Dog Paw Pad Peeling: A Quick Guide for New Pet Owners

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Dog Paw Pad Peeling

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Dog’s paws are one of the most functional parts of a canine’s body.

Essentially, your Fido steps on his paws during walks and runs.

As he runs around, the paws support his weight, offer traction during sudden turns, and act as efficient shock absorbers when he is super active.

Sadly, the skin on the paws is very weak and thus prone to a lot of injuries including peeling.

If you have noticed your pooch’s dog paw coming off, don’t panic, it is a common occurrence but one that needs intervention.

In this guide, we break down everything you need to know about dog paw pad peeling and what you can do about it.

Understanding Dog paw pads

Paw pads are cushions on your dog’s feet that allow him to grip surfaces, aids his balance, and provide him traction, stability, and shock absorption when he is walking, running, or jumping.

They are made of fatty layers, connective tissues, and leathery skin that allow your dog to walk on different surfaces (cold snow or hot roads) with ease.  

Your dog’s paw pads also play a critical role of regulating his body temperature through sweating.

Paws are also important indicators of a dog’s health. Smelly paws, abnormally long nails, and overgrown hair could all be symptoms of serious health conditions that may need veterinary intervention.

There are three types of paw pads on a dog’s foot, including:

  • The Digital Pad: The four small pads located on each toe of your dog. They support a dog’s weight and protects the joints
  • The Carpal Pad: Located on a dog’s forelimb or front leg. They also support a dog’s weight.
  • The metatarsal/Metacarpal Pad: Are heart-shaped and are located at the center of a dog’s foot. They support the dog’s body during activities. Those located on the front of a dog’s paw are referred to as metacarpal or palmar pads while those on the rear paws are called metatarsal or plantar pads.

Related Post: 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Dog Nail Anatomy

When you look closely at your pup’s paws, you’ll see that they appear rough. This is normal—they are designed to be rough for protective purposes.

However, this doesn’t mean that they are indestructible! They also get cracked, blistered, or damaged when they are exposed to activities they are not accustomed to or environmental extremes.

For instance, if you’ve been hanging with your dog on rough terrains or abrasive surfaces like asphalt, concrete, or pavements, his paw pads may develop blister-like formations due to constant friction.

The skin layers of his pads may begin peeling off, which often marks the beginning of painful paw pads and a wide range of paw pad-related health issues in dogs.

It is this peeling or cracking of paws that we will be discussing in this post. Read on…

What Causes A Dog’s Paw Pads To Peel?

First things first, let’s look at the causes of dog paw pads peeling or the reasons why your pup’s paw pads may crack or peel off.

1. Exposure to the elements

In most instances, dogs don’t get to put on shoes when taking walks as we do. This means their bare paws must brave in the heat and cold.

Sure, the pads come with a ton of safety features to keep them in optimal shape for the most part.

However, when exposed to extreme conditions like snow or sweltering heat, the pads are likely to crack (much like how we get cracked lips during winter).

Walking on hot pavement or asphalt can burn your pup’s paw pads because they retain a great deal of heat.

Ice and cold surfaces aren’t safe for your dog’s paw pads either. They can cause your pup’s paw pads to dry out and crack.

Ice can also give off chemicals that can be detrimental to your dog’s health if he licks off his paws.

But peeling attributed to walking on hot pavements or icy surfaces are usually not deep or bloody.

Think of it the way our lips peel when they have been chapped—only the top layer of the paw pad sloughs off.

2. Injuries

Even under normal weather conditions, a dog can suffer cracked paw pads because of physical trauma.

He may accidentally step on a sharp object like a piece of glass or gravel that may cause an injury.

Things like foxtail can also become lodged in your dog’s paw, causing pain and itching which may turn into cracked and peeling paws. Learn more about foxtail on this post: Foxtail in Dog Ear: Quick Removal and Protection Tips

3. Allergies

Another reason your Fido has peeled paw pads is an allergic reaction.

Some dogs react to things in their environments, including foods, household chemicals (soaps, detergents, floor cleaners, shampoos, etc), outdoor chemicals (Pesticides, fertilizer, etc), and seasonal allergens (seeds, pollen, etc).

