Foot sores on a dog can be caused by injury or trauma, insect bites, an irritant or allergic reaction, or even by an underlying health problem. Some minor cuts and sores can be easily cleaned, bandaged and treated at home, but if the sore gets bigger, looks infected, or your dog has a hard time walking, consult your vet right away.
When dogs are outdoors, they're at risk for insect and snake bites, and they can easily come in contact with rough surfaces, step on sharp rocks and get thorns stuck between their foot pads. Dogs are also susceptible to sores resulting from walking on hot pavement or on cold, icy, salted surfaces for a prolonged period of time. Consider putting dog booties on your dog's feet when he's outdoors in inclement weather and regularly wash his feet when he comes in. This keeps his feet clean and dry and alerts you to problems before they get worse.
Cuts and Abrasions
If your dog gets even a minor nick or scratch on his foot, he may lick or bite at the wound until it develops into an open sore or a hot spot. Gently clean the area with antibacterial soap and pat it dry. Your vet will likely prescribe an antibiotic topical treatment or anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce pain and protect against infection. Seek immediate medical attention if the sore becomes red and inflamed, swollen, or if there is a pus-like discharge. Puncture wounds and cuts larger than an inch require medical attention.
If your dog has a patchy, raised, circular sore with missing hair around it, he could be experiencing ringworm, a fungal infection that can easily spread to other animals and to humans. See your vet as soon as possible for treatment, which typically includes a prescription anti-fungal medication and possibly an antibiotic. Use gloves and an apron every time you're in contact with your dog and wash your clothes after handling him to protect yourself against ringworm infection. Clean your home well, vacuuming carpets and furniture and using a bleach-based cleaner on surfaces to prevent the spread of ringworm. Check other household pets for ringworm as well.
While not necessarily confined to the feet, other causes of sores on a dog can include scabies, flea and tick bites, allergic dermatitis, mites and mange. Your dog could also have an allergic reaction to a yard or household chemical his feet come in contact with. If your pup constantly licks at his feet, he could have a condition called pruritus, which causes intense itching. This can lead to open sores on the feet that require treatment of the underlying condition as well as wound care on the sores.
Keeping Dog Feet Healthy
Get your dog used to having his feet handled so you can check for cuts, abrasions and sores on a regular basis. Look between his toes, on his foot pads and on the top part of his foot and forelegs. Treat dry or cracked foot pads by massaging them with coconut oil, petroleum jelly, olive oil or another vet-recommended topical solution. Don't use creams designed for humans, as they can be dangerous to animals. Always call your vet for further advice if you're concerned about sores on your dog's feet.