There are many ways a dog can damage his paws, from running on rough surfaces to walking on salt-covered roads in the winter. In most cases, you can heal sore, cracked paws with home treatments, although it takes time for paws to heal because contact between the pads and the ground can stretch the edges of the wound and prolong or infect the injury. Be gentle and use caution when treating paws. Not all dogs are comfortable allowing their owners to touch sore feet.
Most sore paws can benefit from moisturising lotion, petroleum jelly, a paw wax or a salve such as Bag Balm. Hand lotion is an option, but use it only a few days in a row or the paws will become too soft and prone to tearing or further injury. Before you apply any type of salve, clean the paw to prevent infection and boost healing time. Wash and dry the paw, then gently rub the lotion, wax or salve on the sore pads with your fingers or a gauze pad to soothe the irritated area. Put a boot or bandage on the dog to ensure that she will not lick off the ointment. Using a paw wax especially will soften and protect the pads. If your dog has sore paws after walking on snow, ice or salted roads, gently press warm, wet towels to the pads. Do not pull ice off of the paws.
Bandages can not only lessen the risk of infection, they can also keep lotions, salves or wax on the irritated area and speed up the healing process. Clean and dry the paw and rub the ointment on the wound. Place extra gauze between the pad and the bandage to provide cushioning and keep the bandage from being too tight. In a column for ESPN on caring for hunting dogs’ feet, veterinarian Ben J. Character suggests wrapping a layer of stretch gauze around the paw to hold the cotton in place and then wrapping the paw with an outer covering such as medical tape or stretchable wrap. Change the bandages frequently and make sure they do not get wet. Place the piece of tape on both the wrapping and the dog’s skin. This will keep the bandage from slipping.
Many dog owners use boots to help heal sore, cracked paws as well as to prevent injury. Before you put bootees on a dog, make sure they are the right size. A bootee that is too big will slip on the paw and make it difficult for the dog to walk. Buy boots larger than your dog’s paws if the dog will be wearing a bandage, however, to make sure the boots aren’t too tight. Introduce your dog to the boots slowly, putting them on for short amounts of time at first. It’s best to introduce the boots to your dog before they are needed to give him a chance to get used to them. Make sure to put the boots on your dog when walking on rough terrain or salted streets in the winter to prevent future injuries. Some boots are leather and some are neoprene with rubber soles, Dr. Character said. Leather boots last longer, but choose the neoprene for wet climates. Boots are also a good way to protect paws from snow, ice and salt.