Canine Paw Abscesses

By Tina Pashley

A pocket of pus just below the skin on your dog's paw might be an abscess. Paw abscesses frequently occur between a dog's toes. They're fairly common in dogs, so inspect your dog's feet often. If you find a swollen, red, raised lump on your dog's paw or between his toes, take him to the vet for diagnosis and professional instructions.

Causes of a Paw Abscess

A paw abscess is often caused by a puncture wound to a dog's skin, such as a bite from another animal or a puncture from an object such as a thorn. The bacteria that enter the skin cause white blood cells to gather to fight off infection. Once the white blood cells die, pus forms around the wound. Ingrown hairs can also cause abscesses; they're common in certain breeds, including Shar-Peis and English bulldogs.

Signs Include Licking, Limping and Fur Loss

You might notice that your dog is spending an unusual amount of time licking his paw, especially a specific area of the paw, if an abscess is present. In many instances, the affected area will drain liquid. It's also possible that your dog will lose fur on and around the abscess.

Because pain from an abscess can be severe, particularly when your dog applies pressure to the paw, your dog may walk with a limp or vocalize when attempting to walk. A fever may indicate infection. Your pet needs immediate veterinary attention.

Medications and Keeping Your Dog Comfortable

After assessing your dog, a veterinarian might determine that your dog can be treated from home. The doctor will have specific instructions for your dog's care, which will likely include giving your dog medications. Dogs commonly need the help of certain medications to mitigate symptoms, as well as antibiotics.

Your veterinarian might suggest a warm water soak. If the vet thinks it will help in your dog's case, he'll trim the fur around the affected area so it is easily accessibl, and he'll show you how to perform a warm water soak. He will likely instruct you to dampen a clean cloth in warm water and apply it to the abscess for 15 minutes. Be careful not to apply too much pressure -- this is a painful area. The doctor will likely instruct you to repeat this treatment three times a day.

Further Instructions From the Veterinarian

The veterinarian will have specific instructions for the care of your dog during recovery from a paw abscess. The vet may give you special directions for keeping the area clean and free of infection, particularly if he lances the abscess and a cavity remains. Contact your veterinarian immediately if noticeable adverse changes occur to the wound or if it does not dramatically improve within the expected healing timeline.