Dog Paws Cracking | Why It Happens And What To Do

Why do our dogs paws crack and what should we do about it?  More times than not, it all starts with an outdoor play date in the backyard in the middle of winter.  Imagine the dogs running and playing in the snow in the backyard.

dog paws cracking
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Our dogs always loved to play in the snow.  It didn’t matter if the snow was so deep that it was taller than they were, they plowed right through it like it was nothing.  I was always amazed that they could really didn’t care if it was cold, blowing or just mounds of snow, nothing would stop the fun.

All of a sudden, someone spots the first sign of bloody paw prints in the snow.  Although this is not something that dog owners aren’t used to seeing, but still it is not a good situation.  The blood of course means that one of the dogs paws cracked and is bleeding in the snow.


Why do dogs have paw pads, and what exactly is their purpose.  A paw pad is actually a layer of pigmented tissue skin that can either be pink in color or black.  This skin covers the fatty tissue underneath.  Fat like in most cases acts as a type of insulation.

The anatomy of the dog paw is actually made up of 5 different components:

  1. Claws – nails
  2. Digital Pads – shock absorbers
  3. Metacarpad Pad – shock absorbers
  4. Declaw – thumbs
  5. Carpal – act like a brake for slippery and steep slopes

Along with these 5 components, our dog paws also have bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, blood supply and connective tissue.

A dogs paw pads are designed to help protect our dogs joints by acting as a cushion or shock absorber.  They help with the pressure that is put on their paws simply from standing on them, just like our feet do for us.

We all know that a dog actually sweats out through their paws.  The inner layer of the skin actually has sweat glands that convey perspiration to the outer layer of skin.  This helps keep our dogs cool.  Naturally this process helps stop our dogs paw pads from getting dry.

Even when our dogs get nervous or excited, their paws get sweaty, just like ours do.

Reasons paws crack

There are many reasons that our dogs paws can crack and bleed.  Let’s go through the list of some of the most common things that can cause this:

  • Snow and ice
  • Contact irritation
  • Allergies
  • Zinc deficiencies
  • Excessive wear and tear
  • Old age Hyperkeratosis
  • Excessive paw licking

Each of these issues can definitely cause our dogs pads to crack.  Snow and ice for example creates problems due to the roughness of the snow or ice itself.  Ice can be extremely sharp and can actually cause cuts to the paw pads much easier than you think.

Contact irritation is something that happens if our dog walks or steps on a surface that has things like chemicals from cleaning, ice melt for icy surfaces, salt used in winter and even things like lawn chemicals.  All of these items can easily transfer to our dogs pads which may lead to them chewing or excessively licking them.  Any time a dog starts focusing on an area, things like cracking can happen quickly.  This can even happen if our dog develops and allergy to something in their food, as this can lead them to have itchy paws.  Once again that itchy feeling will lead to chewing or excessive licking and than cracking paws.

Just like in our bodies, dogs can develop deficiencies in their body.  One of these can be a zinc deficiency that can lead to dry skin issues.  This type of issue can be breed related, as some breeds like Poodles, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Huskies and even Beagles are more prone to this issue.

Senior dogs can develop something called Hyperkeratosis which is an overproduction of keratin, similar to when humans get corns on their feet.  This will cause our dog paws to crack simply from being so dry.

We all have had those days when our feet are sore and aching from being on them the entire day.  It doesn’t take long to start to develop calluses, blisters and even dry cracking feet.  Our dogs feet are no different.  Anytime our dog go through an excessive amount of walking on hot surfaces, cold surfaces, hunting dogs that run through rough terrain, any of these events can amount to wear and tear on their paws.

One of the last factors that we need to watch for that can cause cracking pads is from a dog that is an excessive licker. Some dogs lick more than others.  If this is your dog, than you know what I mean about excessive licking.  When a dog continually focusing on one specific area the licking puts liquid or saliva on their feet.  The wetness this creates actually has the opposite effect to the paw, by drying out the pad.

Yes it sounds strange, but think about what you do when your lips feel dry…..we constantly lick them, which in turn makes them more raw and red leading to chapped lips.  The same thing happens when a dog licks their paw.

dog paws

What to do

When it comes to figuring out what is the best thing to do for your dogs cracked paws, it can depend on the underlying cause of the problem.  There are mild cracks, and there are cracks that go deep causing the paw to bleed. The more severe cracks can cause your dog to limp, so you need to address these issues right away.

