All You Need To Know About Cracked Paw Pads

Nobody likes to see cracked, ashy, painful-looking paw pads. They can be unsightly at best, and uncomfortable and painful for your dog at their worst.

Let's look at some of the reasons for cracked paw pads, as well as some steps you can take to treat the damage and minimize the risk of it happening again.

cracked paw pad

Should I Be Worried About Cracked Dog Paws?

Paw pads are like the heel skin on human feet, they’re naturally going to be a bit more tough and leathery than the rest of your dog’s paws. Dry paw pads may happen from time to time, and pass with little impact on your dog’s health.

However, chronic cracked dog paws, or dog paws that are severely damaged, are not normal and indicate that your dog has injured or damaged their paws significantly.

Dog paw pads also have a high turnover of cells, given the daily wear and tear, so certain health conditions or deficiencies might be noticeable on the feet first. Keeping a careful eye on your dog’s paw pads may let you know that there is a deeper issue.

Paw pads are made up of a collection of adipose, keratin, fibrous tissue, and collagen. Though they are tough, a dog can still feel what happens on their paw pads.

Common Trauma Causes of Cracked Paws

Most cases of cracked paw pads come from trauma, this means that an outside force has either injured or damaged the paw pads in some way. This can either be from a single event, or from continuous exposure to something damaging.

The most common causes of cracked dog paws are burns, chemicals, allergies, cold weather, and self-inflicted irritation. 

Dogs moving under cold weather wearing Sparkpaws Hoodie


Dog paws are slightly resistant to heat, compared to human feet, but they can still be easily susceptible to burns

Oftentimes, a dog’s paw pads will become burnt because the dog was allowed to walk on hot pavement or sand. Even on seemingly cool days, pavements can easily heat up to a temperature that is dangerous for dog paws.

Dog paws can burn in less than sixty seconds on hot pavement, which in severe cases can lead to the paw pads turning red, blistering, or developing ulcers. Even mild first-degree burns can irritate the paws to the point of cracking, especially as they try to heal.

You should be able to press your hand onto the surface and comfortably keep it there for around ten seconds. If it becomes unbearable before that time, then it's too hot for your dog’s paws.

Sometimes burns can also happen from accidents, such as a dog standing too close to a fire, pawing at the grate of a heater, or stepping on a hot coal or cinder.

Dr. Lauren Jones, VMD, says “The length of time a paw pad burn will last depends on the dog and the extent of their injuries. Mild injuries may heal within 7-10 days, while severe burns and pad sloughing may require weeks to completely heal.”[1]

She urges that burns be wrapped in bandages throughout this time since dog paws are easily susceptible to infection. A vet may also recommend a topical antibiotic to prevent this outcome.


Strong acid and alkali chemicals can cause burns and irritation that result in cracked paws. Normally, this is from chemicals that have been laid out on the ground that a dog may walk on, such as paint thinners or gasoline.

Sometimes, strong chemicals that have been used to clean out a dog’s area, such as their kennel or where they use the bathroom, and residue can remain. This is especially true of bleach chemicals or strong cleaners. It's unlikely to cause severe burns but may irritate your dog’s paws and cause them to chafe. 

Always make sure your chemicals are as pet-safe as possible, and that the area has been thoroughly rinsed. This kind of burn may be especially dangerous, as a dog may lick their cracked paws and end up ingesting some of these chemicals.

Dogs can also come into contact with antifreeze chemicals and salt when walking around in the winter. Even melted puddles may contain traces of these chemicals.

The way to soothe cracked dog paws that have been caused by chemicals is pretty much the same as burns, but prevention is often better than a cure. This is why it's important to rinse areas thoroughly or make sure your dog is protected during winter conditions where chemicals may be in use. 

A dog wearing Sparkpaws Water Resistant Dog Boots during cold weather



Allergies can also cause cracked dog paws. Certain contact allergies, such as grass allergies, can cause rashes or itching.

While the allergy itself may not cause cracked dog paws, a dog with itchy paws may continuously lick or bite at its paws and cause them to crack.

Cold Weather

Many homes are heated with indoor heating systems during cold weather. This can cause a warm, dry environment with little humidity. This can cause dry paw pads and noses, which can lead to them becoming chapped or cracked.

