Cuts on your dog's paw can be serious. If your dog has a cut on its paw, it could be uncomfortable, or even painful and affect the way they walk or run. Here, our vets in Lancaster discuss what to do for your dog's paws and how we can help.
What are Paw Pads?
There are 3 kinds of paw pads on your dog's foot: the metacarpal pad, the primary pad, and the metatarsal pad located just above the foot. These pads provide the dog with shock absorption when your dog runs or jumps. The pads help with balance and they help protect against extreme temperatures. The outer area of the pad will develop calluses over time as your hands and feet do, which will add a little more protection.
About Dog Paw Pad Injuries
Dogs don't wear shoes normally, so they have very little protection on their feet. It is not uncommon for your dog to injure their paws. Our dogs' pads will toughen and thicken as they grow, but their pads are still susceptible to injuries caused by sharp objects. Some things to look out for are; broken glass or stones, chemicals in your home or on the street that can cause burns, and heat from hot sidewalks on very hot days that cause blistering.
Healthy foot pads are crucial, so injuries need attention. If your dog limps or licks at her pads, they may be hurting so take the time to check your dog's paws. All of these things can be painful for your dog so it is important to recognize signs of a hurt paw pad, how to treat it at home and when to contact Lancaster vets.
Different Types of Injuries:
Depending on the severity of the injury your vet may recommend bringing your pet in for emergency vet care during our daytime hours or heading to an emergency vet hospital near Lancaster after hours. Here are some scenarios that may qualify as an emergency:
- Cuts, Abrasions & Scrapes - Sharp objects like glass and rocks can easily cut through a dog’s pad and cause wounds.
- Punctures – dogs can get puncture wounds from a variety of things, but more often than not, it is from sticks in the woods or yard.
- Burns (from streets, sidewalks, or rocks) – When the temperatures are high, the ground warms up and can cause burns to your dog’s pads. Your dog will not always react to the hot ground right away and by the time they do, it may be too late.
- Chemical Burns– Household products cause chemical burns, like cleaners (toilet, drain, metal, oven), fertilizers, cement, bleach, pool chlorinators, and some laundry detergents.
- Cracks – Paw pads can crack when they get dried out just like your skin dries out. There are lotions for this.
- Bug Bites or Stings – It's common for dogs to get stung or bitten on their paw pads. Mosquito bites are unlikely to hurt your dog, but fire ants and ground wasps can cause serious injury.
- Foreign Objects – Things such as sticks, thorns, and pebbles can become a problem when stuck in your dog’s paw pad.
- Frostbite – Though your dog has a fat layer to aid in temperature regulation, in extreme cold, they can still get frostbite on the pads of their feet.
How to Treat a Paw Injury at Home
If your dog has a minor wound, it is okay to take care of it at home. But you will need to keep an eye on the injury while it heals to ensure there aren't any further complications.
- Clean the wound - Cleaning out your dog's wound is very important because things can get stuck in their pads and this can cause long-lasting pain if not removed. To clean out the cut you need to gently run/pour cool water over the paw and cut. Make sure to remove any stones, sticks, glass or anything else stuck. You may need to use tweezers to get smaller pieces of debris. You may need to use soap to clean the cut/burn more thoroughly. Be careful not to forcefully remove any pieces of debris, those may need to be removed by our Lancaster vets.
- Control any bleeding- If you notice that the wound is bleeding, it is important to control the bleeding so you can determine if your dog is going to need to see a vet. If the wound does not look large or deep, you will need to hold pressure on it until it stops bleeding.
- Contain/evaluate the wound - Now that the wound is cleaned and is no longer bleeding, this is a good time for you to evaluate the wound and decide if you need to see the vet. Deep or jagged cuts may require sutures for optimal healing.
- Bandage - Place a nonstick gauze pad directly over the cut and secure it with paper tape. Then wrap your dog’s foot using roll gauze. The bandage should be tight enough to stay on, but also needs to be loose enough to allow circulation to your dog’s food. You should be able to slide two fingers under the bandage. To prevent the bandage from slipping off, wrap up to and including the next joint on your dog’s leg.
How Much Time Does it Take for the Paw Pad to Heal?
Cut Paw Pads:
Your dog’s cut paw pad will heal faster if it’s protected until fully healed. Keep him quiet, and prevent him from running or chewing at the bandage (this may require the use of an Elizabethan collar). Even after your dog’s pad has healed enough that it isn’t painful to touch, it will still be tender and vulnerable to repeat injury. Avoid activities that could damage the heating pad, or use a bootie to protect the foot. Healing time will vary depending on the size of the cut.
Burnt Paw Pads:
If your dog steps into a chemical substance, hold the foot under running water for several minutes. Then you will need to wash the paw in mild soap (Be careful with scented soaps - you do not want to irritate the wound.) Rinse thoroughly. You should be wearing gloves to avoid skin irritation.
Burns from heat can also happen naturally when your dog has been outside on very hot days. If you notice them licking their paws, you may want to run cold water on your dog's paws to help the burn and provide some relief.
Should I Let My Dog Lick his Cut Paw?
It can be very hard to control whether your dog licks their wounds but it is always good to avoid licking the wound. That could transfer unwanted germs into the wound. But allowing your dog to gently lick their "non-serious" wound can be fine because they may be able to remove any debris that is still stuck in the wound.
When Should I Take my Dog to the Vet?
There are many reasons to take your dog into the vet but if you notice any of these things, contact us right away.
- Excessive or uncontrolled bleeding
- Deep lacerations that require sutures
- Large or deeply embedded foreign object that may need surgical removal
- If there is discolored or foul-smelling discharge
- Chemical burns/ Severe burns