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Swollen Dog Paw and Pads: Common Causes & Solutions

Reasons Behind Swollen Paws in Dogs

Swollen paw pads or toes in dogs is a common problem. Inflammation in the paw pads can be painful for your dog, but what causes it and how can you fix it?

Swollen paws are a common occurrence among dogs, causing them pain and discomfort until you intervene.  If you notice your dog limping, or licking their paws excessively, and see any swelling or feel heat in their paws, it’s time to take action.

Paw inflammation, or pododermatitis, can become severe and debilitating once left untreated. Multiple triggers cause swollen paw pads, and treatment depends on the underlying cause. Knowing the reasons behind your dog’s swollen paws is the first step toward finding a prompt solution for this irritating issue.

Common Causes of Swollen Paw Pads in Dogs

Common causes of swollen paws include allergies, cuts, lacerations, foreign objects lodged between toes, nail issues, and cysts. Regularly Inspecting your puppy’s paws is fundamental to catching paw problems early on because many of these causes are pretty easy to spot at home. 

The paw pads are remarkably resilient and durable, explaining why dogs and other animals don’t have to wear shoes. Despite the resilience, paw pads can be candidates for various issues which may be frustrating to diagnose and treat. 

If your canine friend has paw problems, they’ll exhibit signs and symptoms you can’t miss.  You’ll see: 

  • Your pup limping
  • Licking the problematic paw
  • Aggression when you touch the paw
  • Red, inflamed paws
  • Lesions and discharge on paw pads
  • Bleeding
  • Ripped nails
  • Foul smell
  • Ulcers 
  • Cysts and growth

If symptoms persist, the best course of action is to take your pup to the vet for medical attention. Waiting too long before treatment leads to the paws developing secondary infections, which can be even harder to treat. 

Some pet owners often neglect paw health, but this only leaves your pooch to suffer unnecessarily. To get ahead of the paw issues, here are 7 causes of paw pads to rule out when assessing your pup’s paws. Additionally, we’ve included a few easy solutions that will make a tremendous difference in your dog’s paw health. 


Adverse reactions to food and environmental allergens can cause paw swelling. Contact dermatitis happens when dogs react to substances on the skin. Flea allergy dermatitis occurs when your dog is allergic to flea bites. Seasonal allergies occur during certain seasons, mostly caused by pollen grains. All these allergies result in uncomfortable itchiness in your dog, medically referred to as pruritus.

Dogs biting the paws due to itchiness can cause them to tear and dry out. An all-natural dog paw balm will moisturize and restore damaged and worn-out paw pads while your dog is healing from allergies. Cracked paws aren’t the only risk your dog’s biting and nibbling pose due to the persistent itchiness. 

The moist environment caused by intensified paw licking makes the paw pads susceptible to secondary fungal and bacterial infections. Irritation, injury, and secondary infections only heighten paw swelling, so prompt medical intervention is necessary before the matter worsens. 


  • Get your dog checked out by the vet if you suspect an allergy
  • Wipe your dog’s paws after being outdoors if they’re allergic to pollen
  • Give your dog antihistamines once your vet approves of their safety

Harsh environmental conditions

Harsh environmental conditions

Running over jagged, overgrown terrain can cause your dog’s paws to swell because foreign objects get stuck between the paws. Your dog’s paws may burn on hot asphalt on sunny days. If the pavement is too hot for you to walk on barefoot, it’s not safe for your dog to walk on either. 

Burnt paw pads manifest as redness and blisters and they swell. A quick test would be to place your foot on the ground for 10 seconds, and if your foot burns, it’s best to keep your pooch home. It’s easier to walk your dog in the evening to avoid the foot on the hot ground hustle.


  • Watch out for sharp objects and thorns when your pup is out playing
  • Invest in paw protection like doggy boots if your dog walks on rough and hot grounds. 
  • Inspect your outdoor-loving dog’s paws regularly

Bacterial or yeast infections and cysts

Dogs are prone to yeast and bacterial infections because various microbes naturally exist on their paws and skin. Your dog’s paws are likely infected if you notice excessive licking and a foul smell from them. It’s crucial to address secondary infections promptly because they can become chronic and unresponsive to treatment left untreated.  

