What is pododermatitis?
Pet Health Questions and Answers

Dog Paws Red and Swollen Between Toes and Pads – Causes and Treatments

Seeing that your dog’s paw is swollen and red between the toes is alarming. It’s not normal and could be uncomfortable for your pet. But, you still need to find out the underlying cause. Thankfully, issues that cause swelling and redness of the paws can be identified and treated.

Dogs Paw Red Between Toes. Close up of Red swollen infected dog paw
Sore Dog Paw that is Red and Swollen

More often than not, these symptoms are associated with a bite or infection. Knowing the type of infection can mean that you or your vet are better equipped to treat it. Dogs’ paws are quite sensitive, so while a condition that causes redness of the paws may not be life-threatening, it can be uncomfortable and tender for your pet. If your dog feels irritation in its paw, it is likely to increase paw licking to attempt to soothe the discomfort.

Specific symptoms go along with red and swollen paws. These give you a better idea of what your dog is going through and what you can do to help them. For example, treatment may be different if there’s an object stuck in your dog’s paw than it would if they have a bacterial infection.

With that in mind, the best thing you can do is find out the reason behind the problem. Check your dog’s paws periodically, not just when they look like they’re in pain. Your dog can’t protect their paws on their own, so it’s up to you as the owner to give them as much help as possible. If they do have a swollen, red paw, treating it quickly will help to ease your dog’s pain.

Healthy dog paw pads
Check your dog’s paws and pads regularly

Signs and Symptoms of Paw Problems

Dogs can’t tell you with words when they are in pain but their are signs and symptoms that you can look for, and behaviors you can observe, that communicate to you that your dog is in distress.

Compulsive Paw Licking

Paw Licking is a normal part of dog grooming. But if your dogs is licking its paws more often than usual or more intensely than usual, this is a sign that something is wrong with their paws.

Uneven Gait

If your dog is hesitant to walk on a paw, is limping, or is favoring one leg, then there is something wrong. Your dog may also be reluctant to let you examine its paw.

Hair Loss

If your dog has noticeable hair loss, this can be due to an infection, such as Pododermatitis, fleas, mange mite parasites, skin infection, yeast infection, inflammation, food allergies, or due to excessive paw licking. Hair loss can sometimes progress to open sores if the cause is not treated.

Hair Loss and Red Swollen Dog Paw Can Be A Sign of aggressive Paw Licking
Hair Loss and Red Swollen Dog Paw

Red and Swollen Paws

If the paw tissue has changed color, if it is red and swollen, this is a sign that needs to be investigated further.


Discharges and oozing, such as blood, pus, or other discharges that may or may not have an odor, are symptoms of a problem with your dogs paws. Consult with your trusted veterinarian.

Skin or Nail Change

A yeast infection can cause brown discoloration of the nails. It can also cause the skin to change to a darker color and to thicken. The only sure way to diagnose a yeast infection is to visit your veterinarian.


Sores can result from licking and scratching of open wounds, or infections. This can be a result of itchiness due to food allergies, fleas, yeast infection, mange, or parasites. Open sores can also be signs of cancer.

Signs of Pain and Discomfort

If the dog is reluctant to walk at all, showing signs of agitation, restless, anxious, has a reduced appetite, increased breathing, or increased heart rate, or is making unusual vocalizations, these are signs on distress. Consult with your veterinarian.

What Are the Reasons for Red and Swollen Paws?

This guide will cover different reasons your dog might have redness, itching, and swelling on their paws or between their toes or paw pads. We’ll also let you know which signs you should look for to determine if your dog’s paw is painful.

Finally, once you know the cause of the problem, you can choose the right treatment for your dog. Many times, an official diagnosis from a vet is the best way to go. But, you can start looking for signs at home to get a head start on making your dog feel better.

Puncture Wound

Dogs don’t have footwear to protect their feet. They have paw pads instead. The paw pad is made from layers of skin which cover fatty tissue. The paw pad can get tough from callousing, but it is not puncture proof. So, it can be easy for a dog to step on something sharp enough to poke through their paw pads or into the flesh between their toes. If they’re playing or get into a fight with another dog, a bite can also puncture their paw and cause it to bleed.