Aggressively treating the severe cracks is to first clean the blood of the paw gently with a warm rag. Cleaning the wound is always the most important first step.  Once you have cleaned it all up, than you will want to apply something like Vaseline, Neosporn, or by choosing from an array of dog balms.  Then after you have it all ready, I recommend trying to wrap the wound.  You could put an old sock on their paw, wrap gauze with tape or even a tensor bandage.

Dog Paws cracking paw balm Screenshot

Most importantly you need to keep your dog away from chewing, pulling or trying to remove the wrapping. Continue to check and treat the crack with the balm daily.  Your dog also needs to rest and stay off of it if they can.  That can be tough to do, but what you can do is limit any outside extra walking.  Usually as the wound heals, you will also see how your dogs movement starts to improve.  Their indicators they give us are important to follow.  It tells us how they are feeling with the injury.

When we have just light cracking or dryness on their paw pads, than just be sure to keep their paws clean of any debris.  They can get things stuck on their paws when they come from outside to back inside.  Using a dog paw washer is really the easiest way to achieve this. Once clean apply a dog paw balm or Vaseline to the dry areas.  Rub it in well and check on them daily.

Paw pads do heal quickly, so sometimes the cracks will just heal on their own.  Again it all depends on the severity of the cracks or dryness.


Sometimes I think we forget the beatings that our dogs paws take throughout their life.  A lot is asked from our dogs paws on a daily basis.  The best way to keep our dogs paws healthy, is to be proactive about it.

What I mean by that is, there are little things we do can that will make a huge difference.  For example, when planning our outings with our dog, it is important to think about what kind of terrain we are asking our dog to tackle that day.

A day of walking in the winter, might now include dog winter boots for your dog.  If it is a tough day of hunting, make sure throughout the day to check your dogs paws.  See if there are any cuts, scrapes, or anything developing. Apply a dog paw balm before you go out as a protective barrier and adding moisture to your dogs skin.

Dog paws cracking - Balm screenshot

Remember when you are introducing your dog to a new excursion, that you do so slowly.  Don’t decide one day to go on a hike for half a day, when you haven’t done any exercise in a while.  Just like us, our dogs need us to do things in small increments to start.  Their pads need time to toughen up in order to protect them.  Injuries can be created from the changing environments and rough surfaces to quickly.

Making sure that we don’t introduce any type of chemicals in our house cleaning and yard maintenance can easily assure us that we are not the cause of our dog paws cracking.  Using any of these products could cause our dogs paws to become dry.

My finale thoughts are for the dog owner with the excessive licker.  Our boy BOO, at times, was guilty of licking a lot. Sometimes that licking would be on his paws.  As I mentioned early, we don’t want our dogs licking to cause their paws to become dry and crack.

holding dog paw

For us, we were committed to stopping that bad habit, just to make sure he didn’t cause issues to his paws.  We both agreed to distract him every time we would catch him focusing to much on his paws.  The constant correction did stop him from doing it eventually.

Now sometimes our dogs just won’t leave things alone, than we are of course forced to be dramatic with putting on the dreaded cone.  Yes we do need to be the bad guy.  Ultimately though, we do these things to let their wounds heal, so a few days of sad dog face is worth it.

With most things that we end up talking about when it comes to our dogs is that we are the responsible party here. Pay attention to your dog and more importantly their paws.  Regular checking of your dogs paws can nip any issue early enough to avoid a bigger problem from developing.

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17 thoughts on “Dog Paws Cracking | Why It Happens And What To Do”

  1. Hi there. This is such an informative and well written post! Your passion for dogs really shows and you provided a ton of helpful information! While I’ve never had a dog myself, if I ever get one in the future, I’ll be sure to check out your site for everything that I need!

  2. I am sure this is a really painful condition for your pooch and remedying it as quickly as possible is key. I never thought that something so simple like playing in the snow could cause this condition.

    It doesn’t snow here, but our dog also had a cracked paw last year and it was limping and crying. We took it to the vet and he bandaged it up and gave us some ointment to try. He kept chewing the bandage off and licking at his paws which made it worse. I remember that it took quite a long time to heal.

    Thanks for a most informative article, and I will make a note of these recommendations for the next time that it happens.

    • Hi Michel,

      You are so right that cracking dog paws can be a very painful condition for our dogs to have to suffer through.  I believe in doing everything that we can to ensure that they aren’t in any pain or discomfort. 

