common dog paw problems biting licking their paws

Common dog paw problems … and what to do about them

The common misconception is that paw pads don't break. Dog owners don't pay attention to their paw pad health as much as they should!

Although they are not generally severe, paw pad problems often can cause distress and pain to a dog.

Cuts, broken nails, and scrapes require veterinarian care as they don't heal like the dog's normal skin. Regular home paw examination helps a lot in evaluating these common problems.

Healthy paws are crucial for a dog's comfort, health, and well-being because they do the most.

Could it be a dog paw pad infection? Read on to know more about dog problems, causes, and symptoms.

Should dog paws be rough or soft?

Dog's paw pads are thick skin consisting of a layer of pigmented skin (pink or) black covering a fatty tissue performing amazing tasks for the dog.

Paw pads help provide cushions against bone stress, shock absorbers, and security in rough places. During winter, the insulating fat protects the dog from cold surfaces.

The design we see in dogs' paws today has evolved over the years to serve specific purposes considering they have paws similar to mammalian tetrapods and common ancestry with wild wolves. 

From pink, a puppy's paw pads gradually darken as they approach adulthood. Dog paw shapes are different and physical signs of complications are often hard to identify.

Other discoloration of adult dog paws often doesn't mean severe conditions but when accompanied by discomfort and illness symptoms.

There are three common types of dog feet:

Cat feet: Newfoundland and Akita are some examples of dogs with this type of foot. The digital pads, where a dog places most of its weight, are bundled closely with a compact and rounded design. They help dogs use less energy when walking as they make small steps.

Webbed feet: Dogs with these feet are bred to work around and in water like ducks. Breeds, including Labrador, dachshund, and outer hound (who developed webbed feet because their prey otters and badgers run off into the water), have this kind of feet.

Hare feet: This type of foot has two digital center pads longer than the outside ones forming an elongated foot resembling a hare. These feet enable dogs to sprint short distances quickly but with a lot of energy. They include; Standard Poodle, Greyhound, and Australian Shepherd.

What does a paw infection look like?

Paw pads work with the dog's nails for balance, stability, and adhesion. Smooth and soft or rough and hard pads depend on the dog's usual walking terrain.

Despite being durable and designed to tolerate many activities and wear, dog paws encounter many problems. Any changes in a dog's paw can be signs of a mild or severe condition.

The common signs of dog problems include:

  • Excessive licking and biting of paws
  • Difficulty in walking or refusal to walk
  • Tears, cuts, and abrasions on the paws
  • Cracked, dry pads and torn nails
  • Swollen and red paws
  • Limping or lameness
  • Itching, scabbing, and blisters
  • Loose flaps of skin and hair loss on paw pads
  • Lesions, ulcers, and bruises on the paws
  • Presence of warts, growth of a cyst
  • Blood and pus discharge
  • Foul smell from the paws 

Usually, a dog with a broken paw holds their leg in midair, whines or cries, and refuses physical contact in an attempt to examine the paw.

What is wrong with my dog's paw?

Dog paws smelling like corn chips or popcorn are signs of good health because the naturally occurring fungi and bacteria are useful for the dog's immunity.

Moderate licking and biting by dogs helps spread the harmless microbes all over their bodies.

Knowing facts on common causes of dog paw problems helps render the care they best deserve before and after checkups by a veterinarian.

  • Allergies often show up as skin issues, with the paws as good locations for symptoms. Dogs tend to bite, chew or lick the affected paws to relieve the itchiness. Chronic ear, anal gland, and skin infections may proceed if the allergies are not diagnosed and treated.
  • Fungal and Bacterial Infections: Different species of fungi and bacteria camp on a dog's paws, but underlying conditions can make them multiply and be problematic. Yeast infections are often secondary to food and environmental allergies with other causes such as hormonal imbalance and immune system problems.

On the other hand, bacterial infections happen due to injuries or foreign bodies getting stuck between the dog's paw pads, such as foxtails, glass, or wood). The dog tends to lick the area, breaking the skin and encouraging bacteria to enter the openings excessively. They often produce pungent and peculiar smells. 

