Dog’s Paw Red? Causes and Treatments Explained

dog paw at vet

A dog’s paws can be a range of colors depending on their breed. The most common color is black or brown, but they may also be lighter shades such as pink and light brown. Paw pads should never be red and swollen, however, a dog’s paws should never be a deep pink or red color.

Swollen paw pads and between the toes, also known as interdigital cysts, can be very painful for your pet. This is due to fluid accumulation in the skin tissue on either side of the foot. When these swell up, they can cause pain and discomfort in your dog’s feet.The swelling is also generally accompanied by redness and irritation and can be a sign that there has been an injury to the paw pads. 

Fortunately, most swollen paw conditions are not serious and will resolve after a few days of treatment. However, if you notice any signs of discomfort or pain from your dog, then it is best to contact your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and care.

Table of Contents

dog paw swollen

Dog Paw Inflammation types

First, there are two types of paw inflammation or paw edema: peri-ungual and sub-ungual.


pet first aid kit

check price

Peri-ungual swelling

Peri-ungual swelling occurs between the toes, but it is not usually as severe as sub-ungual swelling. Peri-ungual swelling can be caused by allergies, insect bites, and puncture wounds.

Sub-ungual swelling

Sub-ungual swelling occurs between the toes and is generally more severe than peri-ungual swelling. It can be caused by such things as an injury to the foot, a foreign body in the foot, or the accumulation of pus from a deep wound.

dog licking paw

Dog Paw Inflammation symptoms

The following are the most common symptoms of both types of swelling:


Both types of swelling will cause your dog to experience pain and discomfort. In severe cases, the pain may be constant unless you take action. You should call your veterinarian if your pet is limping excessively or if he seems unwilling to walk around.

Reddened skin

The paw pads will either be a reddish-pink color or bright red. In some cases, the skin may appear as if it has been burned because of inflammation and swelling. Also, the skin on your dog’s feet can become so irritated that it may peel off in some areas.

Flaky skin

The top layer of skin on your dog’s paws may flake off if the pain is severe enough. If this happens, he may be more sensitive to changes in temperature and develop a rash or sores on his feet.

Swollen paws

The swelling will usually occur between the toes or at the base of your dog’s nails. You may not be able to see the swollen area, but you will notice that his paws are bulkier than usual. If the swelling is severe, your pet’s feet may begin to look like balloons.

Pus pockets

As mentioned above, sub-ungual swelling can be caused by an accumulation of pus in the skin tissue between the toes. It may appear as a pocket of liquid that is nearly impossible to drain. In severe cases, the pus may appear as yellow or green fluid with bits of blood in it.
dog paw at vet

Dog Paw Inflammation – Causes And Assessment

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it is important to determine whether he has paw edema or a foot abscess. A foot abscess results from an injury to the foot. The foot will have a foul odor and may be very tender or painful to the touch, depending on the severity of the injury.

As pus accumulates under your dog’s skin, it becomes a collection of fluid that is known as an abscess. If left untreated, this abscess can drain through an opening in your pet’s skin, which is often referred to as a fistula. Foot abscesses are very serious and may require surgery if they do not respond to treatment.

Make sure your veterinarian knows about any injuries your dog has recently had to his feet so he can make the proper diagnosis and start treatment for paw edema or a foot abscess.

Fortunately, many of the causes of swollen paws are not serious. The problem may be due to insect bites or allergies, in which case it will resolve on its own after a few days of treatment. Some of the most common causes include:


Allergies are a common cause of swollen paws because the paw pads will be red and itchy. Allergens can include grass, pollen, food items, and chemicals from cleaning products. In most cases, the swelling will go down as soon as the allergen is out of your dog’s system. You may assess this by taking him for a walk in the park, away from the house, and any chemicals that may have triggered the reaction.

Insect bites

Insect bites may not cause your dog to suffer from severe swelling, but you may notice that his skin is very irritated, and he is scratching at it. Swollen paws from insect bites can be caused by mosquitoes, fire ants, and other insects.

Foreign Bodies in the Foot

Beware of foreign objects that could get lodged in your dog’s paw, such as rocks, glass, thorns, splinters, and metal pieces. These items will cause swelling if they are not removed quickly enough or if your pet keeps chewing at his feet out of pain. Carefully inspect your dog’s paws and gently remove any rocks or other objects that you see. If there are no visible signs of a foreign body, then take your dog to the veterinarian for an exam.

