On a walk, you notice that your dog steps more gingerly or limps rather than bounding along like his usual rambunctious self. When you get home, you notice that the bottom of his paws look raw, and some of the skin has started to peel back. Dog paw pad peeling can be caused by an injury or medical condition. It can often be very painful and should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
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Burns and chemical exposure
A dog's paw pads cover the bottom of their feet and include pigmented skin and the fat pads beneath it that cushion them from cold. Regardless of the time of year, the pads can be subjected to a variety of hazards while outside that can lead to them peeling.
In the winter, the spread of ice melt chemicals can lead to chemical burns that may cause peeling. And in the summer, sidewalks in the sun can heat up rapidly. Even at just 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the sidewalk temperature can rise to 125 degrees. Artificial turf can also cause burns. To test a surface to see if it's too hot to walk your dog, hold your hand on it for about seven seconds. If it's painful for you, it will be painful for your dog.
Treatment may require a trip to the vet, but at home you can apply antibiotic ointment before bandaging the paw. The bandages need to be changed daily, and if the dog foot pad peeling from this exposure doesn't start to heal, it's time to consult the vet.
Paw pad injuries
Unlike you, your dog is going barefoot on his daily walks. He may step on a piece of glass or other sharp object that will cut the skin on the pad and cause it to peel. Or he may be running along and come to a screeching stop to sniff something, causing an abrasion on his paw.
If your dog hurts her paw, inspect it as soon as possible. Remove any glass, shards of metal, or other objects that have caused the tear in the paw pad. If they're hard to dislodge, try spraying water gently on the paw or soaking it. Disinfect the area around the peeling dog foot pads with antibacterial soap. Her paw should be wrapped in gauze and bandaged. If material causing the injury is embedded deeply or your dog's paw won't stop bleeding within 15 minutes, a trip to the vet is in order.
Allergies and illnesses
Sometimes dogs who are allergic to food or environmental factors will get itchy feet. As they try to relieve the itch, the paw pads can crack and peel. Simple dry skin or excessive licking can also cause peeling.
Dog paw pad peeling can also be caused by zinc deficiency and liver disease. An autoimmune disease called pemphigus causes pus-filled blisters that can burst, sometimes causing paw pads to crust over and peel. A rarer disorder called hard pad disease can occur following distemper. This condition causes pain, cracking, and sometimes peeling. These diseases need to be treated by a veterinarian.
Preventing peeling pads
Avoiding triggers for peeling paw pads can make life simpler for you and less painful for your dog. Some dogs will tolerate wearing booties on their feet when outside. If your dog is prone to paw issues, another preventive method is applying paw pad wax, which will provide a barrier between the skin of his pads and the ground. To avoid injuries, keep a lookout for sharp objects in your yard or as you go for a walk.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.