It can be a shock to discover that the skin from one of your dog’s paw pads is hanging. Particularly if you are squeamish. Particularly if the open wound is quite deep. But now that it has been identified, you are probably wondering how it happened and what to do about it. Besides, you not only want to help support your dog’s recovery, but you; want t ensure it doesn’t happen again. So let’s delve into everything you are going to need to know, consider and do in response to this unfortunate discovery.
So, what should you do about a dog paw pad with hanging skin? You will need to check the paw pad to see how deep the wound is. You can probably clean it yourself without going to the vet if there is no blood or pus. However, if you see blood, or are in doubt, get your dog to the vet.
Now, if you’re like me, you are probably wondering whether the paw pad skin can heal on its own. And if it can, how long it can take? And then what you need to do in the interim.
We’ll get onto this shortly and other responses.
But first, let’s look at how this potential occurred, shall we?
Reasons Why A Dog Paw Pad Skin May Start Hanging
There are many reasons why your dog’s paw pad skin can start hanging. Injuries, insect bites, allergies, infections, weather damage, and diseases are all possible causes of hanging paw pad skin. Sometimes obsessive licking is to blame.
Physical injuries or trauma such as abrasions, cuts, and tears can cause your dog’s paw pad skin to hang.
Sometimes, dogs will cut their paw pads just from their everyday romps: it’s essential to keep sharp objects away from your dog.
Some parks and other public spaces have sharp objects, such as broken glass, so it’s always worth being vigilant on your daily walks.
A good general rule is that if you wouldn’t be happy walking barefoot on a given surface, it’s probably not suitable for your dog, either.
Check your dog’s paw pads when you get back from your walk.
It only takes a minute, but spotting tiny irritations like thorns, pebbles, or gravel can help prevent swelling, pain, and torn skin.
The sooner these objects are removed, the less chance they have of becoming deeply embedded in your dog’s paws.
Even daily walks on pavement or rocky soil can cause damage over time to your dog’s paw pads.
Insects like bees, wasps, and ticks can make holes in your dog’s paw pad.
When your dog licks the area, bacteria get into the skin, potentially leading to infections and other problems.
Common signs of an insect bite include:
- Redness around the bite
- Skin is hot to the touch
- Your dog suddenly howls or starts itching at the site
Fungal or bacterial infections can cause itching, swelling, and redness in your dog’s paw pad. A dog will often lick and chew his paw pad in an effort to make it better.
Unfortunately, if left untreated, the skin of your dog’s paw pad can hang, and his feet become cracked. Other wounds can happen, too.
If your dog’s nails have become ingrown, they can easily become infected and fill with pus.
Your dog’s nail beds can also have infections (or injuries) that can spread to your dog’s paw pad skin, sometimes causing it to hang off.
If your dog has an allergy to something in his environment (such as pollen or grass), his skin and paw pads can become itchy.
Your dog will start licking his pads to relieve the itching and potentially cause damage.
A Disease or Other Medical Condition
Some diseases or other medical conditions can cause your dog’s skin and paw pads to itch and lead to other paw pad problems.
Examples of these diseases and conditions are:
- Pemphigus (an autoimmune disease).
- Liver disease (affecting your dog’s body’s ability to regenerate cells).
- A zinc deficiency (causing dry paw pads).
- An endocrine disorder (a hormone imbalance that makes it hard to regulate skin production).
Damage From Cold Weather
If it’s cold outside for you, it’s cold outside for your dog – and his paw pads are sensitive to ground temperature.
When it’s very cold, dogs can get frostbite not only on their paws (and paw pads), but on their ears, tails, and genitalia.
Ice melt is another problem for dogs – and not only for their paws (most products are highly poisonous for animals, plants, and people!).
Most ice melts contain a mixture of potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, urea (carbonyl diamide), calcium chloride, and sodium chloride (rock salt).
If your dog gets ice melt on his paws, it can cause burning, cracking, and skin hanging off.
Worse, if your dog licks his paws (as he usually would), he can ingest the ice melt and suffer potentially severe consequences.
Blisters, Burns, or Dryness
His paw pads can easily get blisters or burns when your dog walks on hot pavement or sand.
These injuries can lead to some of his paw pad skin hanging off and other injuries or infections.
The skin can crack and peel if your dog’s paw pads become too dry.
Paw pads can collect debris like dust, leading to potentially serious injuries or infections. Very dry paw pads can even start peeling off altogether.
Obsessive licking can easily cause the skin in your dog’s paw pads to hang off or peel and is also referred to as acral lick dermatitis or lick granuloma.
Obsessive licking can be caused by:
- Stress or anxiety.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
- Severe anxiety (separation anxiety).
Will My Dog’s Paw Pad Heal On Its Own?
When Your Dog’s Paw Pad May Heal By Itself
If you don’t see any blood or pus, your dog’s paw pad can heal independently, provided you keep it clean and dry.
The time it takes for your dog’s paw pad to heal depends on how deep the wound is.
Your dog needs healthy blood and hormones to ensure his paw pads have the nutrients needed to regenerate the skin cells there.
Although your dog’s paw pads could heal independently, most vets will recommend a visit to ensure no infections or other underlying issues.
Read more: Do Dogs Paw Pads Grow Back?
When You May Need Veterinary Assistance
If your dog’s paw pad takes longer than three weeks to heal, you know there’s a problem.
If your dog is ill, the condition of his paw pads can tell you fairly quickly.
Here are some signs your dog’s paw pad skin is unlikely to heal on its own and may require veterinary assistance:
- Blistered, inflamed, or raw paws.
- Refusing to walk.
- Deep, loose, flapping bits of paw pad skin.
- Sudden obsessive chewing or licking of paws.
- Bleeding (that can’t be controlled in five minutes).
- Foreign objects in paw pads.
- Pus discharge.
- Punctures or lacerations.
- Damaged nail bed or cracked nails.
What To Do If Your Dog’s Paw Pad Skin Is Hanging Off
The steps to help your dog with his paw pad skin depend on the cause of the problem.
If It’s a Bacterial or Fungal Infection
You will need to get your dog to the vet so that they can determine what type of infection your dog has (from bacteria, parasites, or fungi) and what treatment is best.
Your vet will most likely take skin scrapes and fluid samples of your dog’s skin (cytology) to determine if mites (Demodex) or yeast (Malassezia) are present.
If Your Dog Has a Physical Injury
Here’s what to do for a simple physical injury (a torn pad without blood present):
- Wash the wound with warm water.
- Leave it open to allow it to dry.
- Wrap your dog’s paw in cloth, securing the cloth with sturdy tape.
Note: If the hanging skin is very thick and you can see a deep wound beneath, it will take longer to heal.
A word of caution: If you see any blood, take your dog to the vet.
In the Case of Blisters, Burns, or Dryness
If it’s a slight burn, you can apply an anti-bacterial wash and cover your dog’s paw with a bandage until his paw pad has healed.
For more severe burns or blisters, your vet will need to clean away the area and check for any infection.
For very dry paws, if your vet has determined the cause isn’t medical (e.g., hot weather), you may be able to apply a dog-specific moisturizer or cream.
If the cause is medical (e.g., dermatitis or similar), your vet will prescribe treatment, usually including medication of some kind.
For Insect Bites
Check the site to make sure the insect hasn’t left a stinger. If you do find a stinger, don’t remove it with tweezers (this can inject more venom into your dog).
Use the edge of a credit card to work the stinger toward the surface until you can gently pull it out.
You can use an ice pack to help with the pain, but if there is skin hanging from your dog’s paw pad or if it’s your dog’s first insect bite, take him to the vet to make sure there is no infection.
You can’t always keep your dog away from bees or wasps, but using flea and tick preventative medicine can help eliminate at least some potential problems.
For Environmental Allergies
If your dog is allergic to pollen, do your best to keep him away from it (e.g., keeping him inside while you mow the lawn).
Your vet may be able to prescribe medications that can help with allergy symptoms. Environmental allergens are most common during fall, spring, and summer.
If It’s a Disease or Another Medical Condition
In these cases, a vet visit is the clear first step. Your vet will do a complete physical exam, usually including blood work, to determine the underlying cause of the problem.
Once you get help in managing the condition or disease, the licking will go away, and your dog’s paw pads can heal (often with help).
If It’s Obsessive Licking
For obsessive licking, you need to address the underlying problem while taking steps to help the paw pads heal.
Stress or Anxiety
If your dog suffers from stress, exercise (physical and mental) can go a long way toward helping him feel better.
For anxiety, remove the source if you can (e.g., a loud environment).
Spend quality time with your dog, and consider calling your vet for suggestions on how to help your dog feel more secure.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
These dogs often have other underlying behavioral problems, such as anxiety.
You can start with the above suggestions to help the anxiety, but you might need help from a specialist trainer to curb obsessive tendencies.
Your vet may also prescribe medication in severe cases.
Keep your dog occupied, even when you aren’t home.
A special toy like a Kong ball filled with peanut butter or similar can keep your dog happily occupied – only give him this toy to use during your absence.
If you are out for long periods, consider getting a family member, friend, or dog sitter to come and spend time with your dog each day.
Doggy daycare is another popular option that enables your dog to make new friends and be happily worn out when you return.
Make sure your dog gets plenty of mental stimulation. Dogs are intelligent animals, and they enjoy exploring and learning.
Severe Anxiety (Separation Anxiety)
If you suspect your dog has separation anxiety, consult your vet or an animal behaviorist for help.
Relieving a dog’s separation anxiety can be long, depending on the cause.
Damage Caused by Cold Weather
If cold weather damage causes your dog to lick his paws excessively and his paw pads are cracked, soaking his paw in Epsom salts can help draw out any dirt and possibly an infection.
If the damage is severe, however, a vet visit is essential.
For prevention, if you must use something to help with ice in wintertime, use pet-friendly options like sand, kitty litter, or coffee grounds. You can even use pickle or cheese brine!
How Long Does It Take for Hanging Paw Pad Skin to Heal?
It can take the skin anywhere from a few days to three weeks for hanging paw pad skin to heal. Ultimately, the time it takes for your dog’s paw pad to heal depends on how deep the wound is.
The skin on your dog’s paw pads is quite tough: it’s made of keratinized epithelium.
If your dog is healthy, his skin can grow new cells quickly.
The skin on your dog’s paw pads is constantly in contact with the ground: therefore, the turnover rate of these skin cells is fairly high.
Provided your dog only has a loose pad flap with no other obvious injury or problem, you can wait for it to come off on its own.
Some people opt to ask their vet to trim it off.
The most important thing to remember as you wait for your dog’s paw pad flap to come off is to keep the area clean and dry at all times.
As you can see, there are a plethora of reasons why skin can hang from a dogs paw pad.
It can range from something quite unfortunate, like an insect bite/sting, or be the result of something much more severe.
There could be a very minor wound, or a very deep wound.
So, unless you know for sure the underlying cause and can appropriately disinfect the wound, your best bet is likely to take your dog to a vet.
Let them assess your dog and take care of the recovery – by providing you with the treatment options, timelines and the right approach – for your dog, and your unique context.
Other paw-related guides you may want to check out:
- Dogs Front Paws Turn Inward [Why & What To Do]
- Why Does My Puppy Bite His Paws? [Should You Stop Them?]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.