  • Paw Injuries: Cuts, tears, lacerations, and bruises may appear mild, but it is essential to treat them to avoid further infections. Dogs can cut themselves on different things outdoors, such as sticks, broken glass, rocks, and debris, so it is good to keep a watchful eye on them.
  • Parasites: Spending a lot of time outside exposes dogs to parasites such as Demodex mites, ticks, and fleas. They stick in the tender skin between the dog's toe pads, causing pain, itching, and swelling. 
  • Nail Problems: Long toenails exerts pressure on the dog's toe joints when the hard nail surfaces hit the ground and are pushed back, creating pain. Nails that are not well-trimmed or naturally worn down can become ingrown nails. In addition, fractured or torn nails happen when the dog catches their nail on something and is best attended to by a vet.
  • Dry and cracked paw pads: Exposure to cold temperatures and rough surfaces, chemicals, salt, dry air, excessive licking fertilizers or cleaners may 
  • Burns and Blisters: Dogs suffer burns from walking on hot surfaces like asphalt and sand during summer and frostbites in winter. This condition is a serious medical issue, and a dog owner should seek a veterinarian's attention immediately.

Will a dog's paw pad heal on its own?

Normally, dogs lick their paws as part of self-grooming, excessive licking or biting warrants immediate checkups for underlying health issues.

Different paw problems require different treatment options, and the earlier the diagnosis, the better chances of the dog's quick relief.

Below are the specific treatments:

(Allergies) Prescribed steroids and over-the-counter medications can handle itching and other symptoms following the intensity of the allergies. For food allergies, vets recommend the elimination diet to help pinpoint causative foods.

(Fungal and Bacterial Infections) In addition to topical ointments, shampoos, and sprays, antibiotics mainly treat bacterial infections. Medications usually last for 3-6 weeks, after which a further one week of treatment is added after symptoms go away.

(Paw Injuries) The first steps include cleaning the affected areas with antiseptic or water while removing debris. For bleeding wounds, apply pressure on them and improve constriction of blood vessels by placing a clean towel with ice on them.

(Parasites) One can use a tick remover instead of tweezers to ensure that the whole tick is removed, although it is best if you let a vet do the procedure. Mite medications are prescribed depending on the severity of the infection.

(Nail Problems) This remedy is the simplest. Clip and trim the dog's nails regularly ensure they don't get long. It would help if you were very careful to avoid accidentally causing harm to the dog.

(Dry and cracked paw pads) Moisturizing balms can help repair minor cracks, but deep bleeding cracks require antibiotic creams prescribed by a vet. Pad protectors, socks, booties, and paw balms can help reduce the dog's risk of cracks during outdoor activities.

(Burns and Blisters) Keep the dog off hot pavements and exposure to extreme cold conditions. If you should go out, put protective clothes on the dog's paws. Petroleum jelly can help as a barrier to chemicals and salt but ensure to wipe the dog's paws in case of contact.

How can I treat my dog's paw at home?

Many paw problems are not easily preventable, but a dog owner can do several things to support their dog's health.

  • Perform regular paw pad examinations on your dog to avoid last-minute rushes
  • Use an elimination diet to remove food allergens
  • Keep the dog paws clean and dry
  • Apply topical products to help with the dog's biting and itching
  • Avoid tick-infested areas and check the dog regularly for ticks after outdoor activities
  • Provide regular pedicures for your dog to keep their nails trimmed and clean
  • Always have paw repair creams or moisturizers at hand for prevention and care techniques for paw problems
  • During outdoor activities, keep a watchful eye on your dog for sharp objects that can cause them harm
  • Keep hair between the toes groomed to prevent irritations and to slip of trapped allergens or moisture
  • Avoid walking the dog on hot surfaces, and if you must, they should be wearing protective clothes

Final Thought

A dog's paws are essential, and keeping them safe is even more critical.

The dog's paw pads may have various issues, including allergies, infections, cracked paw pads, physical injuries, burns, and infections, but proper diagnosis by a vet and medication will relieve your dog in no time.

Always consider first aid for minor injuries to keep the paw problem under control before informing a vet for further examination.

Proper hydration keeps the dog comfortable, providing plenty of fresh water. Additionally, a high-quality, balanced diet, preferably a raw diet, may come in handy.

Immunity organic mushroom mix supports dogs' immunity and reduces inflammation. Soil-based prebiotics and probiotics (which improve digestion and restore the dog's gut balance) are great ingredients to add to your dog's diet.

It is good to look out for your dog's general health and consult a veterinarian for any signs and symptoms your dog may show for necessary treatments.