It’s important to keep your dog’s paws healthy. If you’ve ever injured your foot, you know how uncomfortable walking becomes. Sure, dogs have four paws instead of two feet, but the principle is the same. They need healthy paws to lead happy and healthy lives. In some cases, pink paws are simply part of the aging process. However, pink paws can also be a sign of a problem. 

Why are my dog’s paws turning pink?

There are many potential causes for your dog’s paws turning pink. To determine the best course of action, you’ll first have to figure out the cause. 

Allergies

Food or contact allergies are a common reason for pink paws. We often think of allergies as a human condition, but many animals, including our pets, are susceptible to them. 

Allergies often cause itching and inflammation. In addition to the irritation caused by the allergy itself, your dog will likely lick or bite the affected area. This is similar to a human scratching a rash. The dog simply wants relief from the itching, but this causes further irritation. 

Grass is one of the most common dog allergens. Many are also allergic to dust. It’s easy to see how the paws would have the most serious reaction to these substances, because they are in frequent contact with the allergen.

 Food allergies are also fairly common in dogs, with grains being the most common food allergy. 

Both types of allergies can cause itchy and pink paws. You’ll likely also notice other areas of skin irritation or frequent licking. Your dog may also experience sneezing, watery eyes, or frequent ear infections due to allergies. 

Infection

Fungal or bacterial infections can cause your dog’s paws to turn pink or red. You will likely see discharge with a fungal infection, and pus-filled blisters with a bacterial infection. 

Bacterial infections are more common on the front paws. They are often caused by ingrown hairs between the toes, which leads to infection. Blisters will pop and more will come up until the condition is treated, because they are caused by the underlying infection. 

Walking in contaminated water, especially with a cut, puncture, or abrasion on the paw, can also cause bacterial infection. 

Burns and Blisters

Burns and blisters can also turn your dog’s paws pink. Dogs have two layers on their paw. Adult dogs have a tough, rough, outer layer that is usually black. Underneath this layer is one that’s soft, smooth, and pink. 

Burns can cause redness and irritation. Severe burns can remove the tough layer of skin, leaving behind the fragile pink layer. If your pet’s paws are burned, they will look pink or red. You may notice that the skin is smooth. You may also notice blisters on the paw pads. 

Burns typically occur in the summer months when walking on rocks, concrete, or asphalt. A dog’s temperature tolerance is similar to that of humans. If the surface burns your bare feet, it’s safe to assume it will burn your dog’s paws as well. Surface temperatures in the summer can exceed 140 degrees, which is enough to risk serious burns and permanent injury. 

Lighter colors reflect more heat, so a white sidewalk will be cooler than blacktop. However, even the sidewalk may be uncomfortable for your dog during the heat of the day, depending on the breed and the toughness of their paws. 

Change in Walking Surface

A change in walking surface can also cause your dog’s paws to turn pink. Abrasive surfaces like concrete can wear away the tough outer layer of their paws, exposing the soft pink layer underneath. 

If your dog is used to being indoors or walking on grass and is now walking on a rough surface like concrete, gravel, or pavement, this could be why their pads are turning pink.

Aging

It’s common for a puppy to start out with pink paws that turn black as the dog ages. However, some dogs will develop pink paws as they age. This is known as marbling, and it can also affect their nose and mouth. 

Genetics

Some dogs naturally have pink paws. These dogs are unable to produce pigment. This can occur all over the dog’s body, or only in certain areas like the paws.

How do I treat my dog’s pink paws?

This will vary greatly based on the cause of your dog’s pink paws. No matter the cause, there are things that you can do to help your furry friend. 

Veterinary Appointment

If you are concerned about your dog’s paws, you should take them to the vet for evaluation. If you notice signs of infection, like discharge or blisters, signs of injury, or burns, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. If your dog seems to be in pain when they are walking, this also needs to be evaluated by your vet. Your dog can’t tell you when it’s in pain, so it’s up to you to notice the signs. These include whining, limping, and avoiding activity. Excessive licking is another sign that something is wrong, and your pooch needs veterinary care. 

The vet will likely run several tests on your pet. These include testing for inflammation, bacteria, yeast, and parasites. Skin scrapings and hair pluckings are used to check for fleas and mites. They may also perform bacterial and fungal cultures. Blood and urine tests can be helpful for diagnosing imbalances in the body and allergies. 

More extensive testing is rarely needed, but it includes radiographs and biopsies. Your vet may also recommend a hypoallergenic food trial if allergies are suspected. 

Antifungals and Antibiotics

Antifungals are used to treat yeast infections. They can be either topical creams or oral medications. Mild cases will clear up with cream, but severe cases often require oral antifungal medication. 