This may cause their paws to itch, which some dogs may lick and bite repeatedly causing abrasions. The abrasions then end up peeling as a result of the damages sustained.

Dog allergies should be diagnosed by a qualified vet, so before you conclude that your dog’s paw pad is coming off because of an allergic reaction, you should consult your vet.

We also have a few insightful posts that you read to keep you in the loop:

Protein Allergy in Dogs: What Every New Dog Parent Must Know

My Dog Is Allergic To Chicken: What Can I Feed Him?

Best Foods for Dogs with Allergies: Everything You Need To Know

4. Diseases

Apart from allergies, your dog’s paw pad may get ripped off because of certain diseases. The most common ones include:

  • Pemphigus: causes pus-filled blisters, which often burst, causing a dog’s paw pads to crust over and peel.
  • Hard pad disease: causes paw pad cracking, pain, and sometimes peeling
  • Hyperkeratosis: causes what appears like feathery paw pads and sometimes peeling
  • Demodicosis: Generalized skin disease that may affect dog’s paws. A dog’s feet become inflamed and may show redness, crusting, scaling, and hair loss.
  • Zinc Responsive Dermatosis: Caused by a defect in zinc absorption and metabolism at cellular level. It causes scaling and crusting of the affected areas.

5. Dry Paws

It is not uncommon for dogs to have dry paw pads, especially during winter.

As aforementioned, walking on ice melt or rock salt may cause a dog’s paws to dry up.

And dry paws are susceptible to cracking, which may lead to dog paw pad coming off in severe cases.

6. Nail Issues

Any kind of damage to a dog’s nails or nail beds can metamorphose into serious health issues, including dog carpal pad peeling.

Considering that a dog’s toenails have blood vessels running through them, any kind of damage or breaks that go beyond these vessels may cause excessive bleeding and infections.

7. Excessive Licking

Dogs that obsessively lick their paws may damage them, causing them to crack and peel.

The right term for the condition or behavior is lick granuloma or acral lick dermatitis and is caused by anxiety or psychological issues.

Physical and emotional self-trauma, irritating noises, separation anxiety, and sudden changes in lifestyles are some of the common causes of lick granuloma.

8. Normal Wear And Tear

Active dogs are often exposed to a wide range of unforgiving surfaces—rocky soil, asphalt, concrete, etc—all of which can damage the upper dermal layer of their paw pads.

Additionally, elderly dogs and puppies tend to have softer paw pads, which tend to scrape and crack easily.

9. Insect Bites/Stings

Bees, wasps, ants, fleas, and other bugs can create skin openings in your dog’s paw, especially if the dog licks the area.

Bacteria may then enter the skin openings, causing infections which in turn cause dog paw pads to peel.

Related Post: How to Prevent Black Fly Bites On Dogs

What to Look Out For

Depending on the cause of the dog ripped paw pad, your pup will display different symptoms.

While some are obvious, some are laid back. You have to be keen to notice that your canine friend needs help.

Unsurprisingly, the most common symptom of peeling paws is actual skin coming out of the paws.

When cleaning your pup, you might see loose skin that looks somewhat like a blister or has a raw look to it. This is often the starting point.

This then graduates to cracking or wounds mostly because your pup will lick and scratch the spot. As he does that, the area may even become bloody.

Limping on one of his feet may also indicate physical trauma on the paw pads as does itching.

Other signs to look out for include:

  • Cracked nails or nail beds
  • Damaged webbing between the toes
  • Pus discharge
  • Foreign objects in his pads
  • Withdrawal of paws when touched
  • Sudden excessive licking and/or chewing of paws
  • Lacerations or unsightly punctures on the paws  

Is My Dog’s Peeled Paw Pad Infected?

The only way you can tell whether your dog’s paws are infected or not is by developing a habit of checking him regularly.

Bacteria and fungi living on the paw may outgrow and cause some sort of infection.

Ringworm and yeast are especially notorious for getting out of control around the paw area.

