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Paw Injuries and your Dog

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

The Paw

There is no question that dog paws take a beating and just like our own feet can be injured or impacted by random events or accidents; dogs can be clumsy and may injure their paw/s from minor slips, trips and falls. However, it is also possible for your dog to experience a serious injury which could potentially cause a permanent disability.

It is our job as dog owners to recognise abnormalities to our dog's paws, and treat them as soon as possible to ensure the injury or condition is not exacerbated by excessive licking, or continued use, and thereby increasing the risk of infection or permanent disability.

Paw Anatomy

The paw is made up of the following parts and injury to any or all parts can cause extreme pain and discomfort for your dog:

  • The claw – their nails help with traction and help a dog dig in the ground and tear at prey;

  • Digital pads padding the toes, Metacarpal pad padding the foot, and Metatarsal bones assist with load bearing and shock absorbing when running and jumping;

  • Dew claws – the odd nail found on some dogs which appear to have no use, however it will, if snagged or ripped out, still cause extreme pain; and

  • Carpal pad – the pad behind the foot, helps with skid and traction on a slope or while stopping.

Paw pads provide a level of protection:

  • to bones and joints impacting hard surfaces;

  • by providing insulation for low to medium temperatures when walking;

  • to the deep tissue within the paw; and

  • to the sweat glands which assist in a dog's cooling process.

Injuries & other Conditions

Impact to your dog's paws can vary from minor to life threatening; it is therefore recommended that all dog owners attend training in wound management to ensure they manage the injury or condition in the most appropriate way.

Paw Trauma

  • Nail loss

  • Wounds

  • Sprains / strains

  • Fractures

  • Amputations / de-gloving

Medical Conditions

  • Allergic reaction from bites and stings

  • Cysts, ulcers and other Growths

  • Fungal and bacterial infections

  • Ligament damage

  • Nerve damage

  • Malnutrition which causes adverse impact on bone health


  • Burns from extreme heat conditions

  • Paw and joint trauma from strenuous activity

  • Chemical burns from treatment of icy pavements or roads

  • Burns from frostbite from extreme cold conditions

Safety Precautions

Sometimes things just happen; it is not always easy to see a hole/s in a park the size of a football field; it is not always easy to anticipate a piece of glass hiding in long grass, however you can take some simple precautions that may reduce the risk of injury when your dog is out and about.

Test road temperature:

  • Place your bare foot onto the road and see if it is too hot for you, because if it is hot for you then it will likely be for them. If you are wearing shoes place the back of your hand on the road and test for 10 seconds

  • Carry small dogs if too hot; get dogs to walk on the grass where it will be a little cooler or try to limit to shady areas for walking

  • Go out early morning or early evening when temperatures are a little cooler and the sun hasn’t had chance to heat up the roads and footpaths

  • Protect from icy surfaces: Consider investing in a pair of dog booties to protect from the ice and or chemicals / salts used on icy footpaths and roads

  • Keep paw hair short to reduce hair from getting wet and freezing

  • Scan a head of the dog walking on a leash

  • Consider the surrounding environment; has there been a drought, and if so, there is a higher risk of cracks and holes in the ground; is it a Sunday morning, the night after weekend pub activity, if so there is a greater risk of broken glass on the ground and avoid at all costs

  • Is your dog use to exercising at pace when you are jogging on the road or the footpath?

  • If not, take it easy until they acclimatise, this will reduce the risk of the paw becoming cracked and split

  • Exercise early mornings and early evenings to limit running on hot surfaces

  • Is your dog regularly groomed? Long nails reduce the traction and causes toes to spread impacting on the paws structure and stability

  • Keep nails short

  • Keep hair short in between toes and pads; this also helps reduce seed build up and potential infection

  • Keep your dog’s foot pads moisturised to help reduce cracking and splitting; this is an excellent time to check for parasites and other abnormalities

  • Keep dog from potential falls and access to moving vehicles

Signs and Symptoms

The following signs and symptoms are a general guide, however there are 4 key signs which will help you to start your assessment:

  • Severe bleeding

  • Obsessive licking of the paw

  • Awful smell coming from paw

  • Limping or lameness

  • You may notice initially an issue with one paw but remember there are usually 4 paws and what can affect one can also impact the others.

  • Obsessively licking and chewing their paw

  • You may notice that your dog's paw has an awful smell

  • Crying or whimpering

  • You may notice your dog limping or unwilling to walk on the paw

  • Bright red and inflamed paws with the top layer of the pad missing

  • Inflamed lesions / sores with discharge

  • Swollen toes or pads

  • Hair loss from burns; this will also smell, you will likely see blisters forming

  • Lacerations and abrasions causing severe bleeding

  • Cracked, torn or missing nails

  • You may notice part of the paw pad missing

  • Cysts, Ulcers and parasites could be seen between toes

“If you know what healthy looks like,

you will know what unhealthy looks like”


  1. Clean wound and remove any foreign objects

  2. Control bleeding by applying pressure with sterilised wound pad

  3. Apply rolled bandage to secure pad in place

  4. Apply Vet Wrap over the bandage; this keeps bandage dry and stops dog from chewing at the wound

  5. Splint paw if obvious fracture or dog is not self supporting their leg, if there has been nerve damage a dog will not be able to support their leg; secure splint using Vet Wrap or tape but make sure you apply tape either side of wound, never over wound

  6. If the paw is swollen manage with ice; ensure ice or ice pack is wrapped in fabric before placing on wound or place paw into a bowl of cold water, especially if bitten by an ant

  7. For burns, always run cool water over paw for a minimum of 15 minutes to help stop the burning process

  8. If you have a Cone from previous vet treatments then place on dog to stop dog from touching wound or trying to remove bandages

  9. Transport your dog to the Vet for clinical assessment; make sure you wrap your dog when transporting in a blanket or towel to keep warm and support while in the car.

  10. Always manage for Shock and always prepare for potential need of CPR while being transported


Canine Emergency First Aid Guide

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