Dogs are susceptible to paw injuries because their feet come into contact with the ground and floor whenever they walk, exposing them to the elements, dirt, parasites and sharp rocks, glass, sticks and other items that can cause cuts or abrasions. When they have open wounds on their paws, they are vulnerable to infections caused by bacteria.
Dog paw injuries can be caused by contact with sharp objects, stress, bites from other animals, parasites, bacteria, dry skin or illness. Walking on extremely hot or cold surfaces, such as asphalt on a summer day, or the icy ground during winter can cause damage to the skin on your dog's paws. Something as simple as a broken toenail or ripped dew claw can cause pain, swelling and infection in your dog's paw. Pebbles, clumps of fur or thorns can become lodged between a dog's toes, causing discomfort when walking.
If your dog is suffering from a paw injury, he may limp, lick at his paws, chew his feet, bleed, whine or become less active than normal. If he is usually gregarious and outgoing but seems to prefer staying curled up on the sofa or a bed these days, check his paws for signs of injury. If he is in discomfort, he may pull his paw away when you are trying to look at it. This could be a sign of potential injury. Throw a ball, and tell him to fetch it. Watch his movement, and look for a limp or any signs that he is favoring one paw over the other. Any type of imbalance or limp could mean that your dog is suffering from an injury to his paw.
Your dog's paw injury may heal on its own if it is a simple sprain, bruise or shallow scratch or cut. For broken nails, clip the affected nail just above the area of the vein that runs inside the nail, and file any sharp edges with an emery board. If the claw has been pulled out of the skin partially or completely, you will need to make an appointment with your dog's veterinarian to have it removed and treated. For cracks, minor cuts and dry skin, cleanse the area thoroughly, and apply a non-toxic moisturizing lotion twice a day until the skin has healed. Cover the area with a gauze pad or the end of a sock, and secure it with bandage tape if your dog tends to lick and chew his paws. Do not apply moisturizer to your dog's paws after they have healed, as the paws need to be tough enough to withstand walking on hard surfaces daily. If your dog has something lodged in his paw, or if he has a deep cut or gash in his skin, he will need to be treated by his veterinarian. The object will have to be removed, and antibiotic therapy may be needed to ensure that no infection occurs. For sprains, fractures or other suspected bone or muscle injuries, call the veterinarian. She may wish to apply a splint to your dog's paw for a few days until it heals.
Your dog sweats through the pads on his paws, so if you wrap an injury, be sure to change the bandage every night to avoid a build up of moisture inside the wrap, which could lead to bacteria and an infection. If your dog will not stop licking or chewing the cut area, you may need to purchase an Elizabethan collar from your veterinarian to keep him from having access to his paw. Call your veterinarian immediately if you notice an increase in bleeding from the injury or if your dog develops a fever or chills. Signs of a fever include dry, cracked or hot nose, lethargy or shivering. Also call your vet if your dog stops eating or drinking, as these could be signs that your dog is developing an infection or is in great pain. If this is the case, your vet may wish to prescribe an antibiotic or pain reliever.
Handling an Injured Dog
Even if your dog is normally friendly, she may snap or bite when she is in pain. Take extra precautions by wearing a long-sleeved, thick shirt or jacket to protect your arms. If you have gloves that allow you to move your hands comfortably, they may help protect your fingers if your dog bites you during your examination of her injury. If your dog seems uncomfortable with being examined, or if she becomes squirmy and active when you are trying to look at the affected paw, you may need to wrap her body and other paws gently in several layers of a sheet or towel, leaving the injured paw out for easy viewing. Keep your face away from her face during the examination, and if you have someone else to help you, ask the person to hold your dog's face and neck away from the paw while you are looking at the injury. This will make it easier to view the wound and will also help to protect your face from a potential dog bite.