Thron on Branch. A Thorn Can Puncture your dogs paws and make them red and swollen
Thorn Can Puncture your dogs toes and make them red and swollen

If your dog’s paw does start to bleed and becomes red and swollen, it could be at risk for infection. The infection could come from the object itself if it were dirty. Or, it could come from the exposed wound meeting bacteria on the ground.

Any kind of open wound is serious and should be treated immediately. But, it can be an even bigger ordeal when it’s on the foot, and your dog can’t cover it up. It’s vital to know what caused the puncture wound. If it was a nail, for example, your dog might need to get a tetanus shot.

If the object that punctured your dog’s foot is still in the foot, it will need to be extracted. This can happen with things like glass, tacks, etc.

If the foot becomes infected, antibiotics may be given by your dog’s vet. Bandaging up the wound will help. Dogs can be prone to ‘self-healing.’

Infection on dog paw between pads
Paw Pads pulled apart to reveal infection. Notice that the tissue is red between toes.

You may find your dog keeps licking their infected toe if you don’t cover it up. Unfortunately, allowing them to do that can make the infection worse and cause more sores to appear.

Too Much Activity

Dogs love to be active and exercise. Going for a walk might be your dog’s favorite activity, but something as simple as a walk might cause problems with their paws sometimes.

How do I stop my dog from chewing his feet?

A swollen paw can be the result of many different types of activity, including:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Climbing
  • Digging
  • Chasing

Your dog may also land awkwardly after a jump, fall, or trip on something that can cause a swollen, inflamed paw. A swollen paw caused by these problems is usually one of the easiest to treat.

Jumping Dog. Landing Poorly can injure your dog's foot
A Bad Landing can Injure a Dog’s Paw Leading to Swelling and Inflammation

You may also notice your dog whimpering or whining, or even holding their sore paw up as though they don’t want to put weight on it.

Make sure your dog didn’t sprain or break anything in their foot. This may take a trip to the vet. But, if the area is just swollen and bruised, something as simple as rest and an ice pack can help.

Your dog should be back to normal in a day or two. While it’s never fun to have to see your dog in pain, these instances are much easier to handle than an infection or underlying health problem.

Insect Bites and Stings

Dogs love being outside, but that exposes them to things like insect bites from ants and bee stings.

For many dogs, this isn’t a problem. But, if your dog has an allergic reaction to a bite or sting, it could cause their paw to appear swollen and red.

In these cases, the swelling is usually centralized at the top of the paw. But it can cause a lot of irritation to your dog who might try to lick or bite at the area, since it will likely be itchy.

Most of the time, the swelling will go down on its own within 24 hours. You can use a cold compress or ice on the area to ease some of your dog’s discomfort. But, if you don’t see any changes in 1-2 days, take your dog to the vet.

You should also take them to the vet if they experience other signs of an allergic reaction, such as:

  • An increase in swelling elsewhere on the body
  • Trouble breathing
  • Hives

Dogs can be allergic to other things, too – just like people! If you notice that your dog has an allergic reaction to anything in your house, it’s essential to remove it as soon as possible.

dog keeps licking infected toe

Something Dropped on The Paw

Accidents happen all the time for humans, and they can happen just as easily with dogs. You may not see your dog next to you or ‘underneath’ you, making it easy to step on them accidentally.

Or, you may accidentally drop something heavy on them. If a heavy object goes down against their paw, you’ll deal with more than just a startled ‘yelp!’ You could do damage to your dog’s foot.

If the object that lands on the foot is very heavy, it can cause a fracture of the metacarpal bones. This fracture will cause a lot of swelling on the paws and will likely cause your dog to whine in pain and limp around.

To confirm that the bones have been fractured, a trip to the vet is necessary. Your dog may need to wear a cast until the fractured bone is fully healed.

Old Age

They may have a harder time getting around in general as they age. This is especially true for larger dogs who may be more prone to joint issues.

Some dogs can develop arthritis in their legs and feet. This can cause the paws to become swollen, inflamed, or even look deformed.

Your vet can prescribe certain anti-inflammatory drugs to dogs with arthritis. They are designed to help with the pain. But, one of the best things senior dogs can do is reset their feet.

