Dog looking up at camera with injured, bandaged paw

Key takeaway

There are many common causes of bleeding paws in dogs, including lacerations and punctures, dry skin, infections, and even allergies. No matter what the cause of your dog’s paws bleeding, you must clean the wound and stop the bleeding as soon as possible to prevent infection.

Dog paw pads are thick and rubbery to help them walk across just about any surface with better traction and cushioning to prevent pain. However, dog paws and their paw pads are still susceptible to injury. Your dog's foot pads can help protect their feet from extreme weather, including ice and hot pavement, but they're not indestructible. Dog paw pads can crack, get injured, and bleed. If you notice your dog's paw is bleeding, it could indicate some type of injury. This article will discuss why your dog's paws might be bleeding and what to do when you notice your dog's paw or paw pads are bleeding.

Why Are My Dog's Paws Bleeding?

Any injury can cause your dog's paws to start bleeding, including punctures, dry skin, and even broken nails. Your dog can injure their paws in several ways, but the most common reasons why your dog's paws are bleeding are due to punctures and abrasions.

  • Laceration: A laceration occurs when there is a cut or a tear in the skin or pad of your dog's paw. Lacerations can be caused by anything your dog's paws come into contact with, including rocks or broken glass while on their daily walks. Depending on what caused the laceration, they can be deep or shallow.
  • Puncture: Similar to a laceration, a puncture can happen from walking on sharp objects. The difference between a laceration versus a puncture is that a puncture is typically a cut straight through the tissue, while a laceration is more of a tear. Punctures are typically deeper than lacerations because the material that caused the puncture went straight up into the tissue rather than off to the side.
  • Abrasion: An abrasion occurs when your dog's paw or paw pad is scraped against something, similar to sandpaper. It's similar to a scraped knee someone might get from falling off their bike.
  • Dry skin: Dry skin can affect dogs anywhere on their body, but especially on paw pads that are subject to harsh, drying weather conditions, such as snow, ice, salt, and hot pavement.
  • Infection: Dogs can get skin infections on their paws that can cause itchy and inflamed skin. In particular, a yeast infection can also cause redness and discharge from the nail beds. Because infections can become uncomfortable and itchy, your dog may excessively lick or chew on their paws for relief, which can cause further irritation and bleeding. Other infections can occur due to lacerations or even insect bites. A tick removal that leaves an open wound can easily get infected and cause bleeding.
  • Allergies: An allergic reaction can cause itching anywhere your pet has skin, including their paws. Seasonal allergies are common in dogs, but dogs can also have allergic reactions from anything, including food and insect bites and stings. For example, if your dog was stung by a bee on their paw, they could be experiencing an allergic reaction, which can cause irritation and itching, making your dog want to excessively lick or bite their paws, which can cause bleeding.
  • Broken toenail: Dogs' paws can bleed as a result of a broken or cracked toenail. If you've gone a while without having your dog's nails clipped, the nails can easily get snagged on something outside or in the home and cause bleeding near the nail bed.

Having healthy paw pads and paw skin can prevent paw bleeding by ensuring the skin is strong and can heal itself. If your dog's paws are constantly out on hot asphalt or salt meant to clear ice, their paw pad and skin health can be compromised, making it more prone to punctures and lacerations.

First Aid Tips For Bleeding Paws

As soon as you notice your dog's paws are bleeding, you should aim to stop the bleeding, whether you know the cause or not. Here are first aid tips for bleeding paws.

Graphic - Step 1: Clean The Wound

Step 1: Clean The Wound

To clean the wound, you should first find it. While detection can be difficult if you don't see what could have caused the bleeding, you can narrow down which paw is the problem and clean the entire paw, including between paw pads and around the nails.

First, remove debris around the wound, including glass, rocks, dirt, and stingers. If there's something stuck in your dog's paw, you can use tweezers if they allow you to get it out. However, if it's lodged anywhere in the paw, it's always best to have a trained professional take it out to prevent causing more pain or risk of infection. Some dogs will be fine with their owners handling their paws, but if your dog is in extreme pain, they might try to prevent you from touching it. Try to be as gentle as possible when removing debris. If your dog doesn't let you touch their paws, take them to the vet, who can handle it for you.

If you're able to proceed, wash the wound with cool water. You can also disinfect the wound with mild antibacterial soap or betadine.