Deep Puncture Wounds

Injuries may cause the swelling of the paw pads and between the toes, which will feel hot to touch. This can be caused by anything from stepping on something sharp, such as a nail or glass, to getting the paw caught in a closing door. Wounds that are not treated right away may become infected. These wounds can also be caused by dog bites. Keeping your pet from licking at the wound is vital to prevent infection and swelling.

Fractured Bones

Any kind of fracture to the paw will cause swelling. This can happen due to an injury or blunt force trauma. You’ll know when your furball is experiencing fractured toes because the paw will be tender to touch. This affects one or more bones in the toes. An x-ray will help with fracture assessment and treatment options.

Torn Ligaments

Ligament tears can happen to any dog, but large breeds such as Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds are more likely to experience this injury. Ligaments heal slowly, so your dog may need a soft cast or bandage until it is fully healed.


Arthritis is a common ailment in older canines that manifests as inflammation and swelling of the paws. The pain involved will be enough to cause your dog to limp, making it difficult for him to walk. He may also lick at his paws and whine. If this is the case, you’ll need to take him to the veterinarian for a thorough assessment.

Canine Lymphoma

Lymphoma is cancer caused explicitly by increased and uncontrolled growth of lymph cells. It most commonly occurs in older dogs and is one of the most common causes of swollen paws.


In some cases, swollen paws may be a sign of a tumor. Lumps under the skin should always be checked by your veterinarian to rule out cancerous cells.

Toxic Reactions

In rare cases, inflammatory swelling of the paw pads can be caused by ingestion of poisonous toxins or chemicals. This is more often seen in dogs that have ingested antifreeze (ethylene glycol).

Cardiovascular Problems

Heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure, can cause the feet to swell. While rare, a dog with a heart condition may also experience swollen paws. This swelling is caused by fluid accumulation in the tissues of the leg due to reduced blood flow.

dog paw home remedy

Dog Paw Inflammation – Treatment and Home Remedies

Swollen paws are not an illness in themselves. However, as mentioned above, the swelling can be caused by anything from insect bites to deep puncture wounds or tumors. If your dog’s swollen paw continues for more than a few days, you should take him to see your veterinarian.

The treatment for swollen paws will depend on the cause. The best way to deal with swollen paws is to treat them promptly to avoid further complications or damage. In some cases, it is best to take your dog to a veterinarian to get a proper diagnosis. 

Afterward, you can treat the problem at home to help your dog recover quickly:

Apply a Cold Compress

One of the quickest ways to help your dog feel better is to apply a cold compress. Fill a small bowl with ice water and place it on the floor in front of him. You can place his paw in the bowl to let the cold water wash over his foot, or you can soak a towel in the ice water and wrap it around his paw. This will help to reduce the swelling and ease the pain.

Elevate His Paw

Another way to help your pet feel better is to elevate his paw, which will lessen his discomfort and encourage blood flow. You should place a small pillow or rolled-up towel under his injured foot so that it is higher than his heart. This will also help relieve pressure from his foot.

Apply Apple Cider Vinegar

(ACV) has natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling. You can saturate a cotton ball or piece of gauze with vinegar and apply it to the swollen area for about 15 minutes. If you’re worried about staining your carpet, plastic floor mat, or furniture, place a towel underneath his paw first.

ACV may also be added to your dog’s water. Mix two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with eight ounces of water and use the mixture to wash his foot every hour, or mix one tablespoon of ACV in his drinking water.

Apply Honey

Mixing honey with olive oil and applying it to your dog’s paw pads can help you reduce the swelling. This is an all-natural treatment that is safe for dogs of all ages, even newborn puppies. Simply mix two teaspoons of honey with half a teaspoon of olive oil in a small bowl and rub it on his paw pads.

Epsom Salt Baths


Epsom salt is another excellent remedy for swollen paws. Make an Epsom salt solution by adding half a cup of Epsom salt to the bath while the water is running. Then, gently place his foot in the tub and allow him to soak for about 15 minutes. This will help reduce swelling and ease the pain.

Gentle Massage

A gentle massage can also help ease your dog’s discomfort. Apply coconut oil to your hands, then gently rub his paws for about five minutes. You can do this as often as you like throughout the day, or at least twice a day if he spends most of his time on hard floors. However, be careful when giving massages, as this shouldn’t be done if they have a fractured toe.

Keep His Paws Clean and Dry

Dogs are very active animals, resulting in their paws becoming dirty. It is important to keep his paws clean and dry to prevent infection. You should wash his feet with warm water and soap once or twice a week to remove dirt. Afterward, pat them dry with a towel.

Additionally, you can use an  antiseptic wipe to clean his paws. Or you can make it at home, simply mix one part hydrogen peroxide with three parts water and apply it to a cotton ball. Dab this onto his paw pads to keep them free of bacteria that could cause an infection.

Apply a Warm Compress

You can also use a warm compress if your dog’s paws are swollen and irritated. Place a warm towel over his paw for 15-20 minutes to help the swelling go down. You can do this several times per day, in conjunction with cold compress treatments.

Antibacterial Spray

Spray a small amount of antibacterial spray on your dog’s paw to kill any bacteria or fungi that may have gotten into his skin. This will help prevent infections from setting in.

Paw Protector Socks

Some dogs are so severely allergic to insect bites and stings that they need protection from them when going outside. Putting a paw protector on your dog will help protect his paws from being bitten or stung while you’re out walking him.

Swollen Paws Treatment at the Vet

If your dog’s swollen paw continues for more than 48 hours, or if it looks very red, painful, or feels hot to the touch, then he needs to see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Depending on the diagnosis, your vet may prescribe an antibiotic ointment to protect your dog’s swollen paw from infection and then let him go home with you after he is treated. Your dog may also need painkillers or anti-inflammatories.

dog paw love

Final Thoughts

Addressing swollen dog paws and the inflammation between their toes necessitates prompt and diligent care. You can take proactive steps in the comfort of your home by employing a combination of natural remedies. 

Begin by preparing a soothing Epsom salt soak to alleviate the discomfort and reduce swelling. Additionally, the healing properties of apple cider vinegar and honey can be harnessed to mitigate any irritation and promote a faster recovery. Gently applying warm compresses can further enhance your dog’s comfort and encourage the healing process. However, it is imperative to remain vigilant. 

If the swelling persists beyond a 48-hour period or if your dog’s paw exhibits signs of intense redness, substantial pain, or radiates excessive warmth, it is imperative to seek immediate veterinary attention. The key to ensuring your dog’s well-being lies in your ability to swiftly assess the situation, thus preventing any potential progression of the swelling and related complications. 

Your pet’s health is paramount, and timely intervention can make all the difference in their recovery journey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I Put Neosporin on my Dogs Paw?

Neosporin can be used on your dog’s paw, but it should be done with caution and under the guidance of a veterinarian. Neosporin is an over-the-counter topical antibiotic ointment that can help prevent infection in minor wounds or abrasions.

However, before applying Neosporin or any other medication to your dog’s paw, you should consider the following:

  1. Consult Your Veterinarian: It’s always a good idea to consult your veterinarian before applying any medication to your dog’s skin or paws. They can assess the specific situation and recommend the appropriate treatment.
  2. Ensure the Wound is Clean: Before applying Neosporin, make sure the wound or affected area is clean. You can use a mild, pet-safe antiseptic solution to clean the paw, but avoid using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide as they can be harsh on your dog’s skin.
  3. Use a Pet-Safe Product: If you decide to use Neosporin, make sure you choose the plain, original formula without added pain relievers like Neosporin + Pain Relief. Avoid using Neosporin with any added ingredients not approved for pets.
  4. Apply Sparingly: Apply a thin layer of Neosporin to the affected area, taking care not to use too much. Your dog may lick the ointment off, which can lead to stomach upset. Consider using a cone or E-collar to prevent licking.
  5. Monitor for Allergic Reactions: Keep an eye on your dog for any signs of allergic reactions, such as redness, swelling, itching, or hives. If you notice any adverse reactions, stop using Neosporin and contact your vet.
  6. Limit Use: Neosporin is not a substitute for proper veterinary care. It should only be used for minor cuts, scrapes, or abrasions and should not be used on deep wounds, punctures, or in cases of severe infection. If the problem persists or worsens, consult your veterinarian.

Always remember that while Neosporin can be helpful in some situations, it is essential to consult with your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Your vet can provide guidance on how to care for your dog’s paw and ensure their overall health and well-being.

What does Pododermatitis in Dogs Look Like?

Pododermatitis in dogs, also known as interdigital dermatitis or interdigital cysts, is a condition that affects the skin between the toes and paw pads. The appearance of pododermatitis can vary depending on its cause and severity, but common signs and symptoms include:

  1. Redness and Inflammation: One of the primary indicators of pododermatitis is redness and inflammation in the interdigital (between the toes) area. The skin may appear reddened and swollen.

  2. Lesions or Blisters: In some cases, you may notice small, raised lesions or blisters between the toes. These can sometimes become pustules or open sores.

  3. Discharge: There may be discharge or pus present in the affected areas, especially if there is a secondary bacterial infection.