Things like strollers or slings are great for keeping them with you and getting them outside for some fresh air while still allowing them to relax.


Pododermatitis is a term that refers to the inflammation of your dog’s skin. It typically occurs on or around the feet. It can be caused by bacterial infections, fungal infections like yeast, or certain parasites. A yeast infection also may cause your dogs nails and skin to darken.

Different medical and environmental conditions can also contribute. Things like cancer and thyroid problems can cause pododermatitis. Trauma to the foot or poor grooming can also add to the issue.

Aside from the paw being swollen and red, there are a few other symptoms to look for with pododermatitis. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Itchy dog paws
  • Pain
  • Discharge coming from the paws
  • Fluid build up
  • Lameness

If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, they may have pododermatitis. It’s a condition that can affect just about any breed of dog. But, some breeds seem to be more susceptible to the condition.

If you have any of the following breeds, it’s important to check their paws for problems regularly:

  • English Bulldog
  • Great Dane
  • German Shepherd
  • Dalmatian
  • Boxer
  • Dachshund
  • Basset Hound

A biopsy is usually needed on a piece of skin from the paw or paw pad. This will help your dog’s vet to determine the cause of the problem better. The symptoms may be treated first if they are causing your dog pain or irritation.

In most cases, though, your vet will prescribe antibiotics for a dog paw infection. Foot soaks, a change in diet, or even alternating between hot and cold packs can do the trick.

It’s important to keep your dog (and their feet) healthy at all times. By doing this, you can help to prevent pododermatitis from happening due to environmental factors.


Their risk for different types of cancer increases with age. Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over ten years old. Over 50% of dogs over the age of ten will get the disease. Cancer of the foot is no exception.

There are several different types of foot/toe cancer dogs can get. But, many of them have the same symptoms. Some of the signs to look out for aside from swelling and redness include:

  • Lameness
  • Loose toenail
  • Missing toenail
  • Weight loss/loss of appetite
  • Large lump on the foot or toes
  • Sores on the foot
Cyst on dog Paw Between Toes
Cyst on dog Paw Between Toes

Treatment is different for each type of cancer, but you must get an official diagnosis from a vet. In some cases, the area affected by the disease will need to be removed. Other times, chemotherapy or radiation are required, especially if cancer has spread.

Keep in mind that cancer moves quickly in dogs. Since it mostly affects older dogs, their life expectancy may not be lengthened that much, even with treatment. If you were able to find cancer early and it can be removed, your dog has a higher chance of making a recovery.

But, if cancer has spread and your dog goes through treatment, it may only extend their life by a few months, or up to a year.

Why Does My Dog Have Swollen Feet?

What Do I Do if an Object is Caught in My Dog’s Paw?

One possible reason for redness and swelling between your dog’s toes is an object that is stuck in the paw. A foreign object needs immediate action and care to be removed safely.

If it isn’t, your dog could start to bleed and be in acute pain. Follow these steps if you think your dog has an object stuck in their paw:

  • Check each paw for anything that might be stuck between the toes. If your dog is favoring one paw, be sure to look carefully. Things like glass can be harder to see.
  • Carefully check the paw pads as well.
  • If you can get to the object, you should remove it carefully using a pair of clean tweezers.
  • Wash your dog’s paw with warm, soapy water.

If your dog has an injury or you had to remove something from their paw, one great way to follow up treating it is with Epsom salts. You can create an Epsom salts foot soak for your pooch that will help to reduce swelling and provide some relief.

Follow this simple recipe for an effective Epsom salts foot soak for your dog:

  1. Fill a bowl or basin with 1 liter of warm water.
  2. Add two tablespoons of Epsom salts.
  3. Mix until the salt completely dissolves.
  4. Soak your dog’s paws in the water solution for several minutes.
  5. Pat your dog’s feet dry with a towel, making sure they are dry between the toes.
  6. Repeat daily for best results until the swelling is completely gone.

What Are the Best Home Remedies for a Swollen Paw?

Aside from an Epsom salts foot soak, there are a few things you can do to treat your dog’s swollen, red paw(s). Keep in mind that treatment should be different depending on the condition that caused the problem in the first place.

