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Dry and peeling dog paws

📷 by Engin Akyurt

What causes dog’s paw pads to peel?

Dogs spend lots of time running and walking on their four paws. This leaves them vulnerable to potential injury or irritation to pads on the underside of the paws. While they may look tough, dog paws contain skin, bone, tendons, and ligaments, much like other body parts subject to injury. Here are four common reasons why your dog’s paw pads are peeling:

1. Foreign objects

In an ideal world, our dogs would have endless patches of soft grass to roam around. In reality, many dog owners walk city streets and concrete sidewalks filled with potential paw-injuring objects. Sharp objects like gravel, pebbles, thorns, broken glass, and even bee stingers can embed themselves in your dog’s paw pads and lead to pain, swelling, and peeling if not removed.

2. Exposure to the elements

For dog owners living in hot or cold climates, seasonal weather presents unique challenges. In the winter, rock salt, sand, anti-freeze, and other chemicals are often used to melt snow and ice. These chemicals can cause pain and irritation to your dog’s paw pads and result in peeling over time. In the summertime, hot asphalt can lead to cracking, blisters, and burns on dogs’ paw pads.

3. Allergies

Seasonal allergies caused by pollen, grass, plants, trees, mites, or other environmental allergens can cause reactions leading to itchy skin and paw pads. This issue is most common in the spring, summer, or fall during prime allergy season. When dogs scratch, lick, chew on their itchy paw pads, this can cause peeling, which can worsen the issue if left untreated.

4. Disease or illness

Certain skin conditions, like the autoimmune disease pemphigus, directly lead to itchy skin and paw pads. However, paw problems can arise from internal issues as well. For instance, paw peeling is often a symptom of liver disease in dogs. An improperly functioning liver affects the regeneration of cells, limiting the paw pads’ ability to create new protective cells. Additionally, a zinc deficiency in your dog’s diet can lead to similar drying, cracking, and peeling of the paw pads.

How to treat your dog’s peeling paw pads

With such an important body part as the paw pads, you should always be very careful when touching your dog’s hurt paw. If you notice abrasions, bleeding, pus, or discharge, or if your pup is limping in obvious pain, you should visit a veterinarian immediately. They can help rule out certain infections of illness and properly diagnose the problem.

Usually, the doctor will clean and bandage the infected paw pad. Depending on the diagnosis, they may also run further examinations, such as an allergy test, and prescribe treatment based on the issue at hand.

👉 Never peel or tear any loose skin off of your dog’s paw pads! This will only lead to further injury and increase the chance of infection.

Wrapping your dog’s paw at home

In the case of an injury, you may need to re-clean and re-dress your dog’s feet in the days following the vet visit. Our vets provided at-home advice to give your dog’s peeling paw pad the best chance of healing:

Clean your dog’s paws — This may seem obvious, but keeping an injured paw pad clean is essential, even indoors. Debris can easily get stuck in open wounds, and may be hard to detect. Use paw wipes or a warm washcloth to clean off paw pads before re-applying any bandages.

Bandage the paw pad — Learning how to wrap a dog’s paw is a useful skill for any pet parents. This simple yet effective method can be done using items, like gauze and pet-safe antiseptics, that many of us always have in our own medicine cabinets. Since dogs spend so much time on their paw pads, frequent re-bandaging is important to keep the area clean and free from infection.

Apply a topical treatment to help your dog’s paws heal — In some instances of paw injuries an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin can help speed along treatment. However, you should always consult a vet before applying any medical ointments to your dog’s paws. If you want to go a more natural route, there are many natural paw balms and paw waxes to try! We recommend Natural Dog Company’s Organic Paw Soother, containing skin-soothing ingredients like jojoba oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter.

Tips to prevent dogs’ paw pads from peeling

Paw pad protection is something many pet parents take for granted, but it can go a long way. Here are some methods to prevent your furry friend’s peeling paw pads:

Watch out for broken glass and sharp rocks on walks — It’s important to keep your eye out on walks, especially in areas like city streets where gravel, rocks, and glass are near. If you find yourself constantly encountering sharp objects on the street, try changing up your daily walking route. Your dog’s paw pads will thank you.

Adapt to extreme weather — Hot pavement can be hard to avoid in some climates, but there are ways to adapt. For instance, avoid walking your dog in the middle of the day if you know the ground is too hot. Adjust your schedule to go out early in the morning or late at night when temperatures are cooler. In snowy or icy winter weather, take cautions to avoid rock salt or other ice-melting chemicals which cause paw pad irritation.

Wipe down and check your dog’s paws after walks — Many of us wipe our feet on doormats before coming inside, and you should do the same for your dog. It’s easy for objects to become embedded in dogs’ paw pads, and it can be hard for owners to detect. Wiping down and examining dogs’ paw pads after every walk is a good way to keep outdoor irritants outside of your home.

Keep a first aid kit on hand for injuries — A dog first aid kit is something every owner should have ready in case of emergencies. Kits contain items like antibiotic ointment and gauze to treat paw pad injuries in a pinch.

Keep your dog’s paws protected with booties or a balm — Dog booties are an effective and cute form of paw protection, but some dogs refuse to walk in them or even allow them to be put on. For a simpler method, consider applying a paw-protecting balm before walks.

Our favorite paw protecting wax: PawTection

PawTection from Natural Dog Company is our go-to when it comes to paw pad protection. The gentle yet effective product is made from organic ingredients like ylang ylang and rosemary extract. These help protect, moisturize, and soothe dogs’ paw pads. The easy-to-apply wax works hard to keep irritants, allergens, and harsh elements from damaging your furry friends’ feet in tough conditions. Best of all, the all-natural PawTection balm is 100% pet safe, leaving you worry-free in case of any accidental ingestion by your pup.

Frequently asked questions about peeling paw pads

What causes peeling paw pads in dogs?

Foreign objects, irritants, hot surfaces, allergies, and disease are all potential culprits for your dog’s peeling paw pads.

Will a dog’s paw pad heal on its own?

Paw pad injuries can easily worsen, so it’s best to treat and manage them quickly and comprehensively. Proactive measures like cleaning, bandaging, and protecting paw pads can go a long way towards faster healing.

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

Depending on the issue, paw pad problems can take a few days or a few weeks or more to clear up. A veterinarian visit can help determine the cause of the problem, and a doctor will be able to provide a clearer timeline of healing once a diagnosis is made.

How do I treat my dog’s peeling paw pads at home?

Paw balms and waxes are a good way to both prevent irritation and soothe cracked or peeling pads. Dog boots are another option for pets who will put up with them. When it comes to at-home treatment, cleaning and dressing the paw pads regularly can help speed healing and prevent further infection.