Dogs – lovely, playful animals who provide us with some much-needed love and companionship. Discovering signs of injury or ailment in your beloved pet can be quite nerve-wracking.
Should you be worried if your dog’s paw pads are turning white?
Dog paw pads can turn white due to natural wear and abrasion caused by walking on hard, concrete surfaces. However, white paw pads can also indicate more serious underlying diseases, such as Hyperkeratosis or vitiligo.
In this article, I’ll tell you why your dog’s paws might change color, what you should do about it, and when it’s time to visit the vet.
Natural Wear and Tear
Wait. Before you panic, there may be a simple explanation for this problem.
Dog paw pads are made of a thick layer of the epidermis. This rough, fatty layer of skin protects the dog’s paws during everyday activities.
While it’s quite durable, it’s not a layer of armor. This layer of skin will wear down with time.
Usually, this wear and tear is minimal – at least, it’s not enough to leave behind any noticeable damage. There’s also the fact that paw pads heal up relatively quickly compared to other parts of the body.
That said, sometimes, a long walk outdoors or rough playtime that lasts a little too long can leave your dog’s paw pads scratched and abrased.
Walking your dog on concrete or similar hard surfaces is likelier to lead to this problem than walking on soil or grass.
The structure of dog paws lends itself perfectly to walking on natural surfaces, which tend to be softer and more accommodating.
Concrete, by comparison, is hard, rough, and perfectly even. It’s only natural that dogs have a harder time traversing it. Running on concrete is especially likely to lead to paw pad problems.
Not to mention, concrete has an excellent capacity for heat absorption.
Unprotected contact with hot concrete during the summer can lead to painful burns.
How would you be able to tell if rough surfaces have hurt your dog’s paws?
Other than a whitening of the paw pad due to abrasion, you may see:
- Cracking of the pad skin.
- Cuts and scratches.
- Burns from walking on hot concrete.
- Stuck debris.
Minor abrasion usually isn’t painful for dogs and will heal on its own with time. However, if you notice that your dog avoids putting weight on the affected paw, it may be hurting.
Here’s what you should do to help your dog recover:
- Apply balm or ointment to the damaged pads. The soothing effect will reduce pain and encourage recovery. Paw balm is readily available in both online and offline markets.
- Avoid walking your dog on concrete and asphalt-like surfaces to prevent further damage. Parks and gardens are excellent alternatives for walks or playtime.
It may not seem like it, but dog paw pads are made of live skin. This skin needs hydration and nourishment to stay in tip-top condition.
From time to time, paw pads will dry out. This is likelier to happen during dry summers.
This dryness can take away from the natural color of the pad and leave it with a lighter shade of its original color. You may see this as a whitening of the pad.
Sometimes, a deficiency in Zinc can lead to dry, crackling paws. You should ensure your dog is getting enough of it because crackling paws aren’t the only problem a Zinc deficiency can lead to.
Either way, moisturizing creams will help.
Don’t use the ones you use for yourself, though! It may have ingredients that are safe for humans but toxic to dogs.
Be sure to apply only those moisturizing creams intended to be used on dogs.
A great natural remedy to dryness is Shea butter. You can apply it to your dog’s paw pads like any other cream or ointment.
It’s all-natural, non-toxic (even if consumed orally), and completely safe to use. It’s a great moisturizer but also has exceptional healing properties.
Surprisingly, but for dog paws, salt is a hidden menace few people know about.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s safe for dogs to consume salt in moderate amounts. The problem arises when roads are salted in the winter.
Authorities scatter rock salt over roads and walkways in snowy areas to prevent ice build-up. These salt crystals are laced with ice-melting substances, which can cause chemical burns to unprotected skin.
Worse yet, your dog may reactively lick its paws to get rid of the salt, but in doing so, eat these dangerous salts.
Prevention is the best option here. I recommend equipping your dog with some dog boots during the winter.
Not only will they prevent your dog’s paw pads from being burned by chemical salts, but they’ll also keep your dog warm and comfortable on icy surfaces.
Diseases and Disorders
This is the worst-case scenario. A few genetic and autoimmune diseases can cause your dog to develop white paw pads. You’ll most likely see other symptoms of illness as well.
The protein Keratin forms the epidermis (what paw pads are made of). Hyperkeratosis is a genetic disease that causes dogs to produce much more Keratin than they need.
The excess Keratin ends up forming flaky crusts of skin on dog paws. Inflammation and soreness are not uncommon.
Hyperkeratosis can be painful. Unfortunately, it seems to be chronic and incurable. There are ways to manage it, though.
If you suspect your dog suffers from Hyperkeratosis, get in touch with your veterinarian at the earliest.
Balms and moisturizers help relieve pain and discomfort, but they only temporarily solve a very serious underlying problem.
Hyperkeratosis occasionally manifests as a symptom of other disorders, such as canine distemper, which is why a professional examination is so important.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that causes depigmentation of the skin.
In simple words, the dog’s immune system attacks skin cells that produce pigment or color, which is why affected patches of skin turn colorless.
Vitiligo affects both humans and dogs. (Don’t worry, it’s not contagious.) In dogs, it can cause depigmentation all over the body. But it usually starts with the face.
The loss of color is stark and easily recognizable, so you’ll know if you see it.
Fortunately, vitiligo is only a cosmetic disorder. There are no associated health issues, so other than the white patches, your dog will be just fine.
You should still visit the vet to get a diagnosis to rule out other possible disorders.
Should I Visit a Vet If My Dog’s Paw Pads are Turning White?
I recommend visiting your vet, especially if your dog is in discomfort.
While white paw pads can be caused by regular abrasion and dryness — and they frequently are — it’s hard to rule out the possibility of an underlying disease being the hidden culprit.
How Do I Heal my Dog’s Paw Pads?
Balm and ointment should be your first option for minor pain or discomfort. Consider applying a bandage for more serious injuries.
Get your dog medical attention if there’s bleeding that doesn’t stop within a few minutes.