Why is My Dog’s Paw Swollen?

Dr. Kayla Akkaya

Sep 2, 2022

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Have you ever noticed your dog’s paw swelling up? Do you know what might cause this symptom? Is a swollen paw something to worry about, or is it an issue that will go away on its own?

In the article below, we’ll break down more information to help you learn about canine paw swelling. This guide will help you understand the potential causes, treatments, and prognosis of many of the most common causes of swelling in dog paws. You can use this information to choose when you need to take your dog to the vet, and when you may be able to just wait and see what happens.

Common Causes of Dog’s Swollen Paw

Listed below are the common causes of swelling in dog’s paws:

Insect Bite or Sting

Most swelling of canine paw pads comes from an insect bite or sting. If your dog steps on a biting or stinging insect, that insect will likely respond aggressively. Even if the bite or sting does not come from a venomous insect, it may still cause some swelling and aggravation for a few days.

If the swelling remains localized to the paw pad only and you can see a bite or sting, you may be able to wait and see how it goes. However, if the swelling begins to travel up the leg, or if your dog has swelling of the face or neck, go to the emergency vet.

Sometimes these stings may cause an allergic reaction, or intense pain, if you notice limping for an extended period of time, redness on your pet’s body, hives or excessive chewing/scratching, it is wise to have your pet checked sooner rather than later.

Cut or Laceration

A cut or laceration on the paw pad may cause swelling, pain, and bleeding. Check your dog’s paw pad and toes carefully for signs of any type of injury or damage. If you do spot a cut or laceration, check how deep it is.

If the cut is surface-level only, you can probably take care of your pet at home. Keep the area clean and encourage your dog to stay off of his/her paw for a few days. If the cut looks deep, however, go to the vet for more information. Never wrap the paw or use any sort of bandaging material as this can decrease blood flow and cause major complications. If the bleeding is not stopping, apply pressure and go to the emergency room.

Trapped Object

Dogs often get small objects trapped between their toes, or between the toes and paw pad. When this happens, the object can irritate the skin and cause swelling of the area. Your dog may limp or be unwilling to put weight on her paw because of this problem, too.

Check your dog’s foot and toes carefully. If you see the object and can safely remove it, do so. If you cannot remove the object, take your pet to the vet to have it removed by a professional. Your dog may also need some medication to help recover from the swelling in some cases. Trapped objects can also lead to infection and may need to be removed by a veterinary professional, if you are ever in doubt, bring your pet to a veterinarian.

Interdigital Cysts or Allergies

Dogs with allergies often bite or chew their paws excessively. The trauma of this can cause irritation, and even infection. Oftentimes this can make the paw swollen or appear swollen. While this is not an emergency, having your pet evaluated by a veterinarian to address their allergies may make them more comfortable.

Interdigital cysts are infected or irritated cysts of the hair follicle, often secondary to trauma. They are most common on the front limbs in between the toes. They are extremely painful and can occasionally have discharge (red tinged fluid or pus). Infections can become so severe that they cause the paw to appear swollen. If you notice a swelling in between your dog’s toes, please have them checked by a veterinarian.

Frostbite or Burn

Dogs who go outside on very hot or very cold days may experience either frostbite or burn. A burned paw pad may turn bright red and look blistered, and it could peel much like a sunburn. It may become swollen while it is healing as well.

A paw pad with frostbite will turn gray or blue and may feel cold and brittle to the touch. It may become black if the frostbite is serious. In either of these cases, you should go to the vet or emergency vet for immediate treatment for your dog.

Torn Toenail

Dogs are prone to catching their toenails on objects and accidentally tearing them off or breaking them. This is a painful injury that can cause long-term limping in some dogs, and it must be treated by a vet (or an emergency vet, if there is significant bleeding or pain). A torn toenail of any severity may cause swelling of the paw as well.

Although less severe than a truly torn toenail, a broken toenail can sometimes cause irritation and swelling of your dog’s paw, too. Check your dog’s toenails carefully if you notice paw swelling and see if you can spot an injury in this area.

Broken Foot

Although much less common than the other items on this list, it is possible that a dog’s paw could swell as a result of a broken foot or broken toe. In this case, your dog will likely show signs of significant pain, and you may be able to tell visually that the paw is broken.

If your dog’s foot, toe, or leg is broken, go to the emergency vet immediately. If you’re unsure but you suspect there could be a break, the emergency vet is your best bet, too.

Contact a Veterinarian if Your Dog’s Paw is Swollen

Based on this information, it’s easy to see just how varied the underlying causes of a dog’s swollen paw might be. For this reason, you should always take your dog to the vet for a swollen paw if you’re unsure of the cause. If you do know the cause of the swelling, and if you’re certain it’s a mild one, you may be able to stay at home and monitor your dog’s paw swelling for a few days. Otherwise, a trip to the regular vet is typically the best solution for this problem.

If you want more information or advice, contact VEG by calling one of our locations. The emergency vets at all of our VEG locations are available every day, including weekends and holidays, to help if your dog has a swollen paw. We’ll find out the reason for your dog’s swelling and develop the best course of action to take in solving the problem.