Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
If your dog has swollen feet, the cause might be obvious. She may have stepped on a thorn, burned her pads walking on hot pavement, or have a sore from a spider bite. Determining the exact cause isn't usually so easy, though, so take a deep breath and ask yourself the following questions before deciding what you need to do.
How many of your dog's feet are swollen?
- If only one foot is involved, you are most likely dealing with a trauma, a foreign body (like a thorn in the paw), or maybe a spider bite. Lift the sore paw up and check all the nails before running your fingers over the skin and taking a good look between the pads. Is there a growth present between the toes?
- If the front feet are swollen, and it is because your dog has been licking them excessively, it may be due to allergies. Are her ears also swollen and red? How about her belly? Is her skin raw in other areas from constant scratching?
- If all of the feet are swollen, check the pads and see if they are damaged from hot pavement. If the dog is also coughing, it may be due to heart disease. At this point your dog MUST be taken to the veterinarian.
What Causes a Dog to Have Swollen Feet?
- Trauma (like a broken toe or nail)
- Spider bite
- Puncture wound
- Tumor between the toes (uncommon)
- Circulatory problem (like heart disease)
Is the swelling on the leg, the feet, or are the pads swollen?
- If the leg is swollen, it may be due to trauma or a lesion somewhere else. The swelling in the foot may be secondary, and only due to injury higher up on the limb.
- If the leg is okay and only one toe is swollen, feel it and see if it is tender. Your dog may have a fractured toe, a torn nail, or a spider bite or thorn stuck in her foot.
- If the pads are swollen, are they painful? She may have burned herself walking on hot asphalt. If they are crusty but not painful, she may have a genetic footpad disease, lupus, or even an infection.
Natural Treatments for Swollen Feet
- Betadine Wash: If your dog has stepped on a sharp object or wounded his paw, just wash it out and clean the wound with betadine solution. Betadine will cause minor tissue damage so you can also wash with a chlorhexidine solution. Betadine, however, is available everywhere and is the more natural option.
- Epsom Salt Soak: For a swollen foot of unknown cause, one of the best treatments is to soak the foot in Epsom salts (about 2 tablespoons in a liter of water). That does not mean it is the easiest treatment. Many dogs will not sit still and allow you to soak their feet, but at least try to do so for at least 15 minutes.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: If the paw has a yeasty smell, especially when the dog has been licking on it, she may have already contracted a yeast infection secondary to her allergies. These infections are generally all over the body, but if you have caught it early you can treat it with apple cider vinegar. The best treatment is to soak the foot in dilute (1/2 strength) apple cider vinegar and then allowing it to air dry without rinsing. I use this organic apple cider vinegar since it is acidic and also has some healing properties not found in regular vinegar. Note: Apple cider vinegar may also be effective in reducing itchy skin secondary to allergies, and you will not have to resort to treating your dog with antihistamines.
- Benedryl: If the dog is also scratching at her ears and digging at her skin, as well as chewing on her feet, and the apple cider vinegar is not effective, you can provide some temporary relief by giving her about 1mg/pound of Benadryl (diphenhydramine). This does not always work, and even if it does provides only temporary relief, so you should get her in to see her vet because of the allergies as soon as you can.
- Warm Water Soak: If the swelling is in the foot pads, and they are very rough and scaly, it may help to soften them up with a warm water soak. Some vets recommend moistening the pads with vaseline but the dogs usually just lick it off before it does much good.
If your dog does not respond to soaking, have him seen as soon as possible by his regular veterinarian. Some diseases (like lupus) will require a lot more testing.
Licking the feet from time to time can be normal, but constant licking and chewing on the feet is a sign that something is wrong and should be looked into. If the swelling continues, your dog may have a serious problem. Consult your veterinarian.
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: My GSD is 3 years old and has swollen paws. They are inflamed, blood will come out sometimes, and he has lost hair. Any suggestions?
Answer: If it were just one paw, I would look for a draining tract that might indicate a foreign body that could be removed surgically. If several paws are involved, it could be cancer, but if the paws are inflamed it is most likely infectious. If you are in the tropics or if your dog walks around in a dirty kennel, there are parasites to worry about. This really needs to be looked at by your local vet, and the skin may need to be biopsied.
Question: My dog's back left foot is swollen. There is no thorn or object in the foot, but now her mouth is swelling. What is going on?
Answer: If the dog's lips are swelling that indicates a systemic allergic reaction. She may have been bitten by a bee, a spider, or even a snake. The bite may be too small even to notice.
