- Red paws on dogs can be a vicious cycle — The more dogs lick and chew, the worse the redness can get, making the healing process frustrating for pets and owners.
- Treatment will depend on the cause — There are many reasons why a dog’s paws may be red, so it’s important to know the underlying cause so that you can treat it with allergy medicine, antibiotics, or potentially just a good cleaning.
- Environmental allergies may be the culprit — Dogs can be allergic to various things, from pollen and grass to food items, fleas, and more.
A dog’s paws handle lots of daily wear and tear, so it’s no surprise that they can sometimes end up red, swollen, and inflamed. But what causes a dog’s paws to be red? There are several potential reasons why your dog’s paws could be red, including allergies, contact dermatitis, burns or lesions, and even some more serious conditions like parasites, bacterial infections, and pododermatitis. Read along to learn more about the possible causes of red paws on dogs, plus treatment and prevention tips.
13 potential causes of red paws
This condition can be defined as inflammation of the skin and lesions on the paw. Affected areas may include interdigital spaces, footpads, nail folds, and nails—and multiple paws can be affected at once.
Dogs can be allergic to a variety of “triggers” such as pollen, mold, grass, specific foods, fleas, and more. The allergic reaction can lead to itchy feet and inflamed skin, especially around their paws — these symptoms may also be referred to as contact dermatitis.
Like yeast, bacteria are also naturally occurring on your dog’s skin and in their environments. When skin is inflamed, bacteria can fall through the “cracks” in the paw skin’s barrier to cause infection. The infected paw pad might be usually swollen and reddish in appearance, and can sometimes come with a foul odor.
Burns or excessive cold
Blisters, cuts, and abrasions
If your pup cuts their paw on something or develops blisters, it’s easy for the area to become irritated and inflamed. This can either be due to bacterial infection at the site of the injury, or due to the excessive licking that your pet might do to relieve their pain.
Cysts and growths
Anxiety or boredom
If your dog is constantly licking or chewing its paws and no other serious root cause can be diagnosed, it may be a behavioral issue. Some dogs that are bored or anxious will engage in compulsive behavior like licking or chewing. Unfortunately, the more they do this, the more irritated and red their paws become, and a painful cycle starts again.
It’s easy for your dog to get foreign objects, like grass or a foxtail, stuck in their paw when they walk around outside. If something’s stuck, they may bite and chew at it for relief, resulting in red, irritated paws.
Insect bites and stings
Dogs can have allergic reactions to bug bites, just like we can. It may not be clear what bug may have bitten or stung them, but most lead to itching and redness in the area.
Environmental allergies can occur in many pets, leading to respiratory symptoms like wheezing, gastrointestinal upset, and red, irritated skin. Your vet can help you to diagnose possible causes behind the reactions, giving you advice about your next correct step.
The most common cause for red paws is due to allergies. However, it’s important that other potential causes are ruled out so that appropriate treatment is given. This requires veterinary care.
What to do if you notice redness on your dog’s paws
If you discover redness or irritation on your dog’s paws, consider checking and cleaning the area thoroughly to see if the redness subsides. As a general note, always call your veterinarian for a physical examination if symptoms persist or worsen. Here are some helpful steps you can take at home to begin to address the irritation:
- Check your dog’s paws — Is there an object caught between their toes or in a paw pad? Are there any signs of a cut or trauma? Be sure to take a closer look.
- Clean your dog’s paws — For redness that may be caused by yeast infections or allergies, or for redness caused by an object that you easily removed, follow up by cleaning your dog’s affected paw with a medicated shampoo and warm water. Here’s one we recommend from TropiClean.
When to see your vet for paw redness
If your pup is in pain and you can’t see a stuck object, blister or burn, you should schedule a vet visit immediately to have your dog checked. More severe cases of red paws on dogs may be due to parasitic infections or pododermatitis that can only be diagnosed and treated by a vet and prescription antibiotics.
Home remedies to treat red paw pad symptoms at home
Specific treatment options will vary based on what’s causing your dog’s red paws. For example: If your pup’s red paws are due to bacterial infections or fungal infections, medicated shampoos can help soothe symptoms and moisturize the area.
Here’s a shampoo we recommend from TropiClean.
Ultra soothing formula for controlling itchy infections
TropiClean OXYMED Medicated Shampoo
Additional options you can try include:
- Coconut oil — Safe for dogs and easy to find, this at-home remedy is a potent antiviral and antibacterial agent. It can be especially helpful to soothe inflammation and redness in your dog’s paws, especially in cases of a secondary infection.
- Oatmeal baths — Soaking in a plain oatmeal bath is a great way to soothe skin in hard-to-reach areas, like your pup’s feat. Simply run a warm bath, sprinkle plain ground oats (or oatmeal) into the water, and let nature work its magic.
- Cold compresses — Cool rags or a cool mat can reduce itchiness and swelling around your pup’s feet, giving them near-instant relief as you work toward a more permanent fix.
Preventing your pup from getting red paws
While you should always watch out for your doggie’s paws, it’s especially important during the summer and winter months. Here are a few steps to take to ensure your dog doesn’t end up with irritated paw pads.
Frequently do a paw check — Be sure to inspect your pup’s paws after they’ve been outside to make sure they didn’t accidentally step on anything or cut themselves on sharp objects.
Paw balms can help prevent burns and blisters on your dog’s paws — Dog paw balms create a protective barrier between your pup’s paws and hot asphalt or rough terrain. Simply rub it onto their paw pads before going on walks. It can also soothe dry or irritated paw pads.
Avoid walking your dog during harsh weather conditions — Extreme temps can cause burns and lesions on your pup’s feet. Stick to early morning or late evening walks in the summer. In the winter, snow, ice, and chemicals on the ground can irritate your dog’s paws. Pet parents can even try doggie booties for extra protection!
Keep your pup up to date on flea and tick medications — Fleas, ticks, and other parasites can be easily avoided by keeping your dog on monthly preventatives.
Treat your pup’s seasonal allergies — Ask your vet how to help manage your dog’s allergies. You can also use an aller-immune system supplement like Zesty Paws Aller-Immune Bites or salmon oil with omega-3s to promote skin health.
Immune system booster
Zesty Paws Allergy Immune Supplement
Properly trim and maintain your dog’s nails — Keep up with regular nail trims to prevent them from overgrowing and potentially causing issues in the future.
Avoid allergens — Keep your pup away from potential allergens in and out of your home, including dust, weeds, cleaning chemicals, chemicals sprayed on grass, etc.
Frequently asked questions
What causes a dog’s paws to be red?
There are several potential reasons why your dog’s paws could be red, including allergies, contact dermatitis, burns or lesions, and even some more serious conditions like parasites, bacterial infections, and pododermatitis.
Why are my dog’s paws red between the toes?
If your dog’s paws are red because of an allergy or other condition, it’s likely that the irritation will spread to other areas of the paw, like in between the toes. This may be caused by excessive licking, chewing, or gnawing as well. Other more serious reasons why a dog’s paws may be red in between the toes is because of cysts or growths like interdigital cysts.
Why is my dog licking his paws red between pads?
There are many reasons why your pet might be licking excessively. This can be a common occurrence when your pet is dealing with allergies, cysts, bug bites, and more—which is why it’s so important to get a proper diagnosis from your pet’s vet. Once you know the cause, you can treat it more effectively.
How do I treat my dog’s red paws?
Treatment almost entirely depends on your pet’s diagnosis from your vet. Possible options include creams, injections, oral medication, or at-home treatments (such as coconut oil or a licking mat, as you might use if the licking is behavioral in origin).