Paw infection symptoms come in many different shapes and forms.

When you see general swelling on his toe or paw, this might signify an infection.

Other symptoms include discharge or puss coming out of the paw. This is among the most obvious signs of paw infections.

Other times, the paw may emit a foul smell, become unusually red, and perhaps have a brown discoloration to it.

Unfortunately, it is quite impossible to really tell an infection from non-infection. That is the work of a vet.

The minute you notice some of these symptoms, your best bet is to call your vet to take a look at your canine buddy.

They have the tools to carry out a physical exam and get to the root of the problem.

How to Treat Peeling Dog Pads

There are a number of medical solutions for dog paw pad peeling.

When you bring your dog to the vet, they will take a tiny bit of the skin on the affected area and run some blood tests on it.

Sometimes, the vet will have an x-ray of him taken if the infection is severe. After doing tests, they will recommend the best treatment strategy.

Oftentimes, the vet will thoroughly and professionally clean the infected area and bandage it.

They may then ask you to change the dressing daily and recommend topical treatments to be applied on a continued basis.

The bandage prevents your pup from licking his wound incessantly. Albeit rare, the vet may put a collar on the dog to keep him from disturbing his paw pads.

Related Post: How to Stop a Dog from Licking his Wound without using a Collar

If there are ingrown nails, the vet will also remove them, particularly from the areas they have grown into—whether it is the side of the paw or the paw itself.

In case of deep lacerations, a splint may also be placed on the dog’s limbs to protect the footpad from undue pressure.

Pressure on the pad may cause reopening of the wound, leading to infection and a host of other health issues.

In severe cases, the vet may also find it necessary to stitch up the cracked paw pads and trim off the peeling piece.

Some vets will go an extra mile to address the root cause of the peeling, especially if he suspects that the damage has an underlying cause such as allergies, insect bites, infections, presence of foreign objects, etc.

Finally, if there is an infection already, the vet may administer oral antibiotics.

What to Do When Your Dog’s Paw Pads Are Peeling

While calling the vet is always a smart move when your dog has peeled paw pads, you can take matters into your own ha

nds. If the extent of the problem is not severe, don’t be afraid to treat the issue by yourself.

Some first aid tips to keep in mind include the following:

I. Clean the Wound

The first order of business should be to inspect the area and clean it thoroughly.

Look closely and establish whether it has debris such as sharp objects in the wound. If present, find a way to get rid of it.

Carefully clean the paw pads using clean water. If possible, swish the entire paw in the water to remove any debris lodged in the paw.

Disinfect the affected foot pad with an antibacterial soap. We only recommend that you use antibacterial soap designed for dogs—not humans. You can learn more from the following posts:

Can I Use Dove Soap On My Dog?

Is Palmolive Dish Soap Safe for Dogs?

Is Dawn Dish Soap Safe For Dogs?

For better results, we also recommend cleaning out any dirt and debris on the paws with warm water or saline solution.

For starters, saline solution is an isotonic solution, which means that it neither donates fluid nor draws it away from the injured paw pad or wound bed.

But don’t be tempted to use hydrogen peroxide to clean your pup’s paw pads because it can have damaging effects on the healthy tissues.

II. Superglue the crack

Does the use of superglue on your dog’s paw pads sound weird to you?

Well, you should understand that many vets vouch for it, stating that it works the same way as a surgical glue to hold the crack or cut on your dog’s paw together.

If the cracks are small, you can skip this step but if they are considerably larger, go ahead and hold the crack together using superglue.

For better results, consider holding the crack until the glue dries. And for inspiration, feel free to check out this excellent and reassuring video by Greg Martinez DVM:

III. Apply a Topical Treatment

There are topical ointments proven to prevent and treat infections. If you have one at home, feel free to use it on your pup.

A balm like Bodhi Paw Balm will not only soften the crack but also help it heal fast.

Ensure that the superglue is dry before applying a topical balm and remember to keep only a single layer at a time.

IV. Bandage the Paw Pad

Sure, the vet knows how to wrap a dog’s paw but you can do it too.

