Skip to Content

Red Paws on Dogs: Causes and Treatments (With FAQs)

Hands touch on the red paws on dogs

For new and experienced pet owners alike, one thing should never be overlooked: red paws on dogs. This condition happens when a dog’s paw pads become inflamed, which results in redness, swelling, and pain.

But before you panic, though, it is worth noting that red or sore paws are not an uncommon occurrence.

In fact, it can be caused by something as simple as an allergic reaction or irritation from a foreign substance.

However, this does not mean that all cases of red paws are harmless. If you want to know more about the other possible causes of this dog paw condition, its most common symptoms, and how it can be treated, read on!

What Causes Red Paws on Dogs?

Red paws on dogs pododermatitis

Often called pododermatitis, red paws on dogs can be caused by several factors, including walking on hot pavement or rough surfaces, parasite infestation, hormonal disorders, chronic yeast infections, immune-mediated diseases, food allergies, insect bites, and even excessive paw licking.

Despite the toughness of dog toes, these squishy little nubs are more delicate than you think. For instance, they’re made of soft skin, tissues, and ligaments that can be easily damaged by sharp objects or extreme heat.

It is also worth mentioning that paw pads are sensitive to pressure. If a dog steps on something too hard, it can experience pain and discomfort — even if you can’t see any clinical signs of injury.

Here are some of the most common causes of red paws on dogs:

Pododermatitis

Pododermatitis is a skin disorder that causes redness, inflammation, and hair loss on the bottom of your dog’s feet. While this condition may seem like a disease, it’s actually a symptom of another underlying health problem.

Unfortunately, if your dog’s pododermatitis is left undiagnosed, said inflammation leads to damaged tissue, which in turn can cause a secondary bacterial infection and other serious complications.

Yeast Infections

If you notice that your dog has inflamed skin and red paws, a yeast infection may be the culprit.

Yeast infections are common in canines and are caused by an overgrowth of candida on their skin folds, feet, and genitals.

Besides redness, a dog suffering from a yeast infection can also develop a gray or brown discoloration on its affected paw pad. 

Parasitic Infections

It is common for pooches to experience itching and redness on their paws if they’re infested with mites, ticks, or fleas.

However, if this problem remains untreated, most dogs will begin to chew their feet out of discomfort.

So, a vet visit should be made immediately to prevent secondary infections from emerging. Note, though, that a skin scrape test and blood analysis may be necessary to determine the underlying cause of the irritation.

Atopic Dermatitis

Usually inherited, atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin infection that causes inflammation, redness, and irritation. The paw pads, unfortunately, are often one of the first areas to be affected by this condition.

Aside from having irritated paws, the rest of your dog’s skin and body may also display other symptoms, including ear infections, a runny nose, and even a rash on its stomach or back.

Insect Bites

If your dog sports a red paw, it has likely been bitten or stung by an insect. In such cases, you should first try to determine what kind of insect caused the problem because different insects require different treatments.

Bees, wasps, and ants are the most common culprits of bites and stings, but mosquitoes can also cause redness and swelling.

Hot or Cold Pavement Burns

When you let your dog walk outside without proper feet protection, it may experience a variety of dangers, including frostbite and pavement burns. These conditions are distressing and can result in long-term discomfort.

Furthermore, most dogs will lick the affected area excessively in an attempt to relieve pain, causing further damage.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is one of the most typical inflammatory skin infections that can affect our dogs’ paws. It is the result of a dog’s skin coming into contact with something that provokes an allergic reaction.

Generally, harmless substances such as house dust mites, grass, pollen, and even some foods will trigger contact dermatitis in dogs.

In fact, an elimination diet may be essential to determine if it’s something you’re feeding your dog that’s causing their paw pad to become inflamed.

Bacterial Infections

As with yeast infection, a bacterial infection can cause red, swollen, and itchy dog paws. However, the latter is more common and is caused by a specific bacteria that is already present on the dog’s skin.

In addition, bacterial infections are often accompanied by other clinical signs such as a foul smell, patchy hair loss, rashes, and scabbing.

Osteoarthritis and Old Age

Older dogs with osteoarthritis tend to favor one paw over another. Unfortunately, this can lead to an imbalance in the dog’s gait and potentially cause the favored foot to become inflamed due to overuse.

