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Why Are My Dog’s Paws Pink?

Have your dog’s paw pads turned pink? Or does your dog have multi-coloured pads? Read on to discover why a dog’s paws might be pink and when this could indicate a medical issue.

Many dogs have multi-coloured paw pads, which can naturally include patches of pink. But a change in colour to red or pink – particularly in adult dogs – can signify a medical condition.

In this article, we’ll go through some of the most common reasons why a dog’s paws turn pink. We’ve also included tips for caring for your dog’s paws and preventing injuries.

A Brief Explanation of a Dog’s Paw Pads

Before we talk about why a dog’s paws might be pink, it’s important to understand the basics of canine paw pads.

Paw pads are the leathery areas next to a dog’s toes. Dogs have four digital paw pads per foot, along with a larger metacarpal pad further up the foot.

These leathery sections are epidermis skin layers, similar to the skin on human feet. Dogs also have a deeper layer of fatty tissue below the skin, which insulates against cold surfaces.

Dogs rely on paw pads to give them traction, protect their feet against hot and cold, and walk safely on rough terrain. Pads also provide shock absorption to protect the hip and knee joints.

Paw pads even prevent bacteria from being absorbed into the blood from the floor.

In other words, healthy paw pads are essential for your dog’s wellbeing! An injury or change in the appearance of your dog’s pads is never something you should ignore.

Protect Your Dog’s Paws Pads By Making Gradual Changes Activities

Dogs accustomed to walking on rugged terrains, such as asphalt or rocky ground, tend to have rough paw pads. On the other hand, less active dogs, or those who spend more time on grass, have smoother paw pads.

Just like humans develop calluses in response to new activities, it takes time for a dog’s paw pads to adapt.

If you’re going to increase your dog’s activity levels, or there has been a change in weather conditions, it’s vital to build up gradually. Start with short sessions so that the paw pads can become tougher, otherwise there’s a risk of tearing the skin.

What Colour Should a Dog’s Paws Be?

Puppies are born with pink paw pads, but these gradually change colour when the puppy is around six months old.

Most paw pads become black or dark brown as more layers of tough skin build-up. This isn’t always the case, though. Adult dog paw pads can be pink, black, brown, or tan.

Many dogs also have multi-coloured paw pads. It’s common for there to be small patches of pink on a paw pad, for example, despite the rest of the pad being black or brown.

The final colour (or colours) is determined by genetics and rarely changes during adulthood, although exposure to mud or grass can cause staining.

Tip: Be aware that a puppy’s paw pads can be extra sensitive while changing colour.

Why Do Dogs Have Pink Paws?

Canine atopic dermatitis

It’s normal for a puppy’s paws to change colour, but a colour change in an adult dog can signify a health problem. 

A pink paw is usually caused by inflammation and irritation of the tissues, known as pododermatitis.

Here are some of the most common causes of pododermatitis. Treatment requires an accurate diagnosis, so you should always contact a vet if you notice a change in your dog’s paws.

Excessive Licking

All dogs lick their paws occasionally, but excessive licking – and associated fur staining – is a warning sign that something isn’t right.

Dog’s saliva contains a substance called porphyrin. This can stain fur a brown or pink colour if your dog licks an area repeatedly, making the paw look pinker than usual.

Excessive paw licking is usually a symptom of another problem, such as allergies or an infection. So, if you notice your pet has a pink paw, you should take them to the vet for a check-up.

Paw licking can also sometimes be caused by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, also known as lick granuloma. This behaviour is often linked with stress or boredom.

Note: Fur staining is easier to see on dogs with white fur. It’s most common between the toes and on the feet but can happen anywhere on the body.

Salt Exposure

Exposure to rock salt can cause paw pads to become inflamed and dry.

Salt usually turns the paw pads white, although irritation to the area may cause redness too.

Dog boots are often the best way to protect against rock salt in the winter. You’ll need to introduce these to your dog slowly though.

Allergic Reactions

Allergies can cause paw pads to become swollen and take on a pinkish colour. An allergy also causes the paws to become itchy and uncomfortable, leading to excessive licking and fur discolouration.

Many potential allergens can cause pink feet. Certain types of grasses, for example, may trigger a reaction.

Contact allergies from walking on the allergen are most likely to cause pink paw pads, although dietary or airborne allergies can sometimes have the same effect.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections are a common cause of pink paws. This type of infection often leads to swelling and inflammation, along with fungal lesions and discharge.

A dog with a fungal infection on the paws is likely to lick the area continuously. This can lead to hair loss and fur discolouration.

Different fungal infections require specific treatments, so taking your dog to a vet is essential.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections can also cause inflammation in the paw pads.

A dog’s paws are continuously exposed to bacteria. These usually don’t cause harm due to the thick paw pads, but an infection may take hold if the dog has allergies, broken skin, or ingrown hairs.

As with fungal infections, there may be additional symptoms, such as hair loss, excessive licking, or ulcers.

A vet should always treat bacterial infections. Your dog may require antibiotics or topical treatments.

Burns and Blisters

A dog that walks on a hot surface may burn their paw pads. This can cause blistering, which makes the pad look pinker than usual.

Unfortunately, a burnt paw is a common issue for dogs. Many people don’t realise how hot asphalt, pavement, and sand can get when the sun shines.