If your dog is bleeding, you may want to do first aid on him to stop the bleeding before he reaches the vet’s office.

After cleaning, use a bandage to apply some pressure on the area. Use your palm for added pressure until the bleeding has stopped completely.

Securely wrap the bandage around the pads and the whole foot (see the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society video below for quick insights on how to do this the right way).

Here are a few tips that you should keep in mind at this stage:

  • To keep the bandage clean or to prevent your dog from biting or interfering with the dressing, put an old sock over it.
  • Change the bandage daily and always remember to reapply an antimicrobial wound spray. Wound spray not only soothes the cracked paws and reduces pain but also prevents infection and promotes healing.
  • If you decide to walk your dog, ensure that the bandage doesn’t get wet by making him wear medical waterproof boots. Alternatively, wrap a plastic bag over the bandage or secure it with self-adhering tape.
  • Avoid any kind of aggressive activity that can re-open the wound, making your pup to start bleeding again.

V. Don’t Peel

Remember how tempting it is to pull dead skin from chapped lips?

Peeling cracked paw pads have the same effect pulling dead skin has on our lips!

However, peeling dog paws will only make the situation worse not to mention encourage your pup to peel as well.

Prevention Strategies

While not all instances of cracked paw pads in dogs are preventable, you can bring the likelihood down through a few prevention strategies.

These include the following:

A. Inspect your dog’s paw pads regularly

Make it a habit to inspect your pup’s paw pads regularly.

Check all the paw pads and in between his toes for cracks, blisters, swelling, discoloration, or presence of any foreign objects like pebbles, burrs, or foxtail.

Inspect his nails, nail bed, and dewclaw as well for any kind of injury or damage.

Split nails may extend past the quick, causing bleeding and a host of health conditions if left untreated.

Damaged nail beds can also aid the entry of bacteria and parasites.

B. Use Balms

If your pup spends a lot of time outdoors, consider getting a paw pad balm or wax. 

A balm offers moisturizing benefits thereby preventing a number of issues including flaking, cracking, and peeling in the paws.

Balms are also excellent options for dogs that don’t tolerate booties or when you can’t get your Fido booties that stay on.

Apply it every time you go out in adverse weather conditions.

C. Booties

Not all dogs feel comfortable wearing booties but those that do really benefit from them. Booties are the ultimate protective gear for dog paws.

Some are designed for the hot weather and others for the cold weather. Choose one depending on your situation.

Pro Tips:

  • To allow for airflow around your pup’s paw pads, consider punching 1-2 holes in the bottom of the booties. This can go a long way in allowing for extended indoor wear without worrying about sweaty or stinky paws
  • If it is your pup’s first time to wear booties, introduce him slowly until he is used to moving freely with them.
  • If your pup has cracked paws already, be sure to use both booties and the palm alongside each other.

D. Dry Your Dog’s Paws after Walks

After taking a walk outside (especially during rainy or wet conditions), you might want to make sure they are dry before he steps into the house.

By doing this, you will get rid of moisture and most importantly, chemicals/slat that might cause peeling.

For convenience and better results, we recommend using portable paw washers as they give you a fast and stress-free way of washing off dirt and grime from your dog’s paws with less mess.

We have a comprehensive post that can help you choose the best paw washers in the market right now. Check it out here: 25 Best Dog Paw Cleaners and Washers for Removing Dirt and Grime

E. Keep the paw pads trimmed

Always ensure that you trim excess fur between your dog’s paw pads.

Wait, is it okay to trim fur between a dog’s pads in the first place? Well, we have a comprehensive answer for you on this post: Should You Trim the Hair between a Dog’s Pads?

If you don’t have time to go through the post, you just need to know that trimming hair between your dog’s paw pads has many benefits, especially when it comes to preventing dog paw pad layer coming off, including:

  • It prevents paw “snowballs” from collecting between your dog’s toes. Considering that these snowballs tend to push your pup’s toes apart and even pull on the fur between the toes, they can cause a lot of discomfort and pain to your dog.
  • It makes it easier for you to inspect in between your pup’s toes as well as clean them.
  • It prevents matting between your pup’s toes which may result into excessive licking and chewing of the feet.
  • It can also go a long way in preventing the buildup of ice between your dog’s toes during snowy weather.

