Causes of Cracked Paw Pads in Dogs

Updated on December 10, 2016

While the leather like consistency of a dog's foot pads may appear to be pretty resistant to the normal wear and tear of every day life, in some cases they may be prone to problems. Dealing with cracked paw pads may be a very frustrating issue, because paw pads hold most of the dog's weight and because they create discomfort while interfering with walking.

Causes of Cracked Foot Pads in Dogs

The causes of cracked foot pads in dogs may be various. A thorough investigation may be needed so to be able to exclude the triggering cause and initiate proper treatment.

1) Contact Irritation

Some chemical products may be irritating to a dog's paw pads. These products may be various, ranging from carpet cleaners, garden sprays, fertilizers to floor cleaners. Once the paws are irritated, the dog will feel the urge to chew on them further aggravating the tissues and causing cracked paws.

2) Allergies

Dogs allergic to something found in their food may develop itchiness and scratching which may irritate the skin, ears and paws. Chewing on the paws may cause the paws to crack once again, and because the allergy often remains unsolved, the chewing is often a chronic and very frustrating problem.

3) Zinc Deficiencies

Some dog breeds such as Siberian Huskies, Samoyed, German Shepherds, Poodles, Great Danes, Beagles and Pointers may be prone to zinc deficiencies which may cause skin problems and dry, cracked paws.

4) Old Age Hyperkeratosis

Senior dogs may be prone to a condition known as Hyperkeratosis, that is, the over production of keratin causing the paws to crack. It is similar to the appearance of corns observed in senior humans as well.

5) Excessive Wear and Tear

Dogs walking and/or running on rough surfaces, hot asphalt or ice may develop dry, cracked paws. Hunting dogs, in particular may develop cracked paws from overuse. Walking on ice salt in the winter may dry the paw pads. Ice salt can be toxic to dogs so they should have their paws washed thouroughly..

Treatment

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Dry, cracked paw pads may benefit of daily applications of Vaseline to soothe and soften the pads. Ointments are generally better absorbed after soaking the paws in warm water. While, licking off the Vaseline is not harmful in small quantities, it is best to temporarily cover the paw pad with a sock for a few hours so the dog does not lick it off and the Vaseline is properly absorbed.

There are also various commercial paw rubs that may be very helpful in keeping the paw moist and less likely to crack. One of the best is called ''Musher's Secret''.

If the cracked paws are due to contact to irritants, owners should try to limit exposure and avoid using chemicals in the areas the dog walks. When food allergies are suspected, putting the dog through a special exclusion diet by a veterinarian may be helpful. Zinc deficient dogs benefit having their diet supplemented with Omega 3 fatty acids.

Neosporin placed on the paws may help keep infections at bay, while softening the paws. Bandages and gauze may be helpful to protect the area, however they should be changed often since dogs sweat from their paw pads and this may cause the gauze to get moist, becoming an ideal ground for bacteria and infection to set in. Dog boots may be helpful to prevent further wear and tear to the area.

If the dog tends to lick the area, an Elizabethan collar may be needed to prevent the dog from having access to the area. Veterinarians may supply them and fit them properly.

Paw pad cracks and injuries are slow to heal because dogs must walk on them and because they are weight bearers. If the dog appears in discomfort when walking and the cracks are not getting better, it is best to restrict the dog's activity for a few days to buy some time in recovery.

If your dog presents with cracked paw pads it is best to consult a veterinarian to rule out first any possible health disorders. Only by identifying the possible cause proper treatment may be initiated.

Licking and Chewing will Further Aggravate Cracked Paws

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Janet schleich 

        14 months ago

        What would cause a dog's pad to split!

      • profile image

        Devesh 

        19 months ago

        Very helpful.

      • profile image

        Bing 

        7 years ago

        I have an 8 month old boxer bullmastiff cross,since she was about 3 months old we noticed hard growths coming from every third pad on each paw,we have since found that this is hyperkeratosis only usually found in older dogs,it is very upsetting because she is a very active dog and it stops her from being a normal pup.This is not a cureable thing it just has to be managed throughout her life,if anyone has had experience with this i wud welcome any info.Cheers Bing

      • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

        Adrienne Janet Farricelli 

        8 years ago from USA

        It could be the park treats the lawn with chemicals and these may irritate your dog's paws. It could also be that there are grasses with thorns or that irritate the skin. Check if other dog owners frequenting that park have this same problem. The only solution I can think of is limiting the exposure to treated lawns.

      • profile image

        Ashley 

        8 years ago

        thanks for the info. She only chews on paws right after the dog park from running around everywhere. Any suggestion on what to do?

      • profile image

        SAMANTHA 

        8 years ago

        A number of our more mature Specialised K9 dogs have this developed cracked paws which we are currently treating with good old Vaseline which appears to be helping.

      • profile image

        dawn 

        8 years ago

        Thanks! great info. My Lab is highly active and is constantly getting her pads roughed up. My rottie just developed a small hole in her paw- probably from running and playing. This info will help me treat the wound property.

      • C.Ferreira profile image

        C.Ferreira 

        9 years ago from Rutland, VT

        Awesome information here. I just got a puppy myself, and noticed what seems to be the beginning of a cracked paw pad. Luckily it went away on its own, but until now I didn't think much of it!

        Thanks for the tips!

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