There’s something blissful about watching a dog run with no care in the world, hopping and jumping through shrubs and in and out of water. Their adventurous spirit can end with scrapes, deep cuts, or foreign objects stuck in paw pads and dog cuts a paw pad. It’s important to act quickly, clean the wound, bandage it up, and decide if veterinary attention is necessary.
What is a Paw Pad Made Of?
The paw pad of a dog starts as a soft area that includes skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, and connective tissue. The paws are also one of the only ways a dog can sweat and keep its body temperature under control.
The pad itself is amazing in that it’s a cushion for the dog’s wild activities, but also has a thick layer of skin to protect it from all the different surfaces the paw contacts.
There are three types of pads on your dog’s paws:
- Digital Pads: The smaller pads that line the outside of your dog’s paw. Designed to support weight and protect joints.
- Metatarsal Pad: The big paw pad in the center. Designed to support the dog’s body.
- Carpal Pad: The pad on the forelimb. Help support weight.
If you have a water dog, like those lovable retrievers, you’ll notice webbing in between the paw pads. This is to help them globe through the water. A Saint Berard or Newfoundland is going to have larger surface spans on that thick paw skin to keep them steady on snow and ice.
How Does a Paw Injury Happen?
Several factors come into play here. Think back to that dog running with glee through a field. There could be foxtails in the field that embed deep within the paws. There could be glass or a thick brush that slices through the pad. If the dog is normally kept inside, but suddenly goes for a mountain hike with you, the paws are not built up toughly enough to handle some of the terrains.
It can also happen if you live in a hot climate or it’s summer and the pavement is too hot for their paws.
“If the temperature is 85 degrees or over without the chance for the pavement to cool down, the ground may be too hot for safely walking a dog,” – Jerry Klein, DVM, AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer
An 86°(F) day is going to make the pavement up to 135°, according to the American Medical Association (AMA). If you can’t walk barefoot on the pavement, then your dog shouldn’t either.
It’s important to walk your dog several times a day from puppyhood so they can build up roughness on their paws. Even with all the planning and precautions, a paw injury can still happen.
How Do I Treat a Cut Paw Pad on a Dog at Home?
It might start with you noticing your dog limping a little bit, whining, or licking its paw. You need to investigate quickly.
If there is a cut, take immediate first aid steps:
- Rinse the paw with cool water
- Remove any debris or dirt
- Use antibacterial ointment on the wound
- Put a bandage pad over the paw
- Wrap the paw up with an ace bandage
This will at least get the wound cleaned until you can see a veterinarian. Change the padding daily and reapply the ointment.
If there is a burn:
- Wear gloves so you don’t get burned too (it could be a chemical burn)
- Soak the paw in room temperature water for 5 minutes
- Use antibacterial ointment
- Bandage the burned area
- Wrap the paw in an ace bandage
Look for signs of skin discoloration or exposure of the tissue below the tough skin as you tend to the wound.
When Do I Need to See a Veterinarian If a dog cuts a paw pad?
Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan recommends anything more than a mild cut or burn should be seen by a veterinarian. Unless there is a lot of bleeding or exposed tissue under the paw, it might not mean an emergency vet visit, but get seen as soon as you can.
The vet will check for infection and can give higher-grade ointments and antibiotics, even painkillers if necessary, to keep the dog safe and comfortable.
How Long Does It Take To Heal?
If you are taking the right steps to avoid infection and have the dog on the right veterinary prescribed medicines, the paw is going to heal much faster. Depending on the severity of the cut or burn, it could take a month or two for the paw to fully heal.
In the meantime, you’ll follow the vet’s instructions to keep the area clean and safe. Play games with your dog that don’t involve running to burn some energy, or try some brain games to keep the pup mentally sharp while still wearing them out.
What Can I Do to Toughen Paw Pads?
We touched on this earlier, but again, walking your dog on asphalt and concrete in temperatures below 85°(F) will help toughen up the skin. Some dogs might still be tenderfoots no matter how much walking you do, but each walk helps build up that thick skin a little bit thicker.
You should also check your dog’s paw pads regularly:
- After walks
- After playing in the snow
- After running free
- After swimming
- After hiking
- After a doggy play date
Check deep in between the pads to make sure there aren’t any rocks or sticky things like foxtails stuck up in there.
Wipe down paw pads before the dog enters the home to keep chemicals, irritants, or allergens from coming in.
Can Paw Pads Get Too Tough?
Dogs that spend a lot of time playing outside get the benefit of a tough paw pad. They can also get thick, cracked pads too. This is where you can give them a little doggy spa day. Rub some Vitamin E cream into the pads and make sure it soaks in. You don’t want the dog to lick it off. There are plenty of creams available at pet stores and online to help keep paw pads tough but soft.
How Much Pain Does a Paw Pad Injury Cause My Dog?
Dogs are intuitive creatures still guided by a lot of the natural instincts of the wild. Their ancestors knew that showing pain was a sign of weakness and could attract predators, so their instinct was sometimes to hide the pain. This is where you need to be very attentive to the subtle changes in your dog’s behavior.
According to the AKC, signs of pain include:
- Whining or Barking
- Really fast breathing and panting
- Licking a certain area obsessively
- Decreased appetite
- Refusal to move
What Do I Need in My Dog’s First Aid Kit?
It’s terrifying to see your dog in pain from a paw pad injury. You can plan now so you can focus on your pet instead of racing to the store to buy the necessities while you are panicked.
A first aid kit should include:
- Gauze bandage rolls
- Several non-stick bandages in various lengths and widths
- Adhesive tape that is flexible and breathable
- Cotton balls or pads
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Antibiotic spray
- Digital thermometer
- Magnifying glass
- Paper towels and bath towels
- Soft muzzle
- Water bowl
Being prepared will take the weight off your shoulders for any emergency you face with your dog. Many times these injuries can happen on vacation or during non-working hours, so the more prepared you are to take care of a sudden injury, the longer you and your canine buddy will have to play together for years to come.