Canine paws are made of a very complicated material, and the injuries can occur on the skin, the cartilage, and the bones. Dogs’ paws can freeze during winter and get burnt during summer from hot cement and surfaces. They are very sensitive and that is why I learnt that we need to take care of them properly.
A dog’s swollen paw can point to a number of causes including injuries, insect bites, dry skin, infection, burning from hot surfaces, trapped stones between toes, thorns and more. All these can cause paw pad inflammation but the good thing is that you can try to diagnose and even relieve them at home.
To quickly find the cause, it is important to examine your pet at home and see if there is any physical injury you can identify and fix. For instance, you can easily remove a thorn or a stone that is stuck between the toes.
Although canine paw inflammation may not be dangerous, it can really be uncomfortable. Depending on the severity, injuries can leave your dog limping until the cause is resolved.
It is a complex condition and treatment is sometimes frustrating for both the dog and the veterinarian (clearly for the owner too).
Here are some of the most common causes of swelling legs and paws in dogs:
Dry, cracked skin
When the pads are too dry, the paws may begin to crack. Just like in human feet, when the skin becomes too dry, the heels become cracked.
Hot and cold surfaces
Regardless of whether there is rain or the sun, dogs are always happy to walk. In the summer it is important to avoid hot concrete and asphalt because they can become unbearably hot and damage the paws of your dog.
Also, take precautionary measures when you take your dog for a long walk. A rough terrain, rocky or pebble substrate can cause fractures that can have permanent consequences.
Some chemicals and cleaning agents can cause irritation if you accidentally walk with your dog on the treated surface. These are the most common ones:
- household cleaning agents (carpet washing shampoos or floor cleaning agents)
- lawnmower chemicals
- garden fertilizers
- motor oils on the road
When the cause is a local factor such as foreign body, trauma or local irritation then treatment is relatively simple and effective and can be applied at home.
The paws are exposed to many harmful effects of the environment, and the front paws are more prone to infections compared to the hind paws.
Trapped objects between pads
Dogs that spend a lot of time outside can get grass, grains of sand, dumb soil, stones between their toes, all well-stuck with hair.
Inflammation may occur years after walking on hot stones or concrete and from contact with various skin irritant substances (chemicals, cement powder).
Contact with some irritants can also cause dermatitis on the paws. The condition can cause your dog to itch and scratch, losing hair in the process. The hair is usually shed in small patches and clumps.
In addition to this, psychogenic dermatitis is also possible especially dogs that constantly lick paws without any real cause (so far, temperamental dogs – this is often seen in puddles, terriers, German shepherds).
These include fractured claws, broken toes, torn skin etc. Your furry friend may have an inflamed paw pad when physically injured. If this is the case, you may notice discomfort when you touch his leg. It is important to be careful and gentle when inspecting the paws to avoid being bitten by him in case you touch a painful spot.
“Interdigital furuncles, often incorrectly referred to as ‘interdigital cysts,’ are painful nodular lesions located in the interdigital webs of dogs. Histologically, these lesions represent areas of nodular pyogranulomatous inflammation – they are almost never cystic.”
These cysts are common in obese dogs and canines that are susceptible to allergic reactions. A common sign the swollen paw is caused by interdigital cysts is limping and difficulty when walking/running.
Inflammation on the paws is a common symptom of an infection. Infections may include bacterial and fungal ones.
The most common infections that can cause swollen canine paws include pyoderma (bacterial infection that leaves inflamed lesions and pustules on the skin) and bacterial dermatosis (caused by staphylococcus bacteria). For both these cases, you need to take your dog to the vet for proper treatment.
Signs your dog’s paw is swollen
If you notice that your dog’s paw is swollen, it is probably the first sign of inflammation. This condition mostly occurs on the front paws, and especially to breeds like boxer and mops, as well as dogs that are prone to allergies.
But note that other breeds are not excluded. It is just that there are breeds that are more sensitive than others.
Here are some of the most common signs of the inflammation on the paw:
Depending on the degree of inflammation and accompanying pain, limping is probably the first sign you will notice that there is something wrong with your dog.
- Redness between toes (inflammation)
Redness between toes is a sign of inflammation which means that you need to start treating your dog’s paw right away in order to avoid further complications.
- Red Bumps
Red bumps, that look like swollen bubbles on the fingers, arise as a result of the inflammation process and are hard on the touch, usually round, red and hairless.
They can be present in just one place (usually the cause is a foreign body that enters under the skin) or in different places on all four paws
- Pus if infected
If there is an inflammation present you may notice pus leaking from the bumps until the inflammation is being treated.
A dog that has problems with this condition will constantly be licking the paw as a result of the itching, which leads to further irritation of the skin and hair loss.
The first step in the treatment is to exclude some diseases that can lead to these skin changes.
Home treatment should only be considered if the injury is minor. If you are not sure or are suspecting something unusual, or dealing with a major injury such as a broken digit, I would advise that you see a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
More minimal injuries, try thoroughly cleaning the visible wound with warm, soapy water and/or hydrogen peroxide. Dry thoroughly and apply something like Polysporin, Aloe Vera cream or gel, or another antiseptic cream. Cover with a baby sock and vet wrap, to keep your dog from chewing it off.” 
What you can do for your dog is to regularly treat and take care of their paws, controlling the current state, because these conditions can also lead to other more serious diseases.
Teeth with a lot of dirt are the source of bacteria, which further exacerbates the condition of the inflammation.
Feed your dog with quality dog food, and it is recommended to use medical food for dogs with skin problems or, if the veterinarian recommends, a completely hypoallergenic food if you want to exclude food as a cause.