But, these simple home remedies can help to reduce the swelling and give your dog a bit more comfort if they are in pain.

Iodine Soak

You can create a different foot bath for your dog using iodine. Fill a basin with warm water and add a few drops of iodine. It should end up looking a bit like iced tea in color.

Put your dog’s feet in the solution for a few minutes, then dry the paws thoroughly. Dry each paw pad and between your dog’s toes. The iodine will help to reduce the swelling.

It will also help to get rid of any contaminants that might be lurking between your dog’s toes. This can help to reduce their chances of getting an infection.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Have you noticed a cheese-like smell coming from your dog’s paws, as well as swelling? The problem may be a yeast infection of the paw.

There are several ways to treat a yeast infection on your dog’s feet. But sprinkling them with diluted apple cider vinegar is an excellent way to get rid of the fungus, bad smell, and other symptoms.


If your dog is showing signs of itchiness along with their swollen, red paws, they might feel better if their paw pads are softer. A warm water soak can help with this.

You can also rub a small amount of Vaseline or petroleum jelly on each paw pad. But, make sure they don’t lick it off. You can cover their feet with a bandage or special ‘boots’ to make sure the Vaseline stays in place.

Cool Chamomile

Sometimes, the paws of a dog can become red and inflamed due to burns or abrasions from hot asphalt, or even walking too much.

You can soothe the swelling and the pain by soaking their feet in cool water. To bump up the relief, add a few pouches of chamomile tea to the soaking liquid.

Chamomile Tea to sooth irritated dog paw
Chamomile Tea to Sooth Irritated Dog Paw

It will help to cool off the burning sensation on your dog’s feet. It will also help to bring down the swelling and get rid of redness. If there is discharge coming from your dog’s paws, it’s important to see a vet right away.


Sometimes, dogs’ feet swell up simply because they’ve been over-exerted. As stated above, too much exercise can be the cause of swollen, red paws. One of the best ‘treatments’ for this is rest.

It can be hard to get a dog to stay in one place for long. But, encourage rest and relaxation for them and avoid walks for awhile. If you need to put them in a crate to make sure they don’t run around, try it for at least a few hours. This will give the swelling time to go down.

What can you give a dog for pain and swelling?

Can Swollen Paws be Prevented?

Because there are so many factors that can cause your dog to get a swollen, red paw, it’s not always possible to prevent it from happening.

But, there are a few things you can do to lower your dog’s risk and keep their feet healthy at all times:

  • Always keep your dog’s nails trimmed. This will help to prevent them from catching or snagging on anything and pulling.
  • If your dog has a lot of fur between their toes, keep it trimmed. It’s easy for debris to get caught in this fur and dig into your dog’s feet.
  • Practice good hygiene with your pooch’s paws! Keep them as clean as possible and always keep them dry to help prevent fungal growth.
  • Give your dog’s paws regular checks, especially after they’ve been walking around outside or playing. This will make it easy to find any objects that might be stuck or any bites or stings that may have occurred.
  • If you notice your dog engaging in excessive paw licking behavior, then it is time to do a paw inspection

As you can see, it isn’t difficult to make sure your dog’s feet stay healthy. With just a few minutes each day, you can reduce the risk of something serious affecting their feet.

Even if they do develop a medical condition, checking their paws regularly can give you the opportunity to catch it early on. When it comes to infections or things like cancer, finding it early usually means it can be treated faster.

What Should I Do if My Dog Has a Swollen, Red Paw?

The best thing you can do if your dog is having problems with their paws is to try and determine the cause.

If it’s something obvious like an object, take the time to remove it and treat the area. But, if you see the symptoms of an infection or medical condition, it’s essential to get it checked out quickly.

Caring for injured dog paw
Get Your Dog to a Vet for treatment if the Injury or Redness is severe.

It can be a scary thing to see your dog in pain or notice that their paw is swollen, itchy, and red. Don’t panic! Instead, follow some of the guidelines listed in this guide to give you a better idea of what might be going on.

Once you recognize some symptoms, you can take the right steps in treating the problem. That might mean treating it yourself at home or taking your dog to the vet for professional treatment.