Cysts and Tumors

Any unusual growth or mass, such as tumors, cysts, lumps, and warts, between your dog’s toes can cause red paws.

These bumps are also filled with pus, which causes irritation and swelling when they become infected.

Therefore, you should always check your dog’s feet before taking them out for a walk — you never know what might be lurking under those toenails.

Foreign Object Stuck Between Paw Pads

When a canine has a sore paw, a foreign body is likely lodged between its pads. These can include twigs, grass, burr, small pebbles, sharp objects, and other debris.

Wounds, Cuts and Blisters

If your dog repeatedly licks or chews on its paws, it may be experiencing discomfort from an open wound or cut. Usually, a nail injury, a splinter on its paw pad, or an animal bite can cause this behavior.

As you can see, the underlying cause of a red, swollen paw can vary from dog to dog. Some have seasonal allergies that lead to inflammation of their toes, while others have more serious issues that require medical attention.

Signs of Red Paws on Dogs

Dog injured red paws

Aside from redness and inflammation, pododermatitis comes with other signs that should not be ignored by dog owners.

However, since these symptoms don’t always stand out, they can be difficult to notice in our pups.

But to make it easier for you, the following are some typical warning signs of red paws on dogs:

  • Dry, cracked skin between toes
  • Blood-tinged discharge
  • Dog licking paws red between pads
  • Interdigital cysts
  • Hair loss or alopecia
  • Less interest in playing and running around
  • Dog limping
  • Flaking or scabbing of the affected paw pad
  • Walking with a stiff gait
  • Increased irritability, anxiety, or excessive barking
  • Swelling or hardening of the skin between toes
  • High body temperature
  • Foul odor due to secondary infections
  • Discolored nail beds

As a result, a dog’s paw pads may become more sensitive than usual, and it can be uncomfortable for them to walk on hard surfaces.

How to Treat Red Paws on Dogs

Generally speaking, treatment options for dogs’ red paws vary depending on the underlying cause of the discoloration. However, in most cases, the remedy is pretty simple and can be done at home.

It is worth noting, though, that before trying to treat your dog’s red paws yourself, you should always consult with a veterinarian first.

So, if your dog is excessively licking its paw and it’s already red between the pads, you can start with the apple cider vinegar (ACV) treatment.

Because diluted ACV contains antiseptic properties, it can help kill the bacteria or fungus that may be causing your dog’s paw problem. It is also a natural deodorizer that can eliminate any foul odor on your pet’s feet.

Iodine or betadine foot soaks are another great way to treat red, inflamed paws. All you need is a clean bucket, warm water, and a betadine liquid or iodine powder to make the perfect solution.

To make it easier, here is a video that demonstrates how you can treat your red paws on a dog using foot soaks:

Itchy Paws QUICK TIPS!

However, note that this is only a temporary remedy for a minor paw irritation. If your canine has deep wounds, cuts, or blisters, it is best to see a vet immediately.

Finally, if your dog’s paws are red due to an injury or infection, your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics and painkillers. They may also suggest you use medicated wipes to clean the area and apply a topical cream if necessary.

How to Prevent Red Paws on Dogs

Woman dressing dog booties or shoes at the dog paws for protection

Even though most cases of red paws are harmless to dogs and even young dogs, they can still be unsightly and bothersome for your furry friend.

Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid this condition from happening in the first place.

Here are a few tips to help prevent your dog’s paw from becoming inflamed and irritated:

  • Buy dog boots or paw protection gear: Remember to avoid walking your dog on hot asphalt or cold surfaces. If possible, buy a pair of dog shoes or boots that can protect their paws from heat and abrasions.
  • Routine nail trimming: To reduce the risk of your dog experiencing discomfort and irritation, make sure to trim its nails once every two weeks.
  • Always clean your dog’s feet: After every dog walks and plays outside, make it a habit to wash or pat their paws off with antiseptic wipes. This will help remove any dirt or debris that may have gotten stuck between their toes.
  • Daily paw inspection: Regularly check your pooch’s paws for signs of irritation or infection. If there is an area that looks reddish, inflamed, or painful, take them to the vet clinic for a thorough inspection.

Note, however, that there are some instances where a sudden appearance of redness on a dog’s paw is unavoidable.