Continuous scratching and gnawing at the problem areas can lead to painful open wounds and lesions. You’ll also notice redness, discharge, and brown or yellow discoloration of the nails. Your vet will prescribe antibiotic and antifungal therapy to combat paw infections, and the swelling should subside. 


It may be tricky to eliminate recurrent bouts of secondary fungal and bacterial infections. This is because a host of these microorganisms live on your pup’s skin. The following tips can help improve your puppy’s paw health:

  • Treat wounds and injuries as soon as you see them to prevent infection
  • Dry your dog’s paws completely after baths
  • Avoid bacteria-infested areas like stagnant pools of water

Dry and chapped paw pads

Dryness can have numerous negative consequences on your dog’s paw pads. Similar to humans with oily or dry skin, some dogs’ paws are sensitive to drying and even chapping in extreme cases. Endocrine disorders like hypothyroidism and autoimmune issues can cause the skin around the feet to dry up. 

Other factors that cause paw pad drying include allergies and nutritional deficiencies. If the air in your home is too dry, you’ll notice your dog’s paws and nose drying. Your dog may lick the dry paw pads intensely, causing self-inflicted trauma if the licking occurs too frequently. 


  • Invest in a quality dog balm and apply it to the dry parts
  • Get a humidifier to keep the air adequately dampened
  • Treat or manage allergies that may cause the paw pads to dry
  • Wipe the paws after walks in the snow to eliminate de-icing salt
  • Get your pup to wear dog boots during hot summer days and winter


Parasites can invade your dog’s paws because they’re well-hidden between the toes. Ticks, mites, and fleas are common in dogs, especially if they spend a lot of time outside or with outdoor animals. Ticks can cause multiple tick-borne diseases like Lyme Disease, some of which can be fatal. 

Parasite-infested paws exhibit swelling and redness. Some dogs have flea allergies, so in addition to bumps due to flea bites, they’ll have allergic symptoms like dry and itchy paws. Washing your dog regularly kills the pesky parasites, promoting good skin health. We cover how to clean your dog’s paws more extensively to help keep your dog’s feet clean and parasite free. 


  • Eliminate the pests with baths and parasite medication
  • Keep your dog from mite-infested animals and areas

Nail problems

Nail problems

Nails have a direct effect on a dog’s paw health. Broken and torn nails are easy to detect upon inspection and make walking harder for your dog. Ripped toenails happen when your dog catches their nail on something on their path. 

You know it’s time to trim the nails when you hear clicking sounds when your dog walks. Well-trimmed nails should end just before touching the ground. Ingrown nails cause pain and swelling, and they occur when you fail to trim the nails properly or when the nails grow too long into the paw. 


  • Trim your dog’s nails every month. Do it carefully to avoid nipping the paw flesh. 
  • Trim overgrown hair on the paws while you’re on the nail trimming subject

Injuries to the paw pads

Abrasions to the paws can resolve spontaneously, wax and wane, or persist if the wounds are deep. Injuries cause the paws to swell, and the cuts and punctures can get infected without proper care. Dogs can come home with all sorts of scrapes, lacerations, and bruises from playing on different terrains.

Most of these injuries aren’t too severe and will probably heal naturally with your assistance.  When you see a wound, clean it with warm water and disinfect the area with a non-stinging antiseptic solution. The earlier you attend to fresh injuries, the less likely they are to develop infections due to the entry of bacteria. 


  • Act fast when you first see the injury on the paw to disinfect the area before bacterial entry
  • Inspect the paw pads after your dog returns home, especially if they start limping suddenly
  • Watch out for sharp objects that could injure your dog before allowing them to play outside. 

Final Thoughts

Your dog’s paws swell mainly due to pododermatitis, an inflammation of the paws. Allergies, paw injuries, burns due to hot asphalt, parasites, overgrown nails, and skin conditions cause paw swelling. Dog boots and paw balms protect the feet from harsh environmental conditions, reducing swelling. 

Allergies and skin conditions affecting the legs require a medical diagnosis for treatment. Once you address the root issue, you’ll notice a reduction in paw swelling shortly. It’s essential to treat wounds quickly before they develop more severe infections that can spread to other parts of the body. 


Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

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