Graphic - Step 2: Apply Pressure To Stop Bleeding

Step 2: Apply Pressure To Stop Bleeding

Once the wound is clean, the next step is to stop the bleeding. If the bleeding hasn't already stopped, use a clean towel and apply gentle pressure to the wound. Within a few minutes, the blood should start clotting. However, if the paw bleeding doesn't stop within 10-15 minutes, go to the vet immediately.

Graphic - Step 3: Dress The Wound With A Bandage

Step 3: Dress The Wound With A Bandage

Once you've stopped the bleeding, you can use gauze to cover the wound and wrap it with an adhesive. Ensure to cover the paws, toes, and ankles to prevent swelling, and don't wrap their paws up too tight. You should be able to put two fingers between the paw and the bandage.

Step 4: Monitor The Wound And Change The Bandage

Step 4: Monitor The Wound And Change The Bandage

Keep the wound dry and change the bandage daily. You should always check the wound when changing the bandage to ensure that it's healing and no infection is forming. If you’re unsure about the condition of the wound, consult your vet.

Graphic listing signs to see a vet for bleeding paws

When To See A Vet

In some cases, when your dog's paws are bleeding, you'll need to go to the vet immediately. Here's when you should take your dog to the vet for bleeding paws:

  • Your dog won't let you look at or touch their paw
  • There are objects lodged deeply into their paw that you can't remove
  • If you can't stop bleeding within 10-15 min
  • You notice the wound is worsening
  • There is an infection
  • Your dog can't walk on their paw

Bleeding Paws: FAQs

Why are healthy foot pads so important?

Your dog's paws are made up of bones, tendons, tissues, blood vessels, and of course, skin.1 The paw pads help cushion your dog's bones and joints from shock while protecting tissues within the paw and allowing them to move around comfortably without having to wear shoes. Healthy foot pads are important for your dog's health because the healthier the skin and paw pads on your dog's foot, the less likely it is to become infected if there's a laceration or puncture. Additionally, healthy paws don't crack as easily, so things like salt or small sticks outside are less likely to cause wounds.

If your dog's paw is bleeding, they're likely in pain and won't be able to walk as easily. Many dogs may hang their paws or limp when they're in pain. If you notice your dog is limping or not putting weight on their paws, check their pads to see if they might have a wound or dry skin that's making it uncomfortable to walk.

How long do paw pads take to heal?

Paw pads can take anywhere from 14 to 21 days to heal, but it depends on the wound and the reason for the bleeding. Deeper punctures will take longer to heal than cracked, dry paw pads and may require your dog to take it easy for a few days so as to not put too much pressure on the paw.

Can you put hydrogen peroxide on a dog's paws?

Never put hydrogen peroxide on your dog's paw as it can be extremely irritating to their skin and painful depending on how deep the wound is. Instead, use a mild antibacterial soap or betadine. If you want to be on the safe side and prepare for wounds in the future, talk to your vet about which products they recommend for pet first aid.

Dog owner bandaging dog’s bleeding paw

Final Notes

If you notice your dog's paws are bleeding, you should first try to find out where the source of the wound is. Paws can bleed for a variety of reasons ranging from mild causes such as dry skin to more severe causes such as lacerations and deep punctures. Whatever the cause of your dog's bleeding, always clean the wound and stop the bleeding as quickly as possible to prevent infection. If you can't stop the bleeding or your dog won't let you touch their bleeding paw, go to the nearest emergency vet who can help you remove debris from the paw, clean, and bandage it.

If your dog will let you take care of them by touching and cleaning their paw, make sure you remove any dirt and debris before stopping the bleeding. Depending on the reason for the wound, the bleeding may stop on its own, or it may require some gentle pressure. Once the bleeding has stopped, bandage your dog's paw and care for the wound. In some cases, your dog's wound might become infected or get worse. If your dog isn't healing properly, talk to a vet as soon as possible.

Dutch's telemedicine for pets prevents anxiety caused by in-person vet visits. By working with a licensed veterinarian through Dutch, you can send in videos and photos of your pet's wound to help determine the right course of treatment. Through Dutch, you can receive medication to help prevent infections in wounds and tips for how to keep your dog's paw clean and healthy.

References

  1. “Dog Paw Care Tips and Paw Injuries Treatment.” Edited by Amy Flowers , FETCH, WebMD, 7 July 2021, https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/paw-care-tips-dogs.