That said, taking preventative measures can go a long way in helping to keep your pet safe and healthy.

When to See Your Vet

For devoted dog owners, it can be difficult to tell when your four-legged friend needs immediate veterinary attention. However, there are some symptoms that you should look out for and take seriously.

The following are some notable clinical signs of red paws that require a trip to the vet:

  • Severe paw licking or chewing: If your pooch is constantly licking its feet or biting on them, this could be a sign that it has an infection or irritation on its paws. A trip to the vet clinic may be necessary if this behavior continues for more than 24 hours.
  • Bloody discharge: If a dog’s swollen paw is accompanied by blood or pus, seek medical attention as soon as possible. A cut on your pet’s foot may indicate a severe injury that requires antibiotics or surgery.
  • An abnormal body temperature: Our dogs’ feet are generally sensitive to heat and moisture; however, if the rest of their body is too hot or cold, this could indicate a serious problem. So if your pooch’s body temperature is not in the normal range, it’s time to call your vet.
  • Redness that spreads quickly to your dog’s feet and legs: Aside from dog paw red between pads, the redness may also extend to the rest of their legs and feet if they have been exposed to an irritant or toxic substance. Therefore, consulting a veterinarian is highly recommended.

By taking note of these warning signs, you can ensure that your dog receives the proper veterinary care they need right away. However, one should note that some conditions may necessitate pricey treatments.

Thus, investing in pet insurance is recommended to help offset the cost of any unexpected medical expenses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Close up of red paw pads on dogs

Why Are My Dog’s Paws Red After Walks?

If you notice that your dog’s paws turn red after a walk, the temperature of the ground may be to blame. Usually, too cold or too hot pavements can cause dog paws to become inflamed and sore.

Another possibility is that they stepped on something sharp or abrasive while walking. This could include rocks, tiny sticks, or even glass. 

Some plants also have irritant properties and may cause discomfort in our fur babies’ paw pads.

To avoid these situations, you can start by walking your dog when it’s cooler outside. Investing in shoes or boots would also be ideal as this will protect their paws from any potential hazards along the way.

Why Are My Dog’s Paws Red Between the Toes?

One of the main reasons why your dog’s paws are red between the toes is due to a condition called pododermatitis.

Typically, this happens when the skin between their toes has been damaged by excessive heat, moisture, or friction.

Note that dog paws are made up of many layers of skin and soft tissue that work together to protect the pads from injury and impact. When these layers are compromised, it can lead to inflammation and discomfort.

However, if the redness comes with a pus-filled lesion, bloody discharge, or foul odor, it could be a sign of secondary infection.

To effectively treat this condition, bring your dog in for an examination with a vet immediately.

Why Are My Dog’s Paws Red and Inflamed?

In general, there are many reasons why your dog’s paws can be red and inflamed. These include injury to the pads, food allergies, bacterial and fungal infections, the presence of parasites, and excessive licking.

So, to get a better idea of what is causing this dog paw inflammation, check if there are any cuts, rashes, or wounds on the affected area. Consulting a vet is also suggested for a more thorough diagnosis.

Can I Put Vaseline on My Dog’s Paws?

Fortunately, you can put Vaseline on your dog’s paws when its feet are dry and cracked. Ointments, aloe vera, and petroleum jelly like this one are all great choices for moisturizing foot pads.

However, if your pup’s paws are bleeding, swollen, or infected, it is strongly recommended to seek veterinary attention before doing anything else.

Final Thoughts

When fur parents see dog paws red between the toes, they tend to panic and worry. While these are understandable reactions, it’s crucial to know that there are many different causes of redness between the dog’s paw pads.

In most cases, though, it’s not an indicator of anything serious. Some common paw problems include yeast infections, cuts, skin allergies, hot spots, abrasions, and even ingrown nails.

However, if the red coloration is accompanied by any of the following clinical signs: swelling, soreness, itchiness, or bumps, you should head to a vet clinic immediately.

Be aware that the home remedies listed should not replace professional veterinary medicine and care.

Furthermore, clean and check your dog’s paws regularly to prevent infections from happening in the first place.

Have you ever encountered redness between your dog’s toes? Tell us in the comments, and don’t forget to bookmark this guide on red paws on dogs!