ensure fewer objects or infections can take hold on the dog’s paws. Be alert to the dog’s behavior, and immediately investigate any excessive licking or biting that could indicate a problem with the paws. Also note if the dog is limping or favoring a particular paw, and examine paws regularly for scrapes, scratches, cuts, lumps, and other problems.

When walking your dog, stay on safe, comfortable surfaces. Avoid walking your dog on hot surfaces or where sharp objects may be present, and consider getting your dog used to wearing boots or booties to protect its paws, particularly in winter when more chemicals may be used on walkways and surfaces can be slippery.

If your dog continues to show signs of discomfort related to its paws, consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and effective treatment options. If allergies are affecting your dog’s paws, for example, it will be necessary to determine which allergens are causing the problem and treating that cause will help ease the dog’s discomfort. A nutritious diet to support a healthy skin and coat can also help ensure the best paw health for your dog.

There are many different issues that can affect a dog’s paws, but being familiar with the most common dog paw problems can help you give your dog a long and healthy life with many walks, games, and playtimes to come.