Please take your dog to a vet so that she can be given an anti-inflammatory injection. If she suffers from swelling in her throat, she could stop breathing.
Question: My Boerboel's leg has been swollen since June 3rd. We've had X-rays done and has been on anti-inflammatories and antibiotics, but his leg is still swollen. What more can we do?
Answer: If the swelling is in the paw, you can try to soak in Epsom salts. If your dog has swollen elbows, look at this article and see if it helps: https://hubpages.com/dogs/swollen-elbow-dog.
Question: My 2-year-old German Shepherd got into a fight with my pit and now the German Shepherd has swollen back legs. How can I get rid of my German Shepherd's swollen back legs?
Answer: If the dogs back legs are swollen it may be because of bites and secondary infections. The best thing you can do for your dog is take him to your regular vet so that he can be treated with antibiotics.
If this is not possible you can try the Epsom salts as I described, but if the dog is already sick (a fever, not eating, vomiting, etc) he will need internal antibiotics.
Question: My dog's foot is swollen, so I tried Epsom salt, but it hasn’t brought the swelling down. What else can I try?
Answer: It is possible that your dog has an infection from a penetrating wound. If the Epsom salts were not effective, you need to have the dog examined by your vet. He or she may need to be put on antibiotics.
Question: My dogs legs are swollen and touchy. What do i do ?
Answer: If your dogs legs are swollen and sensitive it is an infection or a circulatory problem, like a heart disease. Neither of those should or can be treated over the internet. You need to get her to the vet as soon as possible.
Question: My Bullmastiff dog cross of four years has a swollen stomach and feet. He can't eat or move around. What can be wrong with him? Is there any home remedy or natural treatment I can use?
Answer: Your dog may have heart disease or cancer of the cardiovascular system. No one can tell you without examining him. No, I cannot recommend any natural cures for a dog that is suffering from an undiagnosed disease.
Question: My Rottweiler has been on IV drip for three days. After the IV was taken out, his arm and paw became swollen. Is this normal?
Answer: It could be normal if there was any subcutaneous loss of fluids into the tissue around the arm. It will go away soon and is nothing to worry about.
The only reason you should be concerned is if the swelling gets worse or the dog becomes lame. That would indicate that there was an infection in the leg, possibly caused by the catheter, and you will need to take him back in for antibiotic therapy.
Question: My 10-year-old lab mix has a swollen toe. It looks like the nail is completely missing. How can I treat the toe at home?
Answer: When only one toe is swollen, it may be due to a spider bite, a puncture wound, or other trauma with a secondary infection. Try the suggestions in the article: soak the foot, see if there is pus coming out of a wound, and if you are not able to clean the wound with tincture of iodine, you might need to take her to a vet to be treated with antibiotics. If this is not possible, you need to try one of these home cures, which may be less effective in this area: aloe vera, coconut oil, etc.
Question: My 8-year-old male German Shepherd´s rear feet and ankles are swollen. He will not lay down. He's eating and drinking normally but seems to have a cotton mouth and raw and moist around his genital area. I'm not sure if any of this is connected. Any ideas?
Answer: The swelling in the rear feet and ankles sounds like a circulatory problem, maybe a blood clot. The problem in the genital area sounds more like an infection. If the dog has a circulatory problem he should be seen by an emergency vet right away.
Question: My 10-year-old Maltese has swollen feet due to an allergic reaction to probiotics. Her front paws are raw from licking, and she's been limping. Can I do an Epsom soak along with a little vinegar? If the vinegar solution is too strong I think it would sting at this point, but I do believe she is developing yeast issues.
Answer: If your Maltese has been licking so much that her paws are raw, she probably does have a yeast infection. Diluted apple cider vinegar (half water) is okay and will not sting too much, but you have to see how she reacts. If it is just an allergic reaction, she will probably not even need the Epsom salt solution.
Question: My dog has been limping for a month or more, and blood tests and X-rays reveal nothing. Now it looks like one toe is extended and higher off the ground than the others. Is there anything in particular to look for?
Answer: You do not mention if it is a front or rear leg, which might make a difference, but I assume your regular vet has already gone over most of the common causes of lameness.
The condition you describe sounds like it might be tendinitis. If the tendon that attaches to that toe is inflamed, and then becomes scarred and contracts, it can cause the toe to be lifted off the ground similar to that which you are describing.
