10 Dog Paw Problems Every Dog Owner Should Know About

Dog paw problems dogfoodcare.com

Dogs are born explorers, and their most important exploration tools are their noses and their feet. Therefore, it is not surprising that there is an endless list of potential dog paw problems pet owners should look out for. Despite their durability and design to withstand heavy wear and tear, your dog’s paws need frequent inspections to identify injuries or conditions that could cause discomfort and affect your furry friend’s mobility.

Your canine companion’s paws and paw pads serve as shock absorbers to cushion bone and joint stress. They insulate your doggy dude’s feet, assist with balance, give traction, and help with slowing down and coming to a stop. Moreover, many dogs have food or environmental-related allergies that cause paw issues.

Not all paw injuries or conditions are immediately evident, and dog owners who know the red flags may identify concerns before they become severe. General signs of paw pad injury may or may not require veterinary care. If you are unsure about any pet health issues, it is best to call your veterinarian for advice. 

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What are the Signs of Paw Problems?

  • Limping or lameness
  • Refusal to walk
  • Discomfort when bearing weight on one or more paws
  • Loose flaps of skin on paw pads
  • Blistered, raw, inflamed, or bleeding paws from cuts and abrasions
  • Sudden obsessive chewing or licking at paws
  • Foul smell coming from paw
  • Pus discharge

Paw care is crucial, and unlike grooming that might happen weekly or even less frequently, examining your precious pooch’s paws should be a daily task. It is as simple as squeezing your doggy dude’s paws whenever he comes for a cuddle. His reaction will alert you to anything that might be wrong. Identify dog paw problems early, and avoid having your canine companion running around with his paws in bandages.

What are the Most Common Dog Paw Problems?

Below is a list of frequent issues related to dogs’ feet, toes, paws, and paw pads for which dog owners should look out.

  • Fungal Infections— yeast and ringworm
  • Bacterial Infections
  • Allergies
  • Ticks, parasites, and mites
  • Cysts and growths
  • Hairy feet
  • Object stuck in the paw
  • Weather-related and seasonal conditions
  • Overgrown, ingrown, or torn toenails
  • Anxiety and boredom

The pads of your dog’s feet have specialized skin that heals differently from the way normal skin heals. That may require veterinary evaluation and treatment for moderate to severe injuries and conditions.

1. Fungal Infections

Dog paw problems involving fungal infection on dogs’ paws typically involve one of two conditions, yeast infection or ringworm,

  • Yeast infection: Excessive licking often indicates itching caused by yeast fungi, and licking often exacerbates the condition. The dog’s salivary enzymes cause reactions like red nail beds, redness, itching, and discharge. Occasionally, there is brown discoloration of the nails. Yeast infection could also be secondary to an allergy, like atopic dermatitis. However, food or environmental allergy could also be the culprit. Your vet can test the area to determine if yeast is the culprit and treat the infection.
  • Ringworm: Ringworm is more concerning because it is contagious, and could be spread to other pets or the dog’s human family members. Your doggy dude could pick up the ringworm fungus in the soil, get it from plants, or from other animals like those they interact with at the dog park. Despite the name, ringworm on your furry friend’s foot is not a worm, nor is it a ring. It presents as a swollen toe or an abscess. Your vet will examine a hair or skin sample under a microscope, or send it to a lab for diagnosis, before treating this fungal infection.

2. Allergies

Like their human families, dogs can suffer from food allergies, or it might be an environmental allergy. You might not see allergies as dog paw problems, but allergies in dogs often cause irritation and itchy paws, and their obsessive licking is nothing but an effort to stop the itching. Unfortunately, excessive licking can cause your dog’s paw to pick up secondary bacterial or fungal infections. Dog owners should reach out to their vets if they suspect allergies in their dogs.

3. Parasites

Typical parasitic infestations in dogs’ paws involve ticks or mites.

  • Ticks: Ticks are masters at concealing themselves while having their fill of their host’s blood. If that host is your precious pooch, you might find the parasite between your pup’s toes. They cause painful infections, but doggy dads should resist the urge to burn or pluck the tick off their furry friend’s skin. The concern is that it will only be a successful removal if the head comes away with the tick’s body. Special tools to remove ticks are available, but your vet can also show you how to remove a tick successfully.
  • Mites: Dogs can pick up mites in several ways. They can get the mites from the environment or from other dogs. Your doggy dude can then transfer the mites to his bedding, from where repeated infestations can occur. Mites often settle in the dog’s paws, where they cause swelling, hair loss and scaling. Treatment can begin once your vet has diagnosed the mite infestation.

4. Cysts and Growths

Cysts and growths that occur on your dog’s feet are fluid-filled swellings that sometimes also contain thick material. They can develop where foreign materials became embedded, not uncommon between the dog’s toes. Both cysts and growths on a dog’s paws can be painful, and your dog will lick its paws to get rid of whatever causes the pain. The cyst may start leaking pus, in which case your vet might have to drain the cyst and remove the embedded foreign object.

5. Hairy Feet

Some dogs’ feet have more hair than others, and keeping the hairs between the paw pads short is a good idea. Excessively hairy paws could pick up sticky asphalt bits, small pebbles, gum, thorns, and burrs, which are tough to remove without hurting your pup. Having a groomer clip those hairs and keeping them short is a good idea. However, note that short-haired dogs might develop ingrown hairs that initially present as tiny pimples. They can lead to furunculosis, which is an infection deep in the hair follicle that could ultimately manifest into an abscess and cause tissue damage. However, there is also a familial hairy feet condition called Hyperkeratosis.

