Pink paw pads can be the first sign of infection or inflammation. However, there may be many reasons a dog’s paws turn pink, so read on to solve the problem.
Most dog owners are alert to everything that happens in their dogs’ bodies. Pink paw pads would raise the alarm, causing concerned inquiries as to what caused the change in paw color. Your dog’s paws may turn pink due to injuries, infections, burns, stings, allergic reactions, and ulcerations.
Pink areas on the paws don’t always indicate a problem with the pads. Some dogs, especially the lighter coated ones, naturally have pink coloring on their paw pads. When your dog’s natural paw pad color changes, you should consider investigating what is responsible for the color change.
Why Your Dog’s Paws are Turning Pink?
Pink paws often indicate an inflammation of the paws, medically referred to as canine pododermatitis. Inflamed paws look red or pink and swollen and can sometimes produce a discharge. You’ll observe your dog failing to use the affected paw as that would exert pressure on the paw, causing pain.
Canine pododermatitis can result in secondary infections that are more resilient to treatment. Painful abscesses can develop due to prolonged inflammation of the paws. With these in mind, pet parents have good reasons to worry about their dog’s paw discoloration.
Puppies often have pink paw pads, much like human babies have soft and sensitive feet. As the puppies grow, you’ll notice a hard, tougher skin developing on the paw pads. The tougher skin helps your puppy navigate rough, rocky ground without damaging the flesh and tissues in the paws.
If your dog isn’t a puppy, and the paws aren’t naturally pink, it’s time to dig deeper into the paw discoloration. Here are 7 possible causes for the change in your dog’s paws to pink or a light red color. Some conditions causing pododermatitis require urgent medical attention to end your dog’s pain.
Walking on hot rods and pavements results in burns or blisters
Asphalt is well known to heat up to harmful temperatures in the hot sun. Dogs don’t encounter pavements or roads in the wild, which explains why they do well in the heat without paw protection. Our domesticated pups, however, walk on pavements which can burn the paws, causing painful blisters.
If the surface is too hot to touch for more than 10 seconds, it will probably burn your dog’s paws. Burns is a severe medical condition that, unfortunately, most pet parents are unaware can happen. Hot temperatures can also cause your dog’s paw pads to dry out, causing them to crack.
The PawSafe dog paw butter is specially formulated to protect your pup’s paw pads from weather damage. The paw balm moisturizes paws and adds a protective barrier around the feet against harsh weather conditions. Avoid human lotions on the paw pads, as these typically soften them too much, resulting in injuries.
You can protect your dog’s feet with doggy boots if you must walk your dog on a sunny day. The best way to keep weather-related burns far from your pup’s paw pads is waiting until sundown before walks. Dogs with pavement burns have swollen red or pink paws that are painful upon touching the ground.
Injuries from overgrown, thorny terrains
Dogs love to play, but sometimes they frolic in areas quite unsafe for their paws. A dog that runs through bushes and thickets is highly likely to return home with a thorn in the foot. Indoor dogs are generally safer from paw injuries caused by their surroundings, but they aren’t invincible to them.
A limping dog probably has a paw injury. If one paw is hurt, your dog will probably move around with some difficulty. However, if two or more paws undergo damage, your pup will be severely handicapped. Inspect the top and underside of the paws for cuts, thorns, and stings if you see your dog limping.
Your dog may lick the injured area because licking overstimulates the brain and, in so doing, temporarily numbs the pain. Licking also produces antibacterial saliva and endorphins, which are neurotransmitters responsible for relieving pain. You could say that licking is nature’s way of speeding up animals’ wound recovery.
It’s best to address paw injuries immediately because bacteria may enter the body through the wounds, causing an infection. The moisture your dog creates from the increased licking can cause an overgrowth of yeast and bacteria, leading to secondary infections.
Allergies and pink paw pads
Pets can have an extreme reaction to environmental substances and foods. Dogs experiencing an allergic reaction can have dry, itchy, and pink discolored paws. You can read the linked article to learn how to moisturize your dog’s paws properly if the dryness is getting out of hand.