I would ask my regular vet to investigate autoimmune diseases and things that might cause an inflammation of the tendon.
If the limping continues and he is not able to diagnose it, you should ask for a referral to a veterinary teaching hospital (university) in your area so that others can look at it and possibly give you a correct diagnosis.
Question: I have a two-year-old American bulldog. My dog lost weight over a weeks time, but he still eats twice a day and drinks normally. Now he seems to have no energy and his front feet are swollen and painful. What can I do to help him?
Answer: There is more going on than just swollen feet. He may have a generalized infection or a circulatory disease like heartworm, and the feet are only one of the signs of what is going on. Please take him to your regular vet right away for an exam and possibly blood work.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 02, 2020:
Alexandria--if it is swollen that much it is probably infected and full of pus. It is very painful for the dog. Your best option would be to take him to your vet and have it opened and drained.
Alexandria on September 02, 2020:
My dogs(Boston Terrier he is lager than normal)foot is really swollen its like a small balloon as his foot. Is there anything we should be really worried about? It really scares me. He wont let any body touch it.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 14, 2020:
Jasna, swelling usually goes down within the day. 20 weeks old, I am not sure the feet are actually swollen. Does the breeder live near you? Before going to the vet, if the breeder is close, take your puppy by and ask her to look at the feet to see if normal. IF they are not take your puppy to the vet soon, do not wait a few more days.
Jasna on August 14, 2020:
After how long should the swelling go down normally? My 20-week Mastiff has swollen paws (only the front two) and have tried the Epsom salt for two days now. Should I go to the vet or wait a few more days?
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 08, 2020:
Hi Cheryl I am a small cocoa producer so I am sorry to hear about that factory. What you are doing with the vinegar is correct but you should not put antibiotic cream on them since they will lick it off and get worse. The best thing is to apply coconut oil, as it will help the skin if they do lick it off. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/dog-yeast-infection-sy...
The article also deals with diet, but I doubt that is the problem in your case. The benadryl is okay but does not help a lot of dogs, except for making them sleepy. Here are more details on antihistamine use. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/proper-antihistamine-u...
Cheryl Flanery on August 07, 2020:
Live right directly in front of a cocoa processing plant it puts out a horride smell at times my 2 dogs have gotoon pretty sick with allergies my dogs are both getting pimple like bumps under thier skin then scab i put antibiotic cream on they scratch and chew on feet. Ive read up on the effects it can have with the yeast bacteria that the chocolate factory obmits out is like an acid rain that can cause them /us to be sick. I clean thier feet twice a day was using vinegar bust saw i shouldnt . maybe baking soda?? I give them small dosages of childrens benadril the air burns your throat and makes them watery noses bugger eyes. I dont let them stay outside much anymore . HELP????
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 12, 2020:
Andrea--do you mean your dog is on a dextrose IV drip? Before his catheter is wrapped the vet tech or vet will look at the nails and see how parallel they appear. There should be no changes when the dog is on fluids.
Andrea on July 09, 2020:
how will I know if my dog feet are swollen because of the needle in dextrose?
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 23, 2019:
Mika, it sounds like your dog had some sort of allergic reaction to the shampoo or cream rinse. This cannot be taken care of without being seen. Call the groomer, or at the very least call your regular vet and set up an appointment immediately. Your dog might be fine with a steroid shot but he needs to be seen and evaluated first.
Mika on October 21, 2019:
My 13 year old shitzu was groomed at the regular Groomer on a Saturday by Wednesday all his paws are swollen red, spots of bleeding. His back also is red and spotty. the paws are warm and the back. I tried Benydryl and cover with Musher and he still is licking excessively.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 28, 2019:
Joyce, I cannot evaluate the damage to your dog based on the description. If you have tried the methods in this article and they are not helping you need to take your dog to your local vet.
Joyce on July 22, 2019:
My dogs been fighting and one of them have briuses on the left tigh and leg is swellen he can stand on it whst csn i do to help him
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on July 20, 2019:
Hi Leda it looks like an interdigital cyst, but it is something that can only be diagnosed with as aspiration and cytology. (The vet draws some cells off of it with a fine needle and then examines the substance under a microscope to find out if it is pus or tumor cells.)
Do not have surgery on your Dogo until you know for sure what the mass is.
If your vet is not able to do this, there is a veterinary college at Athens, or there may be a referral vet hospital closer to you.
