Paw Problems (Part 1 of 4): Paw Pad Injuries, Cracked Pads, Paw Licking

If you have a dog, then download, print, file this article. Why? Because chances are high that your dog will injure their paw at some point and when that happens, here's what you need to know.

Why are paws so important? Because dogs use them for almost everything:

  • to get around - Walk, run, jump. Paw pads provide traction on slippery surfaces and steer pups away from trouble when sensing sharp objects on the ground. Dog nails are not only vital for scratching that bothersome itch but also for gripping the ground when dogs make sharp turns.

  • as tools - For digging through dirt, holding a toy or bone, and of course to perform high-5s and shakes.

  • paw pads help to cool dogs down - Dogs don't sweat through their body; they cool off by panting and also by sweating through their paw pads. Since paws keep dogs cool, they're able to play and work longer.

We provided boots for bomb squad dogs in Iraq. The boots were dunked in water and stored in the fridge until dogs needed them. The boots kept these military dogs cool, protected their paws from 120 degree sand, and helped them work 4 times longer in unbearably hot conditions.

Healthy paws are integral to a dog's wellbeing - simply put, if a dog's feet hurt, they can't get around easily. They'll spend more time lying down, which can lead to muscle loss, weight gain, and depressed mood.

There are many conditions that affect dog paws. This is part 1 of a 4-part series on common paw-related issues.

  • Part 1 - Paw Problems - paw pad injuries, cracked pads, paw licking (and comments on dog socks and boots)

  • Part 2 - Nail Issues - torn nails, misshapen nails, nail filing techniques

  • Part 3 - Toe Injuries - torn or stretched digital tendons/ligaments

  • Part 4 - Toe Amputations - what to consider


Paw Pads - What's Their Function

1) Protect digits and paws - Paw pads are made of tough and specialized skin that protect inner structures. Pad skin gets tougher and more calloused as dogs walk on harder surfaces. The opposite is also true; pad skin gets softer and more prone to injury if paw pads are covered or not allowed to be exposed to regular outdoor environments.

2) Help dogs cool down - Paw pads help regulate body temperature - specifically, pads help dogs cool down. One of the most important things to remember about paw pads is that dogs sweat through their pads, not through their bodies (like humans). Covering paws with a boot or bandage for long periods causes the pads to sweat - if too much moisture builds up in a boot or bandage, it will lead to sores or fungal infections (e.g., yeast). The same holds true if a dog licks their paw a lot - the wetness can lead to sores and infection.

paw irritation and hair loss after chronic licking

3) Absorb shock and impact - Under pad skin is a fatty layer that acts as a cushion to help absorb impact, add "spring" to a dog's step (like wearing sneakers), and protect bones and ligaments. Some dog breeds (e.g., Greyhounds) have a thinner fatty layer and are more prone to injury, calluses, or corns because the toe bones are closer to the surface of the skin and not as well protected or insulated.

painful corn on the pad of a Greyhound's paw