Allergic dogs suffer from persistent itchiness (pruritus), causing them to gnaw and lick their paws aggressively. Intensified paw licking only heightens paw irritation, swelling, and discoloration. Atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, or food allergies can cause secondary bacterial and fungal diseases.
In addition to the excessive licking due to itchiness, you’ll also observe hair loss, sneezing or wheezing, and head shaking. Allergic dogs shake their heads because they likely suffer from ear inflammation or infections. You’ll also notice hives, diarrhea, and vomiting if your pup is experiencing an allergic episode.
Bacteria and fungi naturally exist on your pup’s paws and bodies but are kept at bay by a healthy immune system. An imbalance in the microbiota leads to debilitating bacterial and yeast infections because of the overgrowth of harmless microorganisms, turning them into harmful microbes.
Your dog may have a foul, cheesy stench if the paws are infected. The nails and paw pads can also discolor, turning pink, yellow, or red. If this is the state of affairs, prompt medical intervention ensures a speedy recovery through antibiotic and antifungal medications.
Atopic dermatitis (skin inflammation due to allergies) is a common cause of canine pododermatitis. When your pup runs through paddles of still, stale water, bacteria enter your dog’s paws through wounds and punctures. Skin infections manifesting on the paw pads are easy to cure, provided treatment starts in the early stages of the disease.
Cysts and abscesses
Cysts are pockets in tissues containing liquids or solidified substances that can terrorize your pup’s wellbeing. Cysts result from blocked ducts or clogged hair follicles. They can occur between the toes, and web-toed breeds like Chinese Shar-Peis, English Bulldogs, and retrievers are susceptible to them.
Abscesses are pus-filled swellings that can occur in the paws. Cysts and abscesses lead to limping and can cause the surrounding paw skin to change color. Excision of the cysts or abscesses by the vet almost always results in complete recovery. Surgical blade removal is a common treatment for subcutaneous cysts.
Monthly nail trims keep the nails at a safe and comfortable length. If your dog’s nails are too long and they contact hard surfaces, they put more pressure on the nail bed, making it hard for your pup to walk. Failing to trim the nails can cause overgrowth into the paws leading to painful ingrown nails.
Long nails are also likely to get caught up in the carpet, plants, or other objects, causing ripped nails. Broken, torn, and ingrown nails can cause discoloration on the paw pads until they heal. Trimming excess hair from paws promotes healthy pads because the hair can trap disease-causing dirt and debris.
Exposure to harmful outdoor substances
Numerous chemicals in your dog’s surroundings can harm their paws. De-icing salt on roads during winter and yard chemicals can irritate your dog’s paws leading to pododermatitis. Even seemingly harmless substances like stale, stagnant pools of water can cause bacterial infections in the paws.
You can use dog wet wipes or a damp cloth for a quick clean-up when your dog comes back inside. Pollen allergic dogs benefit from paw cleaning because you eliminate the allergen grains. Ensure you dry the paws thoroughly after cleaning the feet to prevent yeast infection due to left-over moisture.
Tips for Preventing Your Dog’s Paws from Turning Pink
- Inspect the paws frequently for foreign objects which can injure the paws
- Moisturize dry paw pads with a paw cream or natural products vitamin E
- Invest in dog boots for harsh weather like snow or too much sun
- Visit the vet if you suspect your dog has an allergy or a skin condition
- Trim the nails regularly
Dogs have sensitive paws that can turn pink due to inflammation of the paws (pododermatitis). Allergies, skin conditions, overgrown nails, injuries, and burns are the biggest causes of pink paw pads in dogs. Paw inflammation is painful and can escalate into more severe infections that take time to heal.
Your dog may have a natural pink on their paws, but if it’s a recent occurrence, consider the above causes. Taking the time to inspect the paws, especially when you notice limping, will enable you to catch the paw issues early and snip them at the root.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
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.