F. Keep the paw pads moisturized

Moisturizing your dog’s paw pads is highly recommended for dogs with dry, cracked, or peeling paws.

Like using soaps on dogs, only opt for products that are formulated for canines—not human moisturizers.

Moderation is also key. Puppies and elderly dogs already have soft paw pads and over-moisturization may make them more prone to tearing or ripping whenever they walk on rough surfaces.

Related Posts:

Can I Use Aveeno Lotion on My Dog?

15 Best Dog Lotions for Dry and Itchy Skin

G. Loosen matting between toes with Olive oil

If you suspect that your dog’s paws are peeling due to matting of hair between his toes, consider loosening the mats with olive oil.

Simply apply the olive oil at the base of the mats, wait for a few minutes for the mats to fall off, then comb them out.

Be gentle while combing the mats as it can be uncomfortable for your dog.

Related Post: 10 Essential Oils for Dogs Licking Their Paws

H. Bath the Dog’s Paw Pads in Epsom Salt

If there are already infections in your pup’s pads, consider bathing his feet in an Epsom salt bath for approximately 5-10 minutes twice a day.

Epsom salt bath will not only draw out the infection but will also encourage healing and dry out any form of lesions between the dog’s toes.

Dry your pup’s foot after the salt bath and apply antibiotic oil on the area, ensuring that your doggy doesn’t lick it off.

I. Avoid walking your pup on unforgiving surfaces

As aforementioned, hot pavements and salt-treated sidewalks can burn your dog’s paws or lead to chemical burns that may lead to paw peeling. To ensure that your pup is safe, avoid such surfaces.

Instead, walk your dog on grass or areas with a lot of shades. Additionally, frequently rehydrate him with lots of cool, fresh water.

J. Watch out for unknown chemicals and irritants

Avoid walking your dog in places that have been treated with insecticides, fertilizers, and pesticides as well as areas with unidentified chemical spills.

In case the dog accidentally walks through unknown chemical spills and experiences itching, don’t allow him to lick the chemical or ingest it.

Wash his paws with mild soap to try and get rid of the chemical. Remember to wear gloves to avoid exposing yourself.

If his paw pads start to slough off, contact your vet immediately as it can be something complex.

Inside your home, stick to organic household chemicals. Harsh shampoos, air fresheners, or carpet sprays may trigger allergies, which often exacerbate paw peeling.

K. Clear insect hives, nests, and anthills in your backyard

It is a bit challenging to prevent insect bites on your dog but clearing anthills, nests, and hives in your backyard can go a long way in preventing exposure.

In the unfortunate event that your dog experiences an insect bite on his paw pads, consider treating it symptomatically. First, remove the stinger then apply some cold compress.

If you notice abnormal symptoms like swelling or redness, contact your local vet immediately.

L. Change your dog’s diet

There are a number of ingredients that you can add to your dog’s diet to keep his skin healthy and promote healing, including:

  • Calendula: This can be beneficial for dogs with thin skin—which we know may be prone to peeling paws.
  • Omega fatty acids: Essential for a wide range of biological functions in dogs
  • Extra proteins: Proteins are critical for normal wound healing to occur
  • Minerals: Calcium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium are important in controlling inflammation and maintaining the integrity of keratinized tissues.

FAQs

Do dogs shed their paw pads?

Dogs can shed their paw pads as a result of nutrient deficiency in their diet or as a reaction to an allergen.

If your dog has a zinc deficiency, or if he is suffering from liver disease, his paws pads can start shedding.

Pemphigus, which is an autoimmune malady, can also lead to blisters that are filled with puss forming on the paws.

As these blisters burst, they cause the paw pads to form crusts and peel.

Another condition that is known to cause shedding of paw pads is the Hard Pad Disease which usually affects dogs that have suffered from distemper.

Allergies can also result in the shedding of paw pads. If your pup is allergic to food, pollen, or some other allergen, there is a good chance that the dog will have itchy feet.