Antibiotics are similar. They are used to treat bacterial infections, and can be applied as a cream or given as an oral medication. 

Anti-inflammatory and Steroids

Anti-inflammatory medications can reduce inflammation and reduce your dog’s pain. They are often similar to human medications given for pain and inflammation. In fact, they are sometimes the same medications, with different dosages. 

Steroids are helpful if your dog has allergies. Once again, the treatment is similar to human medication. These medications can be given orally or as an injection. 

Injury Treatment

Injury treatment will be required if your dog has a cut or puncture on their paw pad. Your dog may also get a stick, thorn, or other object stuck in the paw pad. 

If there is a deep cut, your dog will need stitches. Puncture wounds rarely require stitches. However, they are susceptible to infection, and require cleaning. Surgery may be required for severe injuries. 

Once the injury is treated, your dog may need antibiotics to prevent infection. 

Shampoos and Foot Soaks

Shampoos and foot soaks can help with a wide variety of conditions. Lime dip can kill bacteria, fungus, and parasites like fleas and mites. It’s safe for dogs of all ages, and may help soothe irritated paws. 

You can also purchase foot soaks designed for dogs. These should soothe your pet’s paws, relieving inflammation and irritation. You can make your own with Epson salts, baking soda, or vinegar if you want to avoid shopping. 

These treatments aren’t a substitute for veterinary care, but they can help make your dog more comfortable and speed the healing process. 

Dog shoes

What should I do about my dog’s paws turning pink?

There are a few things you can do about your dog’s paws turning pink. If you have any concerns about the health of your pet, take them to the vet for a check-up. If their paws are pink but they aren’t in obvious discomfort, try these steps. 

Paw Wax

Paw wax is great for cold temperatures. It helps prevent ice balls from sticking to your dog’s feet, and provides them some protection from the cold. 

It isn’t for hot weather, and shouldn’t be used in place of dog shoes in very cold or rough conditions. It helps moisturize the paws as well. Paws can become very dry, particularly in the cold months. Paw wax will help keep them in good condition. 

Avoid Hot Surfaces

If it’s too hot for your feet, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. Don’t walk your dog on hot surfaces. If they need to walk on hot sidewalks, get them some dog shoes or booties to protect their feet from the heat. 

Clean After Walking in Water

After your dog walks in water, be sure to clean its feet. Water can contain bacteria that can cause infection. 

Avoid Allergens

If your dog has a food allergy, treatment is pretty straightforward. You feed them hypoallergenic food. What if your pet has an allergy to grass or dust? 

You may find dog shoes helpful. These will limit exposure to allergens, particularly grass if your dog stays inside. Just put their shoes on when they go out. Wiping down their paws after exposure, even if they were wearing shoes, can also help. 

Why are my dog’s back paws red?

Allergies 

Allergies can cause your dog’s paws to be red as well as pink.  

Fungal Infections

Yeast is the most common fungal infection in dogs. This is another condition that we consider “human”. Some cases of diaper rash in infants are caused by yeast. Yeast is also responsible for thrush which causes redness and irritation in the mouth. 

In dogs, yeast will often cause the paws to be red or rusty in color. It frequently appears between the toes. There may be a discharge as well. Fungal infections usually develop because the pads are already damaged and susceptible to infection. 

Atopic dermatitis, or a contact skin allergy, is the most common cause. Excessive licking or injury to the paw can also leave your pet open to this type of infection. 

Parasites

Parasites like fleas and mites can cause your dog’s paws to turn red. Most parasites prefer other areas of a dog’s body, but industrious parasites may make a home in the paws as well. 

In addition to the sores caused by the parasites themselves, the frequent itching they cause will have your dog licking or biting to relieve the itch. This will inevitably cause more redness and irritation. 

Dryness

Dryness can cause red paws as well. If you notice your dog’s paws are very rough or cracked, they may simply be dry. It’s more common in the winter months, but it can occur at any time of year. 

Paw wax or a paw conditioning cream will moisturize your dog’s paws and have them feeling better quickly. 

Excessive Licking or Biting

We know that excessive licking or biting can aggravate other conditions like allergies or parasites. However, sometimes the licking itself is the problem. Dogs lick as a source of comfort. If your dog is very stressed or bored, they may compulsively lick their paws, causing irritation and redness. 

Injury 

Of course, injuries can cause your dog’s paws to turn red as well. Check the paws for cuts, abrasions, puncture wounds, and splinters. Wounds on paw pads need to be treated promptly to prevent infection. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.