What Causes Paw Pads to Peel?

Dogs walk on their pads, the soles of their paws, exposed to the weather, rough terrain and bacteria. While most dogs usually keep their feet clean and free of debris through normal grooming activity, their paw pads are at risk of peeling at any time. Fortunately, owners can prevent serious trauma with advance care and treat peeling when it occurs.

Chien au repos sur le parquet
Your dog's paw pads are exposed to many kinds of potential pitfalls in everyday activity.
credit: Chien au repos sur le parquet image by MaxLeMans from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Chemical and other Burns

Burns are a common source of peeling skin on paw pads. Dogs who have run on hot pavement run the risk of raising blisters on their pads that eventually peel as the dead skin sloughs away. According to the ASPCA, dogs that live in cold climates can also receive burns from salts and chemicals spread on pavement to prevent human slips and falls.

Licking

Lick granulomas appear when a dog has licked a certain area too much at one time or too frequently over the course of the day. Most common on the dog’s wrists and on top of its toes, lick granulomas can also appear between the dog’s toes and on the surface of the paw pads. The ulcerated tissue can peel back from the pad, leaving open sores that typically fail to scab over due to the dog’s persistent licking.

Scrapes

Dogs can experience both minor and major scraping wounds during normal work or play. Scrapes, also called abrasions, are caused when a dog comes to a sudden stop. The friction of the dog’s pads against the surface upon which it is moving can cause varying degrees of injury. According to author Tannaz Amalsadvala, superficial scraping injuries can leave a flap of skin over the wound. This flap of skin can lead to the impression that skin on the dog’s pad is peeling, particularly if the owner is unaware of the initial injury.

Treatment

A slight amount of peeling can be a sign of normal wear. This kind of peeling is easily controlled by regular massage of the area with a moisturizing cream designed for animal use. Massage increases the blood flow to the tissue and toughens the tissue, while moisturizing prevents the drying and cracking that can lead to the peeling associated with normal wear and tear. Burns, scrapes and lick granulomas should be treated by careful cleaning and application of an antibacterial treatment followed by wrapping in a loose bandage. However, lick granulomas require additional care to determine their cause and prevent recurrence, as they're a symptom of a behavioral or physical issue, such as boredom, chronic pain or allergies.