Swollen Paws in Dogs: Common Causes

A dog’s paw pads can swell and become inflamed for a variety of different reasons. Because a dog is almost always on their feet, their paw pads can really take a beating and their little furry legs carry quite the load.

Your dog’s paws are designed to carry them through life, whether they’re running crazy circles and figure eights in the backyard, digging holes under the fence, chasing after their toys, catching a frisbee, or merely exploring their environment. Since dogs are so active, their paws can be exposed to numerous potential hazards, through no fault of your own.

And if your dog has any sort of medical problems or allergies, it can create additional problems or make an existing problem with your dog’s paw injury even worse. It’s important to uncover the root issue of whatever may be causing your dog’s paw to swell, as this will help you and your vet determine the proper course of treatment and direct you in how best to alleviate your dog’s discomfort.

Swollen Paws in Dogs: Symptoms

Symptoms of paws that might be swollen most often will include lameness or limping in dogs. You may notice that your dog appears to favor one leg over another, keeping one paw lifted off the floor as he walks. If your dog acts as though he is in pain too, take it as a warning that something is definitely amiss, especially if accompanied by hobbling or lame behavior.

Other signs and symptoms a dog may show are:

  • Excessive licking of their foot or feet.
  • You may notice them biting their paws and nails a lot.
  • Sometimes their dog paws crack and bleed.
  • You may smell a foul odor.
  • Sometimes redness and warmth can radiate from their feet.
  • Paw pads can look as though they are peeling.
  • Lumps may even be visible, depending on the root issue.

Common Causes of Swollen Paws in Dogs

Tumors

One of the most common culprits that cause a dog’s paws to swell is canine tumors, which often will make their appearance in between a dog’s toes. Typically, you will only see tumors on one foot, unless a dog suffers from squamous cell carcinoma which affects their nail beds. In that case, they could experience tumors on more than one foot.

Metabolism and Hormones

Dogs can also develop swollen paws because of metabolic diseases and hormonal imbalances (such as canine Cushing’s disease), and even have swollen paws related to immune disorders. In the case of hormonal or metabolic problems, your dog may develop lesions on his feet, often due to secondary skin infections. This can cause dog inflammation and redness, as well as pustules.

With immune-related disorders, your dog could develop ulcerations and dog scabs, as well as blisters. You might also notice that the tissue of your dog’s paws appears to be darker and thicker than normal, creating hard, crusty-looking footpads that are rough to the touch. Immune-related disorders can affect all four of your dog’s feet, it won’t usually be just one that is problematic.

Allergens

Sometimes a dog can experience swollen paws due to allergies. These allergies can be related to their diet or be seasonal in nature. Dogs can also develop allergies related to their environment, either something they’ve been exposed to in the air or through direct skin contact.

Depending on what is causing your dog’s allergy, it may affect the entire foot or just the paw pad and it’s not limited to only one foot. When allergies are involved, your dog’s paws may become red, swollen, inflamed, and itchy.

In some cases, you may notice your dog’s fur is stained a reddish-brown color. This is from licking excessively. There are pigments that are found in your dog saliva that can discolor his fur with too much licking.

Infections (Bacterial or Fungal)

Sometimes dogs experience swollen paws due to some kind of fungal or canine bacterial infection. You may notice lesions, discharge, and ulcers as a symptom of an infection. Dogs can lose their hair as well, and of course, the licking never seems to stop.

Trauma and Injury

In other cases, dogs can suffer from swollen paws due to some sort of trauma. Trauma can be any sort of injury to the foot, whether it’s a cut or a broken bone in dogs.

Broken toes can happen if something heavy lands on your dog’s foot, or if he catches a claw in things like fencing or carpeting. If you suspect your dog has broken a toe, it’s important to see your vet so that they can take x-rays and determine how extensive the damages might be.

If your dog has suffered some kind of trauma or injury, it can be related to unforeseen hazards that are hard to predict or plan for and try to prevent. Dogs can step on things during their everyday wanderings.

They might step on things like nails or tacks, or they can cut their feet on tiny bits of metal. They can pick up thorns, splinters, or burrs, and your dog can even be stung by bees or bitten by insects. All of these injuries can cause your dog’s paws to swell and become red, painful, and inflamed.

When an injury or trauma happens, usually it’s only one paw that is affected. You may notice him favoring that particular foot. Make sure when you examine the paw, you check between his toes and in the paw pad, because sometimes foreign objects can be well-hidden. This is especially true if your dog has a lot of fur on his foot.

Burns

Sometimes dogs may suffer from swollen paws due to burns to the feet. This occurs from walking on hot pavement. That’s something it’s important to keep in mind when you are taking your dog on walks during hot summer months. A good rule to live by is, if you wouldn’t walk on the surface barefoot, you probably shouldn’t walk your dog on it either.

Grass Seed

Sometimes dogs can even have swollen paws because of grass seed or other types of vegetation, both of which can cause some serious damage. Certain types of grass seed have small barbed tips that are designed to penetrate and then bury themselves deep into the dirt, which is exactly what they will do into your dog’s paw if he accidentally steps on one.

Poison Ivy

In other cases, a dog might come into contact with plants like poison ivy and suffer a blistering rash on their body. This includes a rash on their paw pads. Unfortunately, when a dog touches poison ivy, their pustules can bust open. When this happens, it can end up spreading the poison all over your dog’s body, from their feet and beyond.

Treating a Dog’s Swollen Paw

When trying to determine the cause of your dog swollen paw, you also need to figure out if it’s just the paw, or if the swelling is affecting the rest of their leg as well. If you notice that your dog’s leg is swollen too, then it is possible your dog’s problem or injury is related to something higher up and it’s not localized to just his paw.

If you inspect your dog’s foot and the only thing swollen is the paw pad, foot, or the toe, then you can be pretty confident the problem is localized to that foot. The swelling could be related to a broken digit, or some kind of foreign body that’s caused an injury.

If you inspect your dog’s feet and realize that all of your dog’s feet are swollen (especially their paw pads), then this can be related to either environmental factors, such as walking on hot pavement or something more systemic, like an underlying health condition or infection.

Once you know why your dog’s paw is swollen, you will have a better sense of direction on the best way to treat and resolve the problem. Knowing the why will also tell you whether or not it’s something you can treat yourself at home, or if it’s more serious and will require the care and supervision of a vet.

Note that if you can easily remove the offending object, then do so. If your dog has only suffered from a minor injury such as a splinter or burr in his foot, you should be able to remove it relatively safely yourself.

However, if your dog has suffered from a foreign object that has penetrated deeply and caused quite a bit of damage, it will be wiser for you to allow your vet to remove it. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.

Removing an object yourself that is embedded too deeply can cause additional un