paw first aid for dogs

Paw pad injuries can realistically happen anywhere. An injury doesn’t have to be out in the wilderness or during the course of heavy play.

A simple walk around the block is all that’s needed for a screw or broken piece of glass to cut your pet’s paw pretty significantly. Even hot pavement or sand can burn and leave your poor pup in need of pet first aid.

A couple of summers ago we saw a news article about Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART). WASART had assisted two hikers and their two 80 lb / 36 kg Rottweilers in the North Cascades of Washington. The group had been hiking along an old mountain road for about 1.5 hours when the dogs became exhausted and couldn’t continue. The dogs’ feet were blistered and cut from the rocky trail and were too heavy for the hikers to carry out. One hiker went to the trailhead and called for assistance. WASART and other Search and Rescue organizations responded and hiked in to where the remaining person and dogs were waiting. Using items available – feminine hygiene pads, duct tape and socks – the dogs’ feet were bandaged. An attempt was made to carry the dogs by stretcher but after a short time it was obvious that the terrain was too challenging and dogs were too heavy for the team to haul out. The only solution was to encourage the dogs to walk out on their own. Although the bandages had to be redone a few times the dogs were eventually able to make it to the trailhead on their own.

This story struck a particular cord because as pet care professionals we’ve dealt with injured paw pads on a number of occasions. One such time was with an overweight middle-aged Golden Retriever we were dog sitting. The owners had told us that the dog loved playing basketball with their kids and so we spent about 15 minutes playing basketball with him. At the end of that time all four feet unfortunately had the paw pads worn off.

Several years later we opened a dog daycare and boarding facility. We quickly learned that dogs that weren’t accustomed to a busy activity level were at risk for paw pad injury. It became necessary to constantly check our newer guests’ feet to be sure they weren’t overdoing it. This cut down on the incident rate significantly. Learning to treat these sorts of injuries is probably the most common first aid we need to perform.

Here are some easy steps to assist your pet with a paw pad injury:

  1. Ensure you carry a Pet First Aid kit on your person while on your walks.
  2. If you pet is injured, ensure it is safe to assist. This may mean using a muzzle or making a home-made muzzle. If needed, ask a bystander for assistance.
  3. Wipe away the edges of the wound using an antiseptic wipe. If available, rinse the wound with sterile water and anti-bacterial first aid soap such as Chlorhexidine to sterilize the area.
  4. If wound is bleeding use sterile gauze pads or cloth and apply pressure.
  5. Add additional gauze (or cloth if you don’t have any) on top of initial gauze pads if bleeding continues.
  6. Cover your bandage with a gauze roll wrapped around the gauze pads. Ensure the pads are completely covered.
  7. Complete bandage using medical tape to secure it.
  8. Check the bandage regularly for signs of swelling as it may have been applied too tight. If it is, simply unroll it part way and reroll it more loosely.
  9. It is always advisable to seek Veterinary care after an injury. This is especially true if there is any question at all about how serious the injury may be, if the pads are not healing, or there are signs of infection.
  10. Change bandages as regularly and as recommended by your Veterinarian.

We train all of our staff in Walks ‘N’ Wags Pet First Aid because we feel that being prepared is an important part of our commitment to keeping our clients safe. Being able to step in and help in an emergency is one of the most essential things you can do for your furry family members.