  4. Pain and Discomfort: Dogs with pododermatitis often experience pain and discomfort. They may limp or favor the affected paw, and they may lick or chew at the area.

  5. Itching: Itching can be a significant symptom, leading to excessive licking and chewing. This can exacerbate the condition.

  6. Foul Odor: If there is a secondary bacterial or fungal infection, a foul odor may be noticeable.

  7. Hair Loss: In some cases, the fur between the toes may be lost or thinned due to the dog’s licking and chewing.

  8. Crusting or Scaling: Depending on the underlying cause, there may be crusting or scaling of the skin in the affected area.

    It’s important to note that pododermatitis can have various underlying causes, including allergies, infections (bacterial or fungal), foreign bodies (like splinters or thorns), autoimmune disorders, and more. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial for effective treatment.

    If you suspect that your dog has pododermatitis or if you notice any of the above signs, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian. They can perform a thorough examination, determine the cause, and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include antibiotics, antifungal medications, topical treatments, and addressing any underlying issues contributing to the condition.

    Left untreated, pododermatitis can become a chronic and painful problem for your dog.

Can I give my Dog Benadryl for Licking Paws?

Yes, you can give your dog Benadryl (generic name: diphenhydramine) for licking paws, but you should do so under the guidance of your veterinarian. Benadryl is an antihistamine that can help relieve itching and allergy-related symptoms in dogs, including excessive paw licking. However, it’s essential to follow these guidelines:

  1. Consult Your Vet: Before giving any medication, including Benadryl, to your dog, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian. They can determine the cause of the paw licking and recommend the appropriate dosage and treatment plan.

  2. Proper Dosage: The dosage of Benadryl for dogs varies based on their weight and the specific formulation of the medication (e.g., liquid or tablets). Your vet will provide you with the correct dosage instructions tailored to your dog’s needs.

  3. Use Plain Benadryl: Ensure you are using plain Benadryl without any added ingredients like decongestants or pain relievers (e.g., pseudoephedrine or acetaminophen). These additional ingredients can be harmful to dogs.

  4. Monitor for Side Effects: While Benadryl is generally safe for dogs when used as directed, some dogs may experience side effects such as drowsiness or, in rare cases, excitability. Monitor your dog after giving the medication and contact your vet if you observe any concerning side effects.

  5. Address Underlying Causes: Benadryl can provide temporary relief, but it’s essential to identify and address the underlying cause of the paw licking. Common causes include allergies, skin infections, irritants, or behavioral issues. Your vet can help determine the cause and develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

  6. Avoid Long-Term Use: Benadryl should only be used as a short-term solution to alleviate itching or discomfort. If your dog’s paw licking is chronic, your vet may recommend other treatments or lifestyle changes to address the issue more effectively.

Remember that while Benadryl can be a helpful tool in managing itching and paw licking, it should be part of a broader approach to address the underlying problem. Your veterinarian is the best resource for diagnosing and treating your dog’s condition to ensure their comfort and well-being.

What are the most common allergies to dogs?

The most common allergies in dogs can be broadly categorized into three main types: environmental allergies, food allergies, and flea allergies. Here are more details on each:

  1. Environmental Allergies (Atopic Dermatitis):

    • Pollen: Dogs can be allergic to various types of pollen from grasses, trees, and weeds, leading to seasonal allergies.
    • Dust Mites: These microscopic pests can trigger allergies, especially in indoor environments.
    • Mold: Mold spores in the environment can cause allergic reactions.
    • Mites and Fleas: Allergic reactions to proteins in mites and flea saliva are common.
  2. Food Allergies:

    • Proteins: Dogs can develop allergies to specific proteins in their diet, often from common sources like chicken, beef, or dairy.
    • Grains: While less common, some dogs may be allergic to grains such as wheat, corn, or soy.
  3. Flea Allergies (Flea Allergic Dermatitis):

    • Flea Saliva: The bite of a single flea can trigger an intense allergic reaction in sensitive dogs. It’s not the flea itself but the saliva that causes the problem.

Symptoms of allergies in dogs can vary but commonly include itching, skin irritation, redness, hair loss, ear infections, and gastrointestinal issues (in the case of food allergies). Keep in mind that allergies are often diagnosed through a process of elimination, and it may require the expertise of a veterinarian to determine the exact cause.

About Us

Welcome to doggie site. We stand as the ultimate hub for dedicated dog enthusiasts, combining years of expertise and passion to bring you unparalleled canine insights. Established by a team of canine experts, our platform is rooted in evidence-based practices and a genuine love for dogs, ensuring that you receive the best advice and information.

Scroll to Top