Dogs get blisters on the paws for similar reasons people do. Just as in people, blisters on dog paws appear as a raised portion of skin that is filled with fluid. Veterinarian Dr. Ivana shares various causes of blisters in dogs and how they are normally treated. If your dog has blisters, please see your vet for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Yes, Dogs Get Blisters Too!
Remember the last time you were wearing uncomfortable shoes and ended up having blisters on your feet? Blisters are a much more common problem than you might think.
We have all had blisters at least once, but what about our canine friends? Do these uncomfortable and fluid-filled bubbles appear in dogs too? And why would they appear? After all, it is not like dogs wear uncomfortable shoes!
Well, here's a fact: blisters develop in dogs too. Although dogs do not wear uncomfortable shoes, there are several underlying reasons that can cause blisters.
So let's take a closer look at what blisters are, what causes blisters on the dogs’ paws and how can they be treated and prevented.
Appearance of Blisters on a Dog's Paws
A blister is a fluid-filled bubble that forms on the skin’s surface. The type of fluid is what determines the blister and differentiates it from other skin lesions. Namely, for a skin lesion to be classified as a blister, its fluid content should be a clear serum. Blisters filled with pus are called pustules.
Blisters form when the topmost skin cells layer separates from the deeper layers and lifts away. The separation leads to the formation of empty space. Whenever there is an unnatural gap formation, the body tries to fill in the gap. In this case, the body responds by allowing the serum to seep into the dead space.
The blisters are usually round or oval in shape. As for size, they come in a variety of different sizes. However, if a dog has blisters on its paws ,when looking at the affected area, you are more likely to see many tiny blisters rather than one large one.
This is because dogs rub their paws and cause the mature blisters to pop, leaving an empty crater in the skin, called an ulcer.
Causes of Blisters on Dog Paws
When it comes to dogs, there are several reasons why a dog's paws may become inflicted with blisters. Following are several causes of blisters on dog paws.
- Walking on hot pavement. If the pavement is too hot for your bare foot, it is too hot for your dog’s paws too. Keep in mind that cement and tarmac are much hotter than the ambient temperature. For example, if the ambient temperature is 91 degrees, the concrete will be 124 degrees and the tarmac will be over 140 degrees.
- Walking on surfaces treated with certain chemicals – de-icing chemicals like the old-fashioned rock salt and calcium-based salts are irritating on the skin and likely to cause paw blisters in dogs.
- Bacterial over-colonization
- Autoimmune conditions
- Bullous pemphigoid.
The first two causes of blisters on dog paws, that is, hot and chemically treated surfaces happen to be the most common and generally simple to treat and prevent.
The other causes are, in fact, more systemic conditions that trigger an array of signs and symptoms. In those cases, the blisters are minor signs of some serious underlying problems.
Treating Paw Blisters in Dogs
If your dog has paw blisters, just wash the paws with antibacterial soap and cover the affected area with a bandage. The bandage will offer protection until the skin layers under the blister heal.
No matter how tempting it seems (and I know it is tempting), never pop your dog’s blisters. Premature popping will expose the underdeveloped skin layer under the blister to external insults, which can increase the risk for infections.
If the blister becomes infected or part of the pad beneath the blister becomes loose, visit your vet’s office. In the first scenario, the vet will flush the infected paw, treat it locally and apply a protective bandage. The vet will also prescribe oral antibiotics. In the second scenario, the vet will trim off the loose part.
Now That You Know...
Now that your know why dogs get blisters on their paws, it's time to steps to avoid them. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Generally speaking, there are two main ways of preventing paw blisters in dogs: Being extra cautious and investing in a nice pair of doggy boots.
Be Extra Cautious
The best way of preventing problems is to expect them. To avoid paw issues, you should inspect your dog’s pads, preferably after each walk.
You should also observe and notice changes in your dog’s behavior. Excessive itching or licking of the paws is a good sign something wrong is going on.
If it is too hot, avoid walking your dog on hot pavement. Instead, look for greener, grassy surfaces since these are much cooler.
If it is cold and there are chemicals on the ground, apply Vaseline or another protective cream over your dog’s paws before leaving the house and wash them with lukewarm water and antibacterial soap after the walk.
Finally, it would help if you practiced frequent walks and gradually increase the length of each walk. The pads on your dog’s feet are strong, but they need to get used and adapt to certain surfaces to form calluses and become more resilient.
Avoiding walks when it is cold, and then suddenly going out on long walks when it is hot, is a mistake. That way, the paws are not prepared for the hot surface and can quickly develop blisters.
On the other hand, if the dog is walked all year round, its paws will slowly and gradually adapt and develop protective calluses.
Invest in a Pair of Doggie Boots
Shoe shopping for your dog is not as fun as it may sound. This is because each paw may need a different shoe number. Therefore, do not consider going shoe shopping alone – your dog needs to be with you, and each paw needs to be well-fitted before deciding to make the purchase.
Finding the right fit can be challenging – the boot should be loose enough not to impair the circulation, yet tight enough not to fall off. On top of this, the booties must fit below the dewclaw. If they cover the dewclaw or irritate it, they may cause dewclaw inflammation.
Inadequately sized booties and booties that inflame the dog's dewclaws, instead of preventing injuries, may actually cause them and result in limping. So a good fit is very important!
Luckily, the modern market offers a variety of boots for dogs, and there is a perfect fit for every dog, or better said, for every foot – you just need to be patient and try on several, before finding the right one.
Finally, once you bought the boots, you need to teach your dog to wear them. It may take some time for your dog to get used to wearing boots, but everything is possible with practice and persistence.
Just like in humans, blisters in dogs are a common problem. More often than not, these uncomfortable and fluid-filled bubbles are self-limiting and tend to resolve on their own. However, if they persist or your dog shows additional signs and symptoms, it is advisable to schedule a vet’s office visit.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.