Though a dog’s paws have thick and rubbery-feeling pads on the bottom, that doesn’t mean they cannot be injured. A dog’s footpads are designed to give your dog traction and cushion on their feet, and also to help provide shock absorption to your dog’s joints and bones when they walk or run.
Your dog’s footpads also help protect and insulate their feet from extreme weather environments, such as snow and ice, salt, burning, hot pavement, and terrain that is extremely rocky and uneven.
If you notice that your dog’s paw is bleeding, their footpad could be the culprit. The first thing you need to do is to figure out where the bleeding is coming from and make sure any injury the dog might have suffered is not serious. A dog can also injure the paw itself, either from stepping on something sharp and puncturing the skin or cutting themselves on something.
Other times, bleeding may be the result of a broken nail. You simply can’t know until you examine your dog’s foot and determine the source of the injury. Unfortunately, dogs that have injured their toenail or nail bed in some way will often bleed profusely, due to a blood vessel that runs through their toes.
Keep in mind that if your dog’s paw is bleeding, it can be challenging to know where it’s coming from. Even if it’s a minor injury, because walking can reopen a foot pad wound, they never fully get a chance to heal properly. So, the process takes extreme patience and consistent care and supervision. If you have found yourself saying, “my dog’s paw is bleeding and I don’t know what to do”, then this post is for you.
Symptoms of Bleeding Paws
If your dog’s foot has been injured, in addition to bleeding you might notice that your dog seems to be limping or favoring the injured foot. You might also notice he flinches if you try to touch it, or he may get snappy, yelp, or shy away. These are all indicators your dog is in pain, so you should proceed carefully. Dogs that are in pain can be unpredictable and you wouldn’t want to accidentally get bitten.
Causes of Bleeding Paws
There are a lot of ways a dog can injure his foot, but some of the most common causes are due to puncture wounds, lacerations, or abrasions. A laceration is when the pad of your dog’s paw or the skin of their foot has received a cut or tear from something sharp. Though lacerations are not always deep, you should examine it carefully because they can be. This is especially true if the laceration is caused by a foreign object that is still lodged in your dog’s foot. You may or may not be able to see the object or tell how deeply it is embedded.
Abrasions, on the other hand, occur when an area of skin on your dog’s foot or paw pad is worn or scraped away. Think of the road rash a motorcyclist receives when getting into an accident and you can kind of picture what abrasions look like.
Of course, other things can cause injury to a dog’s foot and result in bleeding too, like extreme weather, fungal or bacterial infections, and even canine allergic reactions.
Treating a Dog’s Bleeding Paw
The first step if you notice your dog’s paw is bleeding is to assess the severity of the blood flow. If it is minor, you should be able to handle it yourself. However, if your dog is bleeding severely or even moderately, the best action is to see your vet and let them treat the injury. If the bleeding is mild or you are unable to see your vet, then follow the suggestions below.
Visually Inspect Your Dog’s Paw
Examine your dog’s foot carefully and thoroughly, and keep in mind that if he is in pain he could get snippy. If your dog is snippy and doesn’t want to let you touch his paw, you might want to use a muzzle on him temporarily.
Remove Any Foreign Matter in Your Dog’s Paw
Identify the source of the wound and look for any foreign objects or debris that may be stuck inside. If you can see the offending object and reach it with tweezers easily, you can try to remove it. However, if the object is lodged in there too deeply, you should leave it alone and let your vet remove it. If you try to remove it yourself and it is stuck, you may end up pushing it even deeper into your dog’s paw and causing more injury and pain.
Clean the Wound in Your Dog’s Paw
If there is no foreign object that you can see, you can proceed with cleaning the wound with a mild antibacterial soap or by disinfecting it with a solution like betadine. You can also use a solution of 50/50 water and hydrogen peroxide. Either should be sufficient to clean and disinfect the injury.
Control the Bleeding in Your Dog’s Paw
Once the injury is cleaned, you’ll need to control the bleeding by applying pressure. Do this using an ice pack wrapped in a clean towel. The cold of the ice pack will encourage your dog’s blood vessels to constrict. Keep in mind that the deeper the wound, the longer it may take to stop bleeding. Additionally, if your dog walks on the injury, the bleeding can start all over again. If you find that you cannot halt the bleeding after 10-15 minutes, treat the situation as an emergency and get your dog to a vet clinic as soon as possible.
Bandage Your Dog’s Paw
Once you’ve controlled the bleeding, you can then contain the wound using a bandage. You can bandage your dog’s foot using a bit of triple antibiotic ointment combined with nonstick gauze. Fold the gauze into a small, thick pad and place it directly over the injury.
Use paper tape to secure the gauze, and then wrap your dog’s foot with a self-adhesive bandage, or an elastic bandage. You may need to rig some sort of splint on your dog’s foot first to help keep pressure off the injury if your dog places his weight on it. Adjust the bandage so that it is snug enough not to fall off, but also loose enough to allow proper circulation.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure you can slide two fingers beneath the bandage. One way to help keep the bandage from falling off is to wrap your dog’s foot and leg all the way up to the next joint. If necessary, wrap more paper tape around your dog’s leg at the top of the bandage.
Keep Your Dog’s Bandage Dry
Make sure you keep your dog’s bandage dry, otherwise you run the risk of bacteria getting into the wound due to moisture. Try taping a plastic bag over your dog’s bandage or use a commercial dog bootie to help protect it when you take your pup out to go potty.
Change your dog’s bandage daily, especially if you notice the paw still has discharge or bleeding. If your dog just suffered from a bit of a scrape or abrasion, you can try using a liquid bandage instead of a full bandage. Liquid bandages cover the nerve endings that are exposed and are less bothersome than a traditional bandage. Just make sure you let it dry completely and keep your dog from licking it in the meantime.
Give Your Dog’s Paw Time to Heal
Your dog’s foot will need time to heal, especially if the injury is deep. It will heal faster if you keep it protected and keep your dog from chewing or looking at the bandage. Try to keep your dog quiet and calm, with no running. Even an injury that your dog seems to be healed from is still prone to reinjury. Keep in mind that the duration it takes your dog to heal depends on the type and size of the paw injury.
Preventing Bleeding in Your Dog’s Paw
Prevention is the best medicine to avoid injuries to your dog’s foot and paw pad. Use an eagle eye to check out all the areas that your dog walks around in or plays in each day. Look for shards of glass, bits of metal, sharp sticks and rocks, and any other objects you think could potentially cause injury and remove them.
Don’t force your dog to walk on hot pavement during the summer, and if you live somewhere that gets very cold with ice and snow, consider putting boots on your dog’s feet. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t walk on it, you probably shouldn’t let your dog walk on it either.
Vet Treatment for Your Dog’s Bleeding Paw
The treatment your vet provides for a bleeding paw will depend on the type of injury your dog has suffered. Your efforts at basic first aid should have been sufficient enough to clean the wound and stop the bleeding. The next step is to take your dog in to see a professional, especially if the injury was severe.
Vet treatment is especially necessary if you found something lodged in your dog’s foot that you couldn’t easily remove yourself. In cases like that, it’s best to let your vet do the dirty work and remove it themselves so that you don’t potentially injure your dog’s foot even more.
Bear in mind that if something is lodged deeply in your dog’s foot, your vet may decide to sedate your dog before making any attempts to remove it. A vet may also perform minor surgery. They will do this by removing any skin that may be flapping and any dead, superficial tissue that may be present so that there is room for healthy tissue to grow.
Your vet will likely treat your dog’s paw with a medicated cream and re-bandage it themselves. If you were unable to fashion a split for your dog, your vet may choose to make one. Splints help remove pressure on a dog’s foot, so they don’t accidentally reopen their injury and increase their risk of infection.
Occasionally a dog’s paw may bleed because of a cracked or broken nail. In cases like that, your vet might have to cauterize the nail bed and the blood vessels located there. Because there are so many blood vessels in your dog’s toe, injuries to the nails and nail bed can bleed profusely and be difficult to stop.
Recovering from a Wound in Your Dog’s Paw
Recovery always depends on the type of injury a dog has suffered. The deeper or more severe the injury, as well as the location of the injury, will determine how quickly or slowly the healing process may be.
The best thing to do is to follow your vet’s recommendations and make sure to follow up when directed. That way they can assess your dog’s paw and make sure it is healing properly, at an appropriate speed.
Also, keep an eye on your dog’s paw at home and pay attention to any warning signs of infection. One sign of infection is swollen toes. Another warning sign is evidence of discharge, especially if accompanied by a foul smell.
These signs can also indicate circulatory issues, so you should see your vet right away if you notice any of them. With that said, once your dog’s infection or injury has been successfully treated, he should heal up just fine and be back to his playful, romping selves in no time.