In an endeavor to alleviate the pain, the dog might end up with cracked and peeled paw pads.

Lastly, if your dog has excessively dry skin, he might resort to excessive licking which can also result in peeling.

What happens when a dog’s paw pad comes off?

When a dog’s paw pad comes off, it will take a while (around two months) for the skin to grow back into a tough pad.

This means the foot of your doggie will be tender and vulnerable for a couple of months.

To avoid further injury, you may want to adorn your furry friend in dog booties or doggie socks.

But even before you do this, make sure to use an antibacterial wash to clean the paws and then bandage him to allow for time to heal the pad.

Sometimes, you might have to wait for a couple of days for any loose pad to get detached or you could also take him to the vet for it to be trimmed.

What is the extra pad on a dog paw?

Dogs have an extra pad on the paw that is also referred to as the carpal pad.

This carpal pad is associated with the dewclaw, unlike the other pads that are associated with the toes—the carpal pad is comparable to heels in humans.

Its main function is to allow the dog to break when running or when going down a steep gradient.

The carpal pads also help to give the dog traction when turning at high speed. They also help to absorb shock when your dog is running or when they land from a jump.

Will a Dog’s Pad Heal On Its Own?

Yes and no.

If the paw pads are not severely injured, the problem may go away on its own. All you have to do is clean and bandage the area to protect it.

However, if it is severely injured or infected, it will certainly require medical intervention.

As usual, it is better to err on the side of caution. Even if you can’t afford to take your pup to the vet, at least make a call and have them give you the best counsel.

How long does it take for a dog’s paw pads to heal? 

Like any other health issue in dogs, paw pad peeling healing time depends on many factors, including:

  • How deep or severe the cracks are or the size of the wounds.
  • The quality and level of care that you provide to your dog after suffering cracked paws
  • How closely you manage to monitor your pup during the recovery period to prevent him from chewing or removing the bandage or re-injuring the wound.
  • Your dog’s immunity and how his body responds to the medications administered by the vet.

Is it normal for my dog’s paw pads to peel?

Yes. Sometimes it is normal for a dog’s paw to peel considering that his day-to-day activities like walking, running, or jumping is enough to cause some level of stress on his feet.

So, if you’ve recently exposed your dog to rough terrains and notice his paws peeling, you don’t need to worry so much because you already know the cause.

You only need to start counteracting it with the preventive strategies we have highlighted above—paw balms, paw washing, boots, etc.

However, if the peeling has no clear cause, consult a vet to have a look at the paws.

Are There Home Remedies For Dog Paw Peeling?

Yes. There are quite a number of home remedies that have been proven to boost the healing of cracked or peeling paw pads.

We’ve highlighted them in this post: Top 15 Cracked Dog Paws Home Remedies

Can I Put Neosporin on My Dog’s Paw?

Yes. Neosporin ingredients are dog-safe. Applying a small amount of your dog’s paws will not be harmful. You don’t want to use a large amount as your pup will likely lick some of it off.

Having said that, some dogs are allergic to Neosporin. If yours develops an allergic response, stop using it.

Can I Put Vaseline On My Dog’s Peeling Paws?

Yes. Just like a balm, Vaseline will moisturize your pup and prevent/treat peeling and cracking.

Again, your dog will likely lick it off of his paws so keep the amount minimal.

Final Thoughts

There it is; a quick overview of the basics you need to know about dog paw pad peeling and what you can do about it.

Essentially, you have a number of preventive and first aid strategies you can administer.

If the situation is dire, always call the vet for their expert opinion.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3,4

Sources

https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/pemphigus-in-dogs

https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/how-care-your-dogs-cracked-and-dry-paws

https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/how-to-properly-care-for-your-dogs-paw-pads

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3103292/

https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/first-aid-for-torn-or-injured-foot-pads-in-dogs

https://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/your-dogs-health/caring-for-your-dog/keeping-dogs-paws-healthy.html

https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/paw-care-tips-dogs

https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/news/protect-your-dogs-paws-winter-weather

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Sable M. is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.