Dogs walk and run through all sorts of terrain, so cuts on their feet or paw pads are not uncommon. Dogs’ footpads may be hurt out in nature or in urban areas. Cuts and abrasions often lead to injured paws becoming infected, so it is a good idea to inspect your dog’s paws every evening, especially if you notice your dog is limping or licking his feet.
Causes of Cuts
Running on rough surfaces or climbing on rocks may cause footpad injury. In urban areas, at parks or while walking on the sidewalk, broken glass, metal and sharp stones can cause problems, even though the pads of dogs’ feet seem tough. Many dogs have a high pain threshold and when injured, they may not exhibit signs of pain. Just because a dog is not limping, licking its paw or favoring the foot, don’t assume that a cut or injury does not require medical or home care.
Stopping the Bleeding
Footpad cuts may cause profuse bleeding, in which case you will need to apply a pressure bandage to the paw. The Dog Owner’s Veterinary Handbook suggests that you “place several sterile gauze squares or… any clean, thickly folded cloth…over the wound. Apply direct pressure for ten to fifteen minutes.” Wrap a loose bandage around the gauze to keep it in place while you transport your dog to the veterinarian, who will probably do a deep cleaning and remove any glass or embedded matter from the wound. Your dog may also need stitches and topical or oral antibiotics.
Cleaning the Wound
If the cut is minor, inspect it for foreign material before thoroughly rinsing the paw. It might help to swish the foot in water to dislodge any debris still in the wound. Wash the foot with disinfectant soap, rinse well and dry. The raw, bleeding areas may be flushed with disinfectant solution such as chlorhexidine or povidine-iodine.
Contrary to popular opinion, a dog licking its wound will not help the healing process. In fact, it can allow bacteria to enter the wound and may cause it to become infected. If you see any signs of infection, a veterinarian should examine your dog.
Placing a small sock over the foot and taping it on loosely with several wraps of adhesive tape can make a foot-bandage. Vet wrap won’t stick to fur, so you can use that on the leg itself and continue wrapping it down over the sock’s cuff. Unless the foot stays bandaged, which is not always easy to insure with an active or clever dog, foreign materials and dirt will keep entering the wound. This will slow healing and increase the risk of infection.
Change the bandage whenever it becomes damp, inspect the wound and re-bandage it every three days until the cut is healed. If a cut becomes infected, the injured paw may become swollen, inflamed, red and warm. Ointments can be applied under this type of bandage and the sock will keep the medicine on the foot. You can use small adult socks, child socks or infant socks, which actually fit a dog’s foot quite well.
Simple wounds usually heal more quickly when left uncovered, but if it keeps getting contaminated or a dog licks the wound so much that it cannot heal or is made worse, the wound must be protected. As long as the wound is superficial, the dog’s paw can be washed with clean water and treated with a small amount of salt or antiseptic, such as chlorhexidine, twice a day. When not being treated, the wound should be kept dry and covered. If your dog has to go outside in the rain, keep the protective covering dry by attaching a plastic bag over the sock.
Natural remedies help promote quick healing and make your dog feel more comfortable. For example, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Calendula has been shown to speed healing of wounds (possibly because it increases blood flow to the affected area), and the dried petals of the calendula plant are used in tinctures, ointments and washes for the healing of … cuts, as well as the minor infections they cause.”