What causes dry, cracked dog paws & how to treat them

dry dog paws

Dog’s paws are pretty tough and resilient. But, if they become overly dry or even cracked, it could become painful for your dog to walk. It’s essential that you keep an eye on your pup’s paws and provide treatment where required. 

In many cases, you’ll be able to resolve the problem yourself at home, but if there are signs of bleeding, the problem is persistent or it’s affecting their walking, seek attention from your vet. 

Why causes dry, rough & cracked dog paws?

1) Environmental factors

If you’re wondering why your dog’s paws are so rough, often the answer lies in environmental factors.

Think of walking barefoot on a hot beach or how your hands can become chapped and dry in cold weather – it’s the same principle for your dog’s paws! Walking on hot surfaces such as pavements or sand can be damaging to paws – hold your hand on the ground for five seconds if it’s hot out – if it’s too hot for you to keep your hand there, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.

2) Contact Irritation

Cold weather can lead to sore or cracked paws too, due to the presence of abrasive grit or antifreeze chemicals on the roads. Try your best to minimise time on icy roads, and ensure that when you’re back home you give your dog’s paws a good clean with warm water. This will remove any grit, salt or ice that might have formed between their pads, as well as any potentially harmful antifreeze chemicals.

Outside of the winter months, home floor cleaners and garden fertilisers could act as irritants on your dog’s paws. Keep an eye for any tell-tale signs of irritation such as excessive licking of the paws, and ensure you give them a good clean to remove any of the harmful substances.

dog in snow

3) Allergies

Some allergies, often in food, can cause itchiness in a dog’s skin, ears or paws. If this is the case, you might notice excessive chewing or licking of the paws. Keep an eye out for this, as giving the paws a good old chew can lead to them becoming dry and cracked. Consult your vet about getting your pup on an elimination diet to identify what might be causing the problem.

4) Hyperkeratosis

More common in older dogs, hyperkeratosis is a condition caused by the overproduction of keratin, the protein which is the main component of hair, skin, hoofs, horns, beaks and claws in animals. When too much keratin is produced in dogs, this can lead to paws becoming rough, dry and hard, which can lead to cracked dog paws and it becoming painful to walk. A dry and crusty nose can be a sign of hyperkeratosis too. 

Although there is no cure for hyperkeratosis, the symptoms can be managed. Your vet may trim the excess skin growth from your pup’s paws. Ensure good paw hygiene by ensuring their nails are kept trimmed, or soften your dog’s paws and reduce roughness and dryness by using a soothing paw balm or dog nose balm.

How to prevent dry and cracked paws

You can help reduce the risk to your pup’s pads by taking some sensible precautions:

  • If your dog spends more time indoors and isn’t used to rougher outdoor terrain, build up some paw pad resilience by walking for short periods of time. This can help build up a callus and, in summer, reduce sensitivity to the heat. Gradually build up the time spent walking or playing outdoors and allow the paw pads time to develop. 
  • When it’s hot out, walk them at cooler times of day like early morning, or walk on cooler surfaces like grass, which will be less hot than pavement. 
  • Use a paw balm as a protective layer and to prevent dryness and cracking.

How to treat dry, cracked paws

First up, if there’s any bleeding or your dog’s walking is affected, see a vet and they’ll be able to advise on the best course of action. 

But, if the dryness  or cracking is relatively mild, it may be solved at home. Give the paws a clean with soap and warm water and pat dry. Apply a dog paw balm to soothe and lock in moisture. Whilst they’re healing, go for shorter walks than you would normally, to give them a chance to recover.

So, keep an eye on your dog’s paws. With an understanding of the main things that cause dry or cracked pads, you can take steps to prevent them worsening, or provide soothing treatment in the form of paw balm to help recovery!