First Aid: How to Treat a Dog's Paw Pad Injury
Paw Pad Injuries Are Challenging to Treat
A paw pad injury is a challenge to treat. Because the area supports the dog's weight while walking, it undergoes constant friction and pressure and is difficult to keep clean. Dogs also tend to lick their paw pads, which can delay the healing process.
Dogs Are Prone to Paw Pad Injuries
My dog Kaiser suffered a paw pad injury and it turned out to be quite an ordeal. My veterinarian warned me about how difficult the area can be to heal. Having worked at a vet's office, I have seen my fair share of paw pad injuries, but I think my dog's injury was one of the hardest to heal.
Tips for Helping Your Dog Heal
Here I list the steps I took to help Kaiser heal. Each dog is different and will respond differently to treatment. Additionally, you should always have your injured dog seen by a veterinarian, as even seemingly minor abrasions can be prone to infection.
Basic First Aid: What You Can Do at Home
The tips and techniques described below can be used for basic canine first aid. Otherwise, you will want to take your dog to the vet to make sure the injury is managed properly.
1. Wash the Area With Soap
Use a nice antibacterial soap and wash the pad. This will clean the wound.
2. Inspect the Area
You can dip the paws in water and dissolved Epsom salts for about 15 minutes if you suspect something may be stuck in the skin. Don't let your dog drink the water! Should you spot a thorn or something embedded, carefully remove it. Check for glass, thorns, burrs, or anything that can be stuck within the pad.
3. Disinfect the Area
Once the paw pad is clean and dry, disinfect it with dilute Betadine or rinse it with sterile saline. You can soak a clean cotton ball with either and use it to carefully disinfect the area; allow it to air dry for a few minutes.
4. Prevent Infection
Neosporin works great to prevent infection, however, you don't want your dog to lick it off because it needs to be absorbed through the skin properly. After you apply it, keep an eye on your dog and protect the paw so he or she cannot access it.
5. Use Gauze
Per your veterinarian's direction, wrap the paw in gauze to keep the wound clean and to make a cushion. You can secure the gauze with a self-adhering bandage that your veterinarian supplies so your dog can walk with it on. Keep a watchful eye on dogs that tend to eat foreign matter to avoid a dangerous situation. (My dog used to eat the gauze off all the time.) Also, every now and then (like when your dog is resting), take the gauze off so the wound can air-dry and heal faster.
Use caution when applying any kind of first-aid bandaging to your dog's paw. Incorrect application can result in occlusions, infections, and in severe cases, tissue necrosis.
6. Put a Sock on It
Many times, putting a sock on top of the gauze wrap will discourage your dog from licking the paw. But be very careful—your dog could ingest the sock (as my dog Kaiser did). A sock can cause an intestinal obstruction, so avoid using one if your dog tends to eat foreign matter or use it only under your supervision. Also, keep in mind that some wounds need to breathe and should air—so only go with your vet's recommendation.
7. Apply Bitter Apple Spray
Try to spray some bitter apple on top of the gauze or on the sock. This spray has an awful taste and discourages most dogs from licking and chewing. You can find it in pet stores. Still, a small percentage of dogs could care less about the taste (my dog, for example). Never spray it directly onto the wound.
8. Teach Your Dog to "Leave It"
During the day, Kaiser was often told to "leave it" when he was caught trying to pick at his foot. I used to catch him licking, usually when he was bored. It helped to toss him a bone or a chew toy to keep him distracted. My biggest problem was at night, however, when he was in his crate unsupervised.
9. Use an E-Collar
If your dog is persistent in licking his paw until it is raw, you may need to invest in an e-collar. This is a lampshade-style collar that is used on dogs to prevent them from turning their head around to chew or lick wounds. While your dog may be uncomfortable the first few hours, most get a hang of it sooner or later.
10. Monitor Them 24/7
I tried everything with Kaiser: bandages, gauze, socks, and bitter apple. It just seemed like he would eat everything and then lick his paw. I was really at my wit's end. I also got him an E-collar, and I still cannot understand how he got to chew a piece off of it too. I must have a Houdini dog!
Taking an Aggressive Approach to Kaiser's Recovery
After one month of Kaiser's injury getting worse and not better, I decided to take him into my bedroom at night and keep a flashlight handy and tell him to "leave it" if I heard him licking.
Surprisingly, with mommy beside him, he never dared to touch his paw again. Every time I heard him lick, I turned the flashlight on and he returned to sleep. Within seven days of hearing him snoring next to my bed, his paw pad injury finally healed completely.
Nowadays, I am extra careful and keep his paws nice and moist to prevent cracking. I apply Vaseline every now and then, too. No more paw pad injuries for my dog, I hope. They are not very nice to deal with indeed!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
We are having an issue very similar to yours. I’ve had dogs in the past, but never had an issue like this. I got a collar so he can't reach his paws - he doesn’t like it, but I’m hoping it gets the healing process moving along. Was your dog's injury better, then it got worse? Is it bad for them to lick their paws?
I was told when working for the vet's hospital that a lick or two aren't really that harmful, but that repeated licking leads to the wound getting worse due to the abrasive tongue repeatedly irritating it. Licking can also introduce bacteria, so using plain Neosporin can help prevent infections.Helpful 74