Swollen Feet in Dogs: Why Are My Dog’s Feet Swollen?

The main criteria that indicate what the problem might be are whether the swelling affects one or more feet.

The odds are that your dog will suffer from a foot problem at some time in their lives. Along with the swelling, your dog might also:

  • limp/favor the affected leg
  • lick or bite at their foor or feet

Foot or nail injuries or foreign bodies are the most common cause of lameness. At the same time, your dog’s feet might be red, smell bad, feel hot to touch, and have visible trauma.

Swollen Feet in Dogs: Why Are My Dog's Feet Swollen?

The most common cause of swollen paws are foreign bodies. Other common causes include:

  • wounds/injuries of pads or toes
  • