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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Paw Damage View In Cats

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Pets injure their paws in all kinds of ways. paws can have toenails torn or pads punctured with fish hooks or cut with glass. They can be burned with flames or chemicals, and the flesh can be ground away from excessive running.


A pet limping, holding it's leg up while walking, or displaying uncommon lameness may have paw damage.


Paw damage can be cause by numerous reasons and situations.


Diagnosis can be made by examining the affected paw.


Deep injuries need medical attention. If more than 1/4 of the pad is cut through and you can see pink flesh, your pet will need stitches within 2 - 3 hours of the injury for it to heal properly. You can prevent infection and soothe discomfort with first aid, which may be all that is needed for minor damage.

  1. Keep him still - It can be hard to examine the damage by yourself, so it is helpful to have a second person restrain your pet. Set a small pet on a counter top and kneel on the floor beside a large dog. If you are doing the restraining, bring one arm up around your pet's neck and the other under and around his chest and hug him to your body. Remember to keep the damaged paw on the side away from your body. Use the hand that is under his chest to extend that front paw and keep him from pulling it away. On the rear leg, grasp the knee to straighten his leg and extend the paw. Damage to paws is painful, so if he fights too much, it is better to take him to the vet's office to be sedated and treated.
  2. Control bleeding - Paw injuries tend to bleed a lot, even if they aren't serious. Apply pressure directly on the wound with a clean cloth or gauze pad to stop the bleeding. Usually, it will stop within 5 minutes. If the first pad soaks through, don't remove it or you could disturb the clot that is forming. Just stack a second pad on top of the first one.
  3. Use a pressure bandage for prolonged bleeding - If the bleeding continues for longer than 5 minutes, put another pad on top of the first, slip a cotton sock over the pad, and wrap the sock with tape to make a temporary pressure bandage until you get to the vet. If you don't have tape, a balloon will work well to hold the bandage in place on smaller dogs and to also prevent blood from running onto carpets.
  4. Give a cool water rinse - If the damaged paw isn't bleeding heavily, clean it with cool water. Rinsing the area under a stream of water helps flush out any debris and can wash away chemicals that may have burned the paw as well as ease the pain of thermal burns. For burns, you will need to rinse with cool water (not hot and not cold - see Burns).
  5. Wash the damaged area - Plain soap is better than nothing, but an antiseptic liquid soap like Betadine Skin Cleanser is better and helps prevent infection. You can use 3% hydrogen peroxide to help cleanse the area surrounding the wound, but do not put it directly on the wound.
  6. For deep cuts - Any deep damage needs to be seen by a vet. Shallow cuts that don't bleed can get by with a thin layer of petroleum jelly to protect them.
For burns and abrasions - Paws that have lost a lot of skin, either from burns or abrasions, may require special bandages called wet to dry bandages. They keep the wound moist to help tissue rebuild, and they also help remove debris when they are removed. Usually, your veterinarian will apply and remove wet to dry bandages, but you will need to watch your pet to make sure that he doesn't remove them on his own.


Take care when allowing your dog to travel long distances without the proper footwear. Feel the temperature of pavement with your bare hand before allowing your dog to walk on it in the warm season. Don't allow your dog to walk on sharp rocks, such as shale, without footwear.


For a puncture, soak the paw in 1 cup of Epsom salts dissolved in 2 gallons of warm water for 10 minutes 2 - 3 times a day. This helps keep the pad clean and brings any infection to a head.

If you see pink flesh, the pad needs protection in order to heal. The only way to keep a paw bandage on the paw is to tape it to the fur. A baby bootie or sock works well for cats and small dogs, and a regular cotton sock is fine for bigger dogs. Slip the sock over the damaged paw, then place an elastic adhesive bandage like Elastoplast at the top directly on the fur. The cloth allows the wound to breathe and heal. There are sweat glands in the pads of the foot that make the paw moist when it cant breathe, and that is a perfect breeding ground for an infection. You will need to change the bandage daily for the first 2 - 3 days and then at least every 2 days, or any time it gets dirty or wet.

Keep bandages clean by placing a clean plastic bag over the foot when your pet must go outside. Pets often lick and chew at bandages that are too tight or get wet (and start to cause discomfort), so keeping them dry with the plastic makes a positive impact. Be sure to remove the bag when your pet comes back inside.

If the wound is stitched, you will need to keep the sutures clean. Use an antiseptic liquid soap like Betadine Skin Cleanser twice a day to remove any drainage. After you dry the damaged area, put on a thin layer of antibiotic ointment.

If your pet tries to bother the paw or bandage, a cone-shaped Elizabethan collar is the best way to keep him from causing more damage.

If the paw damage gets any worse (becomes red, swollen, or starts to smell) it could mean that there is an infection. Have it checked by your veterinarian, who may prescribe antibiotics. It can also help to soak the affected paw for 5 minutes 3 times a day until it heals. Use an antiseptic solution like Betadine Solution to help speed the healing and stop the infection in its tracks. Dilute Betadine in comfortably warm distilled water until it is the color of weak tea.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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