How to Treat a Dog's Paw Pad Injury
A Very Challenging Injury
A paw pad injury is a challenge. Because the area supports a dog's weight and is used frequently to walk, it will undergo constant friction and pressure, and will be difficult to keep clean. Dogs also tend to lick their pads, which can delay the healing process.
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 was one of the hardest cases to cure. Here I list the steps I took to help him heal. Each dog is different and will respond differently. Additionally, you should always have your injured dog seen by a veterinarian, as even seemingly minor abrasions can be prone to infection.
What You Can Do
Wash with soap.Use a nice antibacterial soap and wash the pad. This will clean the wound and prepare it for treatment.
Inspect the area. You can also dip the paws in water and epsom salts for about 15 minutes if you suspect something may be stuck in the skin. Should you spot a thorn or something embedded, carefully remove it with tweezers. Check for glass, thorns, burrs, or anything that can be stuck within the pad.
- Disinfect. Once the paw pad is clean and dry, disinfect it with betadine. You can soak a cotton ball and carefully disinfect the area, allowing it then to air dry for a few minutes.
- Prevent infection. Neosporin works great as it prevents infection and it is safe to ingest should your dog lick it off. However, you don't want your dog to lick it off because it needs to be absorbed through the skin properly. So keep an eye on your dog and wrap the paw up so he will not have access to it. For some reason dogs like to lick it up.
- Use gauze. Wrap the paw in gauze to keep the wound clean and to make a cushion as the dog walks. You can secure the gauze with a self-adhering bandage so your dog can walk without it coming off. Keep a watchful eye on dogs that tend to eat foreign matter. 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 dry and heal faster.
- Put a sock on top. Many times a sock on top of the gauze will discourage your dog from licking the paw. But be very careful. Kaiser one morning surprised me when I opened up his crate and the sock was gone! After looking for it everywhere, I realized it had gone into his tummy. Luckily, I induced vomiting in time and he brought it back up. A sock can cause an intestinal obstruction, so avoid using it if your dog tends to eat foreign matter or use it only under your supervision.
- Get bitter apple. Try to spray some bitter apple on top of the gauze or on the sock. This is a spray that has an awful taste that discourages most dogs from licking and chewing. You can find it in pet stores. Still, a small percentage of dogs couldn't care less about the taste (my dog, for example). Never spray it directly onto the wound.
- Teach "Leave it." During the day, Kaiser was often told the "Leave it" command when he was seen 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, when he was in his crate unsupervised.
- E-collars. 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 collar used on dogs to prevent them from turning their head around to chew or lick wounds. While your dog may be uncomfortable the first hours, most get a hang of it sooner or later.
- Monitor 24/7. I tried everything with Kaiser: bandages, gauzes, socks, bitter apple. It just seemed like he would eat everything and then lick his paw. I was really at my wits end as all this chewing and licking took place when he was alone at night. He never did this during the day. 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!
In the end, after one month of Kaiser's injury getting always worse and not better, I decided to take him to my bedroom and keep a flash light handy and tell him to leave it if I heard him licking during the night.
Surprisingly, with mommy besides him, he never dared to touch his paw again. Every time I heard him lick I turned the flash light on and he returned to sleep. Within seven days of hearing him snoring next to my bed, his paw pad injury finally completely healed. Now, I am extra careful in keeping his paws nice and moist and preventing cracked paws by applying vaseline every now and then. No more paw pad injuries for my dog I hope; not a very nice thing 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 56