Burned paw pads are a serious problem, as walking on the blister can cause it to burst and risk infection. You should always visit a vet to get the paw properly bandaged. Your dog may also need antibiotics to prevent infection.

Wounds

A wound on the paw pad could cause inflammation and a pink area. Excessive licking of the injury could also cause pink staining.

We recommend getting any wound on the paw pads checked by a vet, even if it’s small. Paw wounds can be painful and slow to heal without medical care.

Parasites

Fleas can cause inflammation in the paw pads, making them look pink or red. These parasites cause many other symptoms and are very uncomfortable for your pet, so regular anti-flea treatment is vital.

Mange mite and hookworms are two other parasites that can cause pink paws.

Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases can cause a dog’s paw pads to become red and inflamed. The inflammation may also be accompanied by blisters or crusting.

Unlike with injuries, all of the dog’s paws are likely to be affected when there is an immune disease. Inflammation may also cause the dog to excessively lick the feet and other affected areas.

Immune diseases are serious and need ongoing treatment, so getting veterinary advice is essential whenever you notice a change in your dog’s paws (or any other part of their body).

Other Reasons for Dog Paw Pad Discoloration

Paws pads don’t only turn pink when there is a problem. Here are some common reasons for paws changing to other colours:

  • Staining. A dog’s paw pads may become discoloured through repeated exposure to certain types of terrain, such as grass or mud.
  • Dryness. Dry paw pads often turn white and become cracked. You may need to apply topical cream or balm to moisturise the pads.
  • Rock salt. Exposure to rock salt can also turn the paw pads whiter than usual.  
  • Yeast infection. A yeast infection can cause the hair around the paw pads to become browner.

Tips for Caring for Your Dog’s Paw Pads

How to care for a dog's paws

Seek Veterinary Advice for Any Paw Problem

As you can tell from the list above, pink paws can have various causes. Therefore, the correct treatment depends on the underlying issue.

For this reason, you should always take your dog to the vet if you notice an issue with their paws. Don’t try to diagnose or treat the problem yourself.

Rinse and Check Your Dog’s Paws After Every Walk

The best way to prevent paw problems is to check for any issues regularly. Prevention is always better than a cure, after all!

A good habit is to rinse and dry your dog’s paws after each walk. This removes potential allergens that could cause a reaction. A bonus is that less dirt is brought into the home, making it easier to keep your floors clean.

Paw washers can be great for this, as they often have soft bristles to remove more dirt and allergens.

At the same time, check the paws for foreign objects. Common culprits include pebbles, foxtails, or burrs, which can all cause severe problems if not removed.

Don’t just check the visible part of the paw pads. Instead, gently spread the toes to look for anything that might be caught between the pads, although be careful not to cause any pain.

You should also check for signs of inflammation or discolouration. The sooner you spot the start of a problem, the faster you can take action.

Avoid Hot Pavements

Paw pads provide insulation against hot and cold, but the skin can’t handle extreme temperatures.

The easiest way to test whether pavement is safe is to put the back of your hand on the floor. If you can’t hold it there for at least seven seconds, then it’s too hot for your pet to walk on.

Be careful when walking on the beach during hot weather too. Sand can become very hot, leading to nasty burns on your dog’s paws.

Keep Your Dog’s Paw Fur Trimmed (Especially in Winter)

Snowballs often form on the fur between a dog’s toes. These can cause discomfort, as they push the toes into unnatural positions and pull on the hair.

An easy way to prevent snowballs is by keeping the fur trimmed during winter. Trimming your dog’s nails is also essential, as long nails can cause discomfort.

Use Dog Booties to Protect Against Rock Salt and Extreme Cold

Dog booties are brilliant for protecting your dog’s paws against rock salt, cold temperatures, and sharp ice.

Most dogs find the idea of wearing boots to be very strange, though! So, you’ll need to introduce boots slowly before expecting your dog to wear them.

Here are some tips for getting your dog comfortable with boots using positive methods:

  • Start by letting your dog sniff the booties in their own time without putting them on. Use treats as a reward when they sniff or touch the boots, as it’s important to create positive associations.
  • Once your dog is comfortable around the boots, try putting them on his front paws. Use treats and play to distract your dog. This teaches him that fun things happen when he’s wearing them.
  • Keep sessions short to start with. Once your dog is happy to wear the boots on his front paws, repeat the process with the back paws.
  • Even when your dog is happy to wear the boots, only go on short walks with them initially. It can take time for boots to get worn in, so you don’t want to cause blisters.

Summary

Puppies usually have pink paws, but these become darker at around six months old. It’s common for dogs to have patches of pink throughout their life, but changes to your dog’s paw pad colour could signify a problem.

Always take your dog to the vet if you notice a change in paw colour. Fast treatment is often essential to ensure the problem doesn’t get worse.

We hope this article has helped you uncover why your dog’s paws are pink. If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments section below.

Image of Richard Cross

About The Author: Richard Cross

Richard is a journalist who specialises in dog behavior. He's written hundreds of articles and books related to dogs, including for the Continental Kennel Club, Dog Fest (the UK's biggest dog festival) and various veterinary surgeries. When he's not spending time with Jess and Rudy (his beloved Labrador and Golden Retrievers), he enjoys reading, hiking and watching sports. You can find him on Facebook or Twitter.

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