Dog’s Paw Swollen and Red Between Toes

Last Updated on January 6, 2023


swollen dog paw 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.

Dog Paw Inflammation – Types and Symptoms

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

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.

On the other hand, 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.

Following are the most common symptoms of both types of swelling:

my dog paw swollenPain

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 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 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

apple ciderApple 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

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 DryDog wipes

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

dog compressYou 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.

paw protectorcheck price

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.

Final Thoughts

Swollen dog paws and red between toes can be treated at home with Epsom salt, apple cider vinegar, honey, and warm compresses. If the swelling continues for more than 48 hours or your dog’s paw looks very red, painful, or feels hot to the touch, take him to a veterinarian as soon as possible. The key is assessing the situation quickly so that the swelling doesn’t progress!

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