How to Care for a Dog's Torn Paw Pad

A dog's paw pads are truly wondrous things, the canine version of shock absorbers. The four digital pads protect the toes, while the metacarpal pad protects the front feet and the metatarsal pad, the rear paws. There's also the carpal pad on the back of the front leg, otherwise known as the "stopper pad," which aids the dog when she's going up or down steep slopes.

close up dog paws
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A dog's paw pads help her distinguish the type of terrain on which she's moving. Breeds originating in cold climates have larger-than-normal paw pads, and that's because their pads help them navigate ice and snow. Dogs bred for endurance have so-called cat feet, according to Mother Nature Network. Their paw pads are more rounded, and they don't need to use as much energy to lift their feet.

If your dog starts limping or leaving bloody footprints, it's likely something is wrong with her foot or paw pad. You can probably handle a minor injury on your own, but don't hesitate to go to the vet if the injury seems serious or your dog won't let you near her.

Inspect and clean the foot

Look at your dog's foot as carefully as possible. If she's in pain, she may seem wary of being touched. For safety's sake, you may need to muzzle your dog. Search for any foreign object that may have become lodged in her paw pad.

If you spot a foreign object, such as a glass shard, try to remove it with tweezers. However, if the object is stuck deep within the pad, you'll need to take the dog to the vet for treatment. Taking a cold hose to the foot may help rid it of small particles, according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Wash the foot with an antibacterial soap or use a povidone solution for cleaning and disinfecting.

Bandage the foot

If the wound is bleeding, it needs bandaging. Small wounds will stop bleeding within a few minutes, but a deeper wound will take more time and may require pressure to address the bleeding. If the bleeding doesn't stop within 15 minutes, it's wise to take your pet to the vet. If the bleeding does stop, try to prevent your dog from walking on the foot for a while, perhaps by putting her in a crate for an hour or so.

For best results, after cleaning, bandage the foot with a nonstick gauze pad and self-adhesive bandage tape. Make sure to cover the entire paw, beyond the wound area and up to the next joint on the dog's leg, which varies according to whether the injury involves a front or back paw. To ensure the bandage isn't too tight, keep it flexible enough so that you can place two fingers between the foot and the bandage.

Change the bandage daily. Odds are your dog isn't going to be keen on having this item on her paw, so you may need to use some type of product designed to discourage licking or chewing, which you can find online or at a pet store. An Elizabethan collar, sometimes called "cone of shame," can also fill the bill.

If you notice a foul odor when changing the bandage or if the foot swells up, take your dog to the vet. A wound that continually reopens also requires veterinary attention.

Assess the need for sutures

Sometimes a paw pad injury will need suturing, and that's something you can determine when initially inspecting the wound. The Whole Dog Journal notes that any cuts that are jagged or deep should be sutured. If your dog is really uncooperative and won't let you look at her foot, take her to the vet. For such canines, sedation may prove necessary for anyone to get a good look at the injured foot.

Any sort of deep cut is more prone to infection. The vet can prescribe antibiotics to help prevent such an infection from taking hold.

Let the paw heal

The healing process will vary, depending on the severity of the paw pad injury and the dog's activity level. Keep the dog as quiet as possible, and when she must go outside for calls of nature, wrap the bandaged foot gently with a plastic bag beforehand so the bandage doesn't get wet or dirty. You can also purchase dog booties for this purpose.