Why does my dog have cracks on its paws?

One of the more persistent injuries a dog can get is a crack or cut on the pads of it's feet. These can take a long time to heal up, mainly because the dog will keep walking on them and tearing at the pads. You need to be aware that there are several potential causes, including diseases that cause what looks like a physical injury.


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Potential Causes of Injuries to Foot Pads on a Dog:

1) A cut or scrape. This is what pretty much everyone assumes they are - the dog steps on something sharp or gets physically injured somehow. If this is the cause, you need to get it bandaged and keep the dog off it's feet.

2) Chewing on the paws. Sometimes dogs will step in stuff that is irritating their skin, most often chemicals you are spraying on your yard or your floor. The chemicals don't injure the paws, but they make the dog bite them, which causes cuts and cracks. Removing the source of the chemicals is the treatment here.

3) Hyperkeratosis - This is a disease in which the dog's skin begins growing keratin way too quickly, causing the cracks. It's also called canine foot pad disease. Keratin is the hard stuff in the skin that makes the pads different from the regular parts of the dog's skin. It toughens them up so the dog can step on rough surfaces without being hurt. You treat the dog with creams in most cases, which eat away at the excess keratin. Sometimes vets will surgically remove it as well.

4) Infection. Yeast or fungal infections in the pad can cause cracking, and your vet would need to give the dog a prescription to deal with this.

5) Nutritional deficiencies. If you are feeding the dog the wrong diet this could be the cause, but also some breeds are susceptible to these problems because of genetic issues.

What do I do?

You should take the dog to the vet. Don't assume it's a physical injury, because it is often caused by one of the other potential diseases that can affect a dog's paws. You need to find out the cause first before you can figure out what to do about it.

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