LedaLove from Greece on July 19, 2019:
I found this discussion as I was searching information about our precious dog. Our 10-year old dogo argentino has a swollen paw for some months now. The vet recommends a surgery, however, we are quite sceptical about it, as she is not a puppy anymore and we are afraid she might not wake up. Have you seen something similar in your dog, what was it and what did you do?
Photos here via Google Drive https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1NFBm9O19pV...
Thank you in advance for your time.
wanda matos on September 13, 2017:
my shizhtu has a large bump on front paw thats an open wound never heals n hes constantly licking it..it bleeds alot if hebumps it on something..
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 22, 2017:
Ashimdas, I need more info. Do you have access to a vet? If so, have him examined.
ashimdas on June 21, 2017:
My gsd puppy left leg palm is red.what shall i do.
Lollypat on December 07, 2016:
My 14-year old minpin has congestive heart failure. He's a sweetheart. He has developed a thing where he licks the top of his front paws but I'm not sure why. Could the congestive heart failure figure in?
carol relf on July 10, 2015:
seems that my dog's tags swell up like a ball uncomfortable for him to walk happened in the winter due to the salt now I am at the campgrounds where there is send and she has started swelling up on his place again is seeing
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 15, 2014:
That is an interesting comment, Solaras. As I mentioned to Bob in the comment above, we were always taught that food allergies were fairly uncommon. I do not think the problem would be from the chicken, but, as you mention, who knows what kind of junk goes into commercial chicken production? I would like to know how his dog responded to free range chickens. It surely would not cost anymore than one of those "holistic" fish based kibble, and in my opinion the benefits of feeding a natural raw diet would be worth it to the dog (both in his health today and his lifespan in the future).
Barbara Fitzgerald from Georgia on March 15, 2014:
Great Hub - Voted Thumbs up and Useful.
I had heard that chicken based diets cause a lot of allergic reactions. Maybe because of the antibiotics and hormones fed to the chickens. My ex husband was feeding his dog a raw diet based on chicken and the dog licked his legs until they were stained dark brown. After switching his diet to a fish based kibble the licking stopped. What are your thoughts Dr. Mark?
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 14, 2014:
tirelesstraveler--I am glad things are looking up. If the problem persists, be sure to take him in to his regular vet and have his foot x-rayed. If he fractured a toe when jumping, sometimes it will heal crooked and his foot will always be a little lame.
Judy Specht from California on March 14, 2014:
Very timely. One of the dogs has swollen front paws. Certainly from trauma. Found an extremely bouncy ball and he has been jumping high to catch it. He didn't complain about the soak last night. They look better this morning.
Eiddwen from Wales on March 14, 2014:
Another great hub which will benefit so many dog owners. Voted up, across and shared.
Diana L Pierce from Potter County, Pa. on March 13, 2014:
This is a very informative. I'm always interested in what you have to offer. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. I have found myself reading labels before I buy.
Bob Bamberg on March 12, 2014:
I think they were drinking the Hill's/Purina Kool-Aid, Doc. I've been told that those two companies still underwrite nutrition curricula. I've been yelling at people about wheat-based biscuits, pizza crust, etc. for 23 years now and feel vindicated by the plethora of wheat free foods and treats on the market. But the proof is in the pudding, as they say.
I can't count the number of people who report favorable outcomes by eliminating wheat, soy, sorghum, corn, etc. from their dogs' diets. A lot of dogs can tolerate the grains, but many demonstrate an intolerance to them and improve greatly when the switch is made.
Most owners don't like having their dogs on steroids, but many of the vets don't seem too concerned with a grain issue. They tend to marginalize the notion and keep pumping the juice. Many owners are pushing back, though, because of the empirical evidence that's reinforced by their acquaintances at the dog park, doggie day care, etc.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 12, 2014:
Good point, Bob. Back when I attended veterinary school we were taught that most of the allergies were not due to cheap food, but anecdotally it seems to be a much bigger problem than thos profs believed.
Behavior modification.....mmm, good thing!
Bob Bamberg on March 12, 2014:
Another helpful hub, Doc! In my daily contact with pet owners, foot licking and chewing is a common problem here. It may be anecdotal but it's undeniable that such a problem is exacerbated by a grain-based, low-end dog food and treat items such as wheat based biscuits, pizza crust, pasta, bagels, etc...and that improving the food and eliminating wheat-based treats usually reduces...and sometimes eliminates...the itching. I've known a lot of dogs that were able to come off steroids after the owners' behavior was modified. Up, useful and interesting.