Hyperkeratosis: This is a skin condition that makes your dog’s paw pads thick and crusty. It’s often referred to as “hairy dog feet” because it causes your dog’s paws to look like they are growing an abnormal layer of hair. Dog breeds prone to Hyperkeratosis include Irish setters, Kerry Blue Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden retrievers. However, paw Hyperkeratosis is not limited to these breeds. Symptoms are usually present by 6 months of age.

Canine hyperkeratosis can be very painful for your dog and requires immediate attention. There is no known cure for hyperkeratosis, but there are things you can do to make your pup’s life much more comfortable. For instance, Natural Dog Company’s Paw Soother, a veterinarian-approved paw pad moisturizer, can provide your dog with all-natural relief while reducing or eliminating the side effects.

6. Objects Stuck in the Paw

Objects stuck in between your precious pooch’s toes or between paw pads can cause severe discomfort and even pain. The most common culprits are burrs, thorns, small stones and pebbles, dried mud, or sharp objects like glass pieces picked up during dog walks. The object could even be your dog’s matted fur. Your dog will lick in an attempt to dislodge the source of the pain. A pair of tweezers is a handy tool for removing foreign objects before trimming back the matted hair.

7. Cracked Pads

Cracked paw pads can cause significant discomfort for your canine pal. Causes of cracked paws include exposure to cold walking surfaces and areas covered in chemicals, salt, cleaners, or fertilizers. If left untreated, the dog’s paw pad cracks can become deeper and start bleeding, risking infections. Your vet might have to prescribe antibiotics to treat infections when that happens.

Precautions include giving your precious pooch moisturizing paw massages, booties, or socks for walks and outdoor play in icy or hot weather. Paw balm that acts as a pad protector can be a suitable precaution. Dog Food Care recommends Musher’s Secret Dog Paw Wax–An all-season Pet Paw Protection against heat, hot pavement, sand, dirt, and snow–great for dogs on trails and walks.

8. Weather-related and Seasonal Conditions

You know how hot sand, pavement, or other hot surfaces can burn your bare feet, and how running barefoot through the snow can freeze your toes. The same applies to your furry friend’s paw pads. Hot walking surfaces in summer can cause burns and blisters, while winter weather poses a host of paw health hazards.

Seasonal risks for your pooch’s paws include chemical ice melters and rock salt. Moreover, when your doggo licks his damaged paw pads afterward, he could ingest those chemicals, causing further harm. You can prevent this by thoroughly washing its paws in warm water, and drying it properly after outings in extreme weather conditions. Follow that up with a moisturizing salve massage to prevent cracked paw pads.

9. Overgrown, Ingrown, or Torn Toenails

Long toenails: Long toenails can exacerbate dog paw problems. Toenails left unclipped and allowed to continue growing can have many negative consequences for your dog. Long nails can make it difficult for your canine companion to walk. With every step, your dog’s nails contact the hard ground, the hard surface pushes the nails back up into the nail bed, causing pain in all the toe joints for the dog. Long nails also increase the risk of torn or fractured nails.

Ingrown toenails: When your dog’s nails do not naturally wear down by walking on rough surfaces outside and are also not trimmed frequently, continue to grow, often becoming painful ingrown toenails. Your vet can treat them with pain medication and antibiotics, but severely ingrown nails might require a surgical procedure to rectify. Many pet parents are nervous about nail trims for fear of clipping the nails too deep and nicking the blood vessels. Especially after a previous attempt led to bleeding. Dog groomers can do the clipping at a small fee.

Torn Nails: If one of your furry friend’s toenails catches on something, either outside or even an indoor carpet, that nail can be fractured, torn, or even ripped out. Therefore, if your dog limps suddenly for no apparent reason, there might even be blood present, examine its nails, and chances are good you’ll find a torn nail. Torn and fractured nails can be very painful and commonly bleed, so it is best treated by a veterinarian.

10. Anxiety and boredom

Anxiety and boredom are common causes of dog paw problems if they lick their paws excessively. Somehow, the repetitive licking motion soothes anxious pooches. However, the licked area could lose hair and become a bald patch if this is common behavior. The skin might become thick, and raised, causing a lick granuloma.

A lick granuloma is a chronic skin issue caused by excessive licking. They occur when a dog keeps licking one specific area of their bodies. This makes the skin itch or hurt, which causes more licking and even chewing. The area becomes inflamed and infected, and then—you guessed it—more licking takes place.

A vet can prescribe medication to treat lick granulomas. The combined anti-inflammatory lotion treats the lesion that results from the repeated licking of the same area, often over the wrist. Although prescription topical medication can help, you also need to find out the cause of the dog’s anxiety. Contact your vet or a veterinary behaviorist to help you understand the cause and create a plan for helping your dog.

Any dog owner should ensure that paw care is a part of their overall dog health care. Accidents will happen, but you can reduce the risk of paw pad injury by keeping your home and yard clear of sharp objects and rough debris. Take care when you are out to avoid hazards such as broken glass and other debris on pavements. Limit the periods of walking on graveled areas, hot pavements in the summer and road salt in the winter.

Bottom Line

Never expect your canine companion to walk where you would not like to walk barefoot.


Hopefully, we helped answer any questions you had about your precious pooch’s paw problems. 

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Mari Serfontein