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Woman wrapping a dog paw in a bandage

The essentials

  • Blisters are fluid-filled pockets — They form underneath the top layer of skin. Blisters are different from cysts, which may look similar but require different treatment
  • If a blister forms on your dog’s pads — Clean and protect it. Otherwise, you’ll risk infection.
  • Not all blisters require a trip to the vet — If you see redness, swelling, or a blister that won’t heal, it’s best to seek medical attention.

A blister is a fluid-filled pocket that forms underneath the top layer of skin. Dogs can get blisters in many places on their bodies, typically where there’s lots of friction happening. Blisters are most common on the paws, but you may also see one under a dog’s collar or harness.

Any dog owner who’s had a blister themselves knows how painful they can be, and it’s no different for our pups. If your pet has blisters on its feet, you might even notice a change in your dog’s gait or limping as they avoid putting pressure on the affected area. Your pup will be very grateful if you can see the signs of a blister and help them get the proper treatment.

👉 On a dog’s paws, blisters may look like this. 

What causes paw pad blisters?

Dog paw pad blisters are common. After all, dogs walk around barefoot 24/7! Here are some common causes of paw blisters:

1. Burns from hot pavement

Walking your dog on hot pavement can cause blisters and burns on their paw pads. Use extreme caution when walking your dog on very hot days. If the sidewalk or pavement feels too hot for your bare foot or the back of your hand, it may be too hot for your dog to walk comfortably.

2. Walking on rough terrain

Walking on rough terrains like uncleared hiking trails, rocks, gravel, and other foreign bodies is another way your dog can end up with blisters on their paws. Even uneven asphalt and hard surfaces like concrete areas in the city can cause blistering.

3. Excessive exercise

Canine athletes or those who enjoy running and hiking with their owners are also at greater risk of developing blisters. If you and your dog are racking up some miles together you’ll want to check for blisters regularly.

4. Coming in contact with skin irritants

If your dog’s paws come in contact with things like road salt in the winter, foreign objects on the ground, or other chemical irritants, these can cause blisters to form. When coming in from winter walks, clean your dog’s paws as soon as you can to avoid blistering.

5. Allergies

Both seasonal allergies and food allergies can cause your pup to lick at their paws excessively which can lead to blisters. If you see your dog licking or chewing at their feet, rule out allergies as the cause.

6. Injuries

Trauma and injuries to your dog’s feet can also result in blisters. One specific type of blister (called a blood blister) can form if your dog’s paw pad is pinched. This is exactly what it sounds like — the pocket of fluid is actually a pocket of blood.

7. Cysts

While a cyst isn’t a blister, they can certainly look a lot alike. If you’re unsure if your dog has a blister or a cyst, it’s a good idea to chat with your vet.

Treating blisters on your pup's paws

While in many cases a blister doesn’t require a trip to the vet, they’ll need the appropriate treatment to heal properly and not cause additional complications.

  • Use an anti-bacterial wash — Keeping the blistered area clean will prevent infection. The first step is to wash with an anti-bacterial wash. Our vets recommend Hibiclens to help prevent infection.
  • Protect the area with a bandage — To prevent the blister from bursting and to prevent infection while it heals, wrap the blistered paw with a bandage. If the blister does burst, it becomes an open wound and needs to be cleaned and protected while it heals. Dog owners who aren’t trained in pet first aid should check with their vet about how to properly wrap a bandage at home. If the bandage is wrapped too tightly, it can cause the blister to burst.

👉 Keeping dirt and debris out of the wound will prevent infection.

  • Avoid rough terrain or hot pavement — While your dog is healing, avoid rough surfaces and hot pavement. If the blister was caused by a chemical irritant, avoid the area that was treated so your dog can heal.
  • Don’t allow your dog to lick their paws excessively — Excessive licking can lead to both infection and additional blisters, so you want to help your dog avoid licking their paws while they are healing. You can use an Elizabethan collar or deterrent spray to help prevent licking.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment or a product like Paw Soother or Paw Nectar to soothe the area — These products are made with ingredients designed to prevent infection, reduce inflammation, and soothe any painful areas to speed up the healing process.

When to call your vet

If you’ve been treating your dog’s blisters and you notice any of the following symptoms, call your veterinarian and have them take a look.

The blisters aren’t healing. If you have treated your pup’s blisters and notice that, after a few days, they’re not healing at all or are getting worse, this could be a sign of a more serious issue or infection. While some dogs heal faster than others, if you aren’t noticing any improvement it’s best to call a vet. They can also help you determine and address the underlying cause of the blister so you can help prevent new blisters from forming.

Redness or swelling around the blister. Redness or swelling around the blister may be signs of an infection. You may notice your dog seems to be in pain. If you also notice that there’s pus coming from the blistered area, your dog has spiked a fever, or is lethargic, these are additional clinical signs of infection and you should seek veterinary treatment ASAP.

You’re seeing blisters on other parts of your dog’s body. If your dog is developing additional blisters on other parts of its body, this could be a more serious condition. The best thing to do in this case is to get your dog to the vet to determine the problem and create a better treatment plan.

You suspect your dog has a cyst. If you think what you’re seeing is actually a cyst instead of a blister, take your pup to see the vet. Your veterinarian is the best person to make a recommendation on how to treat (or remove) the cyst. The first step in this process might include taking a biopsy to determine the type of cyst.

Prevention tips: Keep your dog’s paw blister-free

Here are steps and preventive measures responsible pet owners can take to keep your dog’s paws healthy:

  • Check your dog’s paws regularly — Look for signs of irritation like redness, bleeding, or cracked paw pads. You’ll want to remove any debris or irritants from between your dog’s toes. This is the best way to help prevent blisters before they form.
  • Practice good hygiene — Make sure your dog’s nails are trimmed regularly and that they’re clean. Wipe down your doggie’s feet or wash their paws with warm water after walks, especially in the winter. Keeping up with good hygiene, in general, will reduce the risk of blisters or other painful foot issues.
  • Use a balm to protect paw padsUsing paw balms will protect your dog’s paws from the elements and friction that can cause blisters. The moisture barrier can help keep the pup’s paws from getting blisters in the first place or soothe blisters after they happen.
  • Avoid walking on pavement that is extremely hot or cold — You may need to plan your walks strategically to keep your dog off of extremely hot or cold roadways or those that have been heavily salted. Avoiding exposure to extreme weather conditions will help prevent blisters. Try walking on grass when possible.

👉 In the summertime, avoid long walks during the peak of the heat for the day.

  • Consider boots to protect your dog’s feetBooties can protect your dog’s feet from the elements and uneven terrain. Make sure boots are properly fitted or they can actually rub your dog’s feet/legs and cause additional blisters to form.

While blisters are usually not serious, they can be painful so providing treatment and care if your dog gets one is very important.

Frequently asked questions

Will a dog’s paw pad heal on its own?

Blisters will need some care to make sure your dog’s paw pad heals. You should use an anti-bacterial wash, bandage the area, avoid rough terrain and sharp objects, and don’t allow your dog to lick their hurt paw.

Can dogs get blisters between their toes?

Yes, dogs can get blisters on their paw pads and between their toes. If you notice a blister between your dog’s toes, it’s important to get them checked by the vet to make sure it’s not an interdigital cyst.

What causes blood blisters on dog paws?

Blood blisters happen when something pinches your dog’s paw pad. This creates a pocket of blood from where the area is pinched.