Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
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
Question: 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?
Answer: 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.
Jamie on December 13, 2018:
Border collie with three legs his back paw is raw what can I put on it please help
Conrad17 on September 20, 2018:
My Pitbull cuts his paw some time ago and I treated it myself. After some time I saw that there is something on the back of the paw that starts to look like part of the paw but it was red and every time he jumped and walked it start to bleed. I took him to the vet and they cut a small part to test it. The paw was also covered and he was put on antibiotic. Yesterday I took him back to the vet for a check-up and they said that there is a white part forming from the back. They say it is part of hard skin or something. They advise to leave it open to dry out but it is still bleed when he walks or jump. What can I do from my side to heal this paw. And how long will it take to heal? Must I worry or not? I cannot afford to take him back to the vet.
Terry on August 16, 2018:
Pub a dab of lavender oil on her paw and she will not want to even get close to licking it. Works like a charm.
Tinku on March 01, 2018:
Hours of internet searches and i reach this page. Its like my life said by some other person.
Yes, even my dog is a Houdini.
The injury is already two month old now, and thats just because twice i made the mistake of leaving her alone. She chewed thru the sock, the tapes and the bandage and made the injury worse. I am not going to give up to make her believe her smartness.
In my house, i am the Alpha.
Claire on July 14, 2017:
My dog had gauze stuck in her paw and leg wounds. I called my vet and he said to dip paw in Luke warm water for a few minutes . I ended up just pouring a bit on her paw and it came right off.
Vicky on April 17, 2017:
My dog stepped In Bug spray and now she kicking her paws and licking them . I'm very worried what should I do
Lynne Slovak on March 19, 2017:
My 5yr old Shih Tzu x Maltese dog has developed a very bad habit of biting her paws and under her arm. I'm at my wits end because nothing tried has stopped her injuring herself. Last resort a collar which she hates to the point of crying for as long as I leave it on. Her Vet prescribed 'Periton' but this hasn't healed the hotshots or given her any relief whatsoever. Her diet consists of (expensive) Grain Free kibbles mixed with a little white fish, cooked breast of chicken or mince plus a few vegetables.
Is there any advice that you could give me to help my darling little dog?
Annie Rodrigues on October 08, 2016:
My dog's paw pad was sliced almost in half, hes had surgery with stitches and glue inside and out. I was told stitches don't usually hold on pad injuries. I'm trying to keep him inside. Before surgery he couldn't put his foot down but now he thinks he can do everything. Its difficult as every night he goes to everyone expecting his usual walk. What would you suggest, roughly the length of time i should wait,i'm thinking 4 weeks because of the extent of the injury ,dont want stitches to break.
ang on March 07, 2016:
Best to cover up at night. Have a blow up collar in day take bandage covering off so air gets to it. My rottweiler is more comfortable than the plastic collar.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 29, 2014:
Thomas, I have heard that peroxide is not the best for wounds and may delay recovery, a better option is diluted betadine. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Using-Betadine-for-Dog...
Fayes, yes tongues aren' t sterile and they can also be quite abrasive if the dog licks the wound over and over, over licking is how acral lick granulomas are formed.
FAYE on January 29, 2014:
I FULLY BELIEVE THAT DOGS SHOULD NOT LICK OPEN SORES/ ONE DOES NOT LICK THEIR BUTT AND THEN LICK A SORE / AND TALK ABOUT BAD BREATH/// MY MY DO NOT WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT OPINIONS
thomas on April 14, 2012:
yes cover up .and try to keep dry ..peroxide and patience
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 05, 2012:
Try non - stick gauze or apply a thin film of plain neosporin to prevent sticking directly on the wound. best wishes!
Simone B. on March 05, 2012:
How do you keep the guaze from sticking to the paw pad?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 14, 2012:
Really? And how do you explain my dog's paw injury taking months to heal because of his obsessive licking? and it healing right away once I stopped him from bothering it? I have worked for a vet and we had to deal with this problem over and over, that's why Elizabethan collars and bitter apple spray were invented. Yes, a dog's wound may perhaps heal faster if the dog licks it once or twice and the injury is insignificant, but have a dog mess with it like my dog did and you will end up with a bloody mess on a DAILY basis. Please educate yourself, tongues and saliva are not sterile as once believed, please read this article (written by a vet) before resorting to making offensive comments:
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 09, 2011:
Haha, what kind of dog trainer are you? an e-collar is in vet care an elizabethan collar, did you read the article? I think you were ready to attack without thinking.. now who is the moron? And no, licking will never let the wound heal, been there done that and this is info coming from reputable vets.