From regular foods, choose better-quality foods, preferably with fish that is rich in fatty acids and is beneficial to the sick skin. You can also add omega-3 and 6 fatty acids to the food, which will increase skin resistance and ease inflammation.
Therapy depends on the cause. Antibiotics, antimicrobials and corticosteroids are most often used in extreme situations, even in the case of a tumor and foreign body removal.
The infected paw should be protected with a bandage so that the dog can move more freely and protect the wound from external impurities. It would be best to use a special sock for dogs.
In any case, the dog should definitely go to the veterinarian to see the exact cause of the disease, and then determine the appropriate therapy.
Care in the winter period
Taking care of your dog’s paws in the winter is a very important factor in maintaining a dog’s health and preventing the emergence of some of the aforementioned diseases.
Winter is a period in which some of our pets, unlike us, have no choice to stay in the house but regardless of the cold, they must get out on the cold at least 2-3 times a day. If they do nothing else and have no shoes that will keep the paws protected, they must face the hot or cold weather conditions outside.
For starters, before going out for a walk, it would not be a good idea to do that anyway if it is raining or if there is snow outside. That is why it is important to check the weather outside before taking your dog for a walk. Also, there are specialized pet stores that sell dog shoes that can protect the paws of your pet.
When walking, avoid letting the dog walking in water because at the bottom it can be frozen and the ice may be very sharp. Also, make sure your dog does not walk on ice as it can slip and get hurt.
When you come home after a long walk, do not let the dog lean on a radiator or heater right away. After a walk, wash the paws and the area between the toes to avoid inflammation and dermatitis.
Home remedies to relieve paw swelling
Did you know that you can help your dog with some simple ‘home remedies’? (Of course, before that you need to consult with your veterinarian, but you can do that by phone, so you do not have to go there).
- Chamomile tea
Chamomile tea has natural disinfectant properties that could help not only with infections but with some severe swelling too. It can also help with mild skin irritations. In this case, tea cools and soothes or nourishes the affected area of the skin.
Your dog should immediately feel relief. You can clean the whole paw of your dog with cold chamomile tea at least two times a day. In just a few days, the inflammation will slowly begin to calm down and the dog won’t feel so much pain.
A dog that has an itchy skin might get irritated, nervous, tense, especially if the problem has been going on for a longer period of time and the dog uses almost every furniture in the house to scratch its paws from.
Buy finely ground cereals and mix them well with warm water to create a paste. Put it in a soft cloth and put your dog’s paw in it. Your dog will be grateful because eventually, the itching will stop.
Dogs with skin allergies, infections, and other diseases will immediately feel relieved.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E is not only good for facial massage and other problems that you have with your skin, it is also good for your dog’s dry skin. And if you have these problems, you can give your dog a vitamin E oil massage or even give your pet a vitamin E pill (which will make the hair even brighter).
But if you intend to give your dog a vitamin orally, consult a veterinarian so that they can recommend a dose for a particular breed.
Reduce the pain and swelling with the help of a bath of ‘bitter salts’ (magnesium sulfate or Epsom salt that can be obtained in every pharmacy which is also used in humans to relieve rheumatic pain or arthritis).
If you can also clean the injured paw with a solution of bitter salt (twice a day for five minutes), then clean this with a soft towel.
When to see a veterinarian
If you see your dog persistently and gently licking its paw, you should, of course, consult a veterinarian. Any new behavior should be registered because it can point to a specific problem.
This happens when a dog, for example, hurts a paw when a nail grows in when an infection develops, and these are situations in which expert assistance is required for the well – being of your pet.
- What is the pad above a dog’s paw?
The pads above a dog’s paw are thermoregulators for their entire organism. They are very sensitive and an important part that needs to be taken care of. When a dog’s paw is being put on a cold surface, the arteries transfer the cooled blood back to the body to re-nourish it. According to scientists, this is one of the reasons why dogs have first adapted to colder environments.
According to an article written by WhyDoDogs,
Paw pads, which are made of tough keratinized epithelium, are what allow dogs to walk on hot or cold surfaces. They work as shock absorbers and provide layers of cushioning so the dog can effectively walk on a variety of terrains. The skin on the dog’s foot pads is the thickest skin on your dog’s body.” 
- What can you give a dog for pain and swelling?
A big number of medicines used by humans can also be given to dogs. The only tricky part is, to find a way to give it to your pet.
In order to give your dog the correct medicine for the pain, you have to determine the type of pain. Based on that, you can give a certain medicine that can help relieve the pain. Dogs often have a strong pain in their paws (depending on the stage of the diseases).
Aspirin is one of the many medicines that can be given to dogs. Mostly to dogs with pain and elevated temperature. The recommended dose is between 10-20 mg per kilogram of weight every 12 hours. You should be careful not to give it too often, as your dog can get stomach problems that the aspirin can cause. It is not recommended for puppies.
Steroids are also often prescribed for reducing anti-inflammatory problems and swelling. They effectively alleviate pain, but due to possible side effects, they cannot be used for a longer period of time.
Also, note that these medications cannot be used alone. When using steroids or corticosteroids, they cannot do their best without clear instructions from veterinarians. Opioids and similar drugs are prescribed only in very severe cases: in cancer or severe arthritis on their paws. These medicines are very strong and at the same time cause permanent drowsiness, stiffness, and general weakness.
Make sure to talk to your veterinarian before you give any medicine to your dog. They might prescribe your dog some veterinarian medicines.