      Dogs can be the absolute worst patients of all.  Anytime they have an injury, they just don’t want to leave it alone. It is almost a full time job at that point until they are healed.  Sorry to hear that your pooch had to deal with this tough condition. I am glad to hear that your dog is all healed up and good.

      Thank you so much for the interactive comments, I love to hear from fellow dog people.



  3. Hey, I found there are many reasons that our dogs paws can crack and bleed. Excessive wear and tear, allergies, snow and ice etc. I know from your post that Senior dogs can develop something called Hyperkeratosis which is an overproduction of keratin, similar to when humans get corns on their feet. With most things that we end up talking about when it comes to our dogs is that we are the responsible party here.

    • Hi Parveen,

      You are so completely right about us as dog owners being the responsibility party.  Our dogs rely on us for almost everything in their life.

      Yes you are so right, that Senior dogs can suffer from Hyperkeratosis, but it is easily treatable.

      Thank you for your thoughts on my post.


  4. i thought cracked paws was actually an age issue or a dehydration issue as one of my dogs suffered with it but the other never has done. If I was to use the cream suggested, would it have to be applied until its soaked in? If not I would be concerned about slippage which my harm my dog or even getting grease on the floor. 

    The main issue I tend to have is with my dogs claws getting long and almost curling under the paw itself

    • Hi Dave,

      Thank you for comments.  In response to your question, just like when we add lotion to our hands and feet, we want to make sure that we rub it in very well before walking on it.

      Keeping dog paws clipped, keeping them short is something that is best to try and stay on top of.  If we let them get to long, they can actually cause pain and making hard for your dog to walk.

      Even between grooming appointments we used to always have to get our boy FINN’s at least one more time.  Yes it was a complete pain and expense, but it made him feel better.



  5. Yeah, it is true, my dog do to.
    It make me sad whenever my dog sustains one injury or the other.
    I feel like it happened to me, Lincoln is the dirty type, he likes snow like nobody does.
    I could recall some years back when he was still a puppy, he got hit by a neighbour’s car. I thought that was the end but he survived it.
    Ever since then I said to myself if I don’t kill Lincoln myself then no one will.

  6. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. I have a pet at home and issues may arise with the paws. But I never really had in depth knowledge about the cracking of dog pads and I had little idea of what to do. Although I do pay attention the the type of chemicals that pour on the floor.

    • Hi Benny,

      It is always so exciting to hear from people that are fellow dog owners.  Making sure that we can all help each other out with information we may not have know is important.  Having a dog community to get in touch with is always a good thing. 

      Dog paws are always an adventure to keep clean and healthy.  No matter whether it is snow, water or heat, all of the different weather conditions can cause issues.

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments on my post.


  7. Hello there, I must say a big thank you to you for this awesome article it would be of great help to the public as it has been of help to me. I must say that I have discovered this a few week ago and I was told it a normal thing….but now I know I would take it up and salvage the situation.

    • Hello,

      I am so glad that you enjoyed reading my post and found the information helpful. Sometimes it is just a matter of not knowing the best approach to a dog situation. Providing the proper care for dog paws can really help dogs struggling with cracking paws.

      Best of luck to you.

      Thank you

  8. Yeah, it is true, my dog does too.
    It make me sad whenever my dog sustains one injury or another.
    I feel like it happened to me, Lincoln is the dirty type, he likes snow like nobody does.
    I could recall some years back when he was still a puppy, he got hit by a neighbour’s car. I thought that was the end but he survived it.
    Ever since then I said to myself if I don’t kill Lincoln myself then no one will.

    • Hi Carol,
      Thank you so much for your comments on my post. I really appreciate you sharing your scary story about your puppy. Wow that must have been scary.
      I absolutely love his name Lincoln. What a great name for a dog.

      Well best of luck keeping Lincoln’s paws clean and dry. HAHA I remember the challenge well. Enjoy your time together as it goes by so quick. Lots of doggy hugs.


  9. Nowadays, the time of informing the owners about various generalized unique diseases about pets. There is also an example that one area is neglected enough and that the right one is given attention. The owners, and sometimes the veterinarians themselves, need some skin problems on the paws of their pets and patients under “normal”, and sometimes it just reconciles with fate that it would have to be so that I would have to live with it to live all my life so that I would not have Coralie presented a cure for this dog disease.


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