In this instance, it may be useful to put a dog-safe, non-toxic balm onto the paws or nose to act as a moisture barrier.

You could buy a dog-safe balm, but you could also create your own. The American Kennel Club recommends using dog-safe ingredients such as beeswax, shea butter, or coconut oils to treat cracked dog paws while avoiding things such as essential oils or cocoa. The paws will probably need to be enrobed in a sock or bound up to prevent an oily mess (Or an unexpected tasty treat for the dog). [3]

However, they also say that wiping the dog’s feet after coming in and keeping their paw-fur-trimmed mat also be effective in keeping them protected.

dog’s feet

Self-Inflicted Irritation

Not all cracked dog paws are from an environmental factor. Sometimes stressed-out or nervous dogs may begin to lick or bite at their paws as a means to soothe themselves. Like with allergies, their rough tongues and saliva may lead to cracked paws.

If you’ve eliminated the possibility of injury, try thinking back to when the licking started, or when you noticed the cracked paws. Sometimes events such as moving, a new baby, a new dog, or separation anxiety can trigger compulsive licking. 

It may pass in time, otherwise, you may have to try and find a way to calm your dog’s anxiety. If you are struggling, try talking to your vet about ways to help your dog feel more calm and secure.

For instance, you can try Sparkpaws Anxiety Calming Earmuff Protector

Older dogs, or dogs that have mobility issues, may also drag their feet along the ground and suffer from friction burns. Puppies and indoor dogs who aren’t used to running on concrete or other rough surfaces may also suffer from friction burns when they do encounter these surfaces.

Non-Traumatic Causes of Cracked Dog Paws


Hyperkeratosis occurs when your dog produces too much keratin, since paw pads are also made of keratin it can cause big dry welts that can crack and cause problems.

There are many causes of hyperkeratosis, such as allergies, autoimmune diseases, genetic predisposition, or certain medications.

Most hyperkeratosis care revolves around reducing the symptoms and the discomfort they cause. You will need to talk to a qualified vet about trimming keratin overgrowths and possibly getting a prescription for specific ointments used to treat the condition.


Your dog’s cracked paws can sometimes be a symptom of nutritional deficiencies or dehydration. 

The most common deficiency that causes dry paws is zinc deficiency. It can also cause slow wound healing, recurrent infections, and hair loss. If you notice these other symptoms along with the dry dog paws, then your vet may be able to provide you with a dog-safe supplement.

A diet full of beef, lamb, spinach, and whole grains may also provide your dog with a natural source of zinc.

Occasionally, a dog may have a natural deficiency after an illness or operation, they will probably recover with a good well-balanced diet. 

A dog lying on bed wearing Sparkpaws Velvet Dog Hoodie


Preventing Injury

Most dogs will probably suffer from some form of cracked or dry paws at some point in their lives. You can try to avoid non-traumatic paw damage by ensuring your dog has a healthy, well-balanced diet, or by doing genetic testing for hyperkeratosis.

Traumatic paw injuries can normally be avoided by keeping your dog out of areas that may have dangerous elements on the ground. Keep their paws well groomed, as long fur may trap irritants and allergies to make things worse.

You can also keep your dog safe from heat, chemicals, and allergens by ensuring your dog has access to well-fitting shoes or boots that will keep them away from irritants.


Most non-traumatic causes of cracked or rough dog paws come from either hyperkeratosis or a deficiency in the dog’s diet. The most common culprit is zinc deficiency. Assuring they’re properly hydrated and have oils in their diet may also help.

Trauma-induced paw damage normally comes from burns, which can be caused by either hot surfaces or friction burns, chemical irritants, cold weather, and heating, allergies, or from continuous nervous licking.

You may apply paw balm to chapped paws using dog-safe ingredients like coconut oil or beeswax, as well as any vet-approved topical ointments. However, prevention is normally the best option.

You may opt for making your dog wear a sock at home for nervous licking, and choose to wear shoes or boots if walking in hot or freezing weather, or somewhere your dog has encountered an allergen before.

If you are interested in checking out dog shoes as a safety option, consider checking out Sparkpaws’ Shoes and Boots Collection, for a number of stylish, comfortable, and above all, safe options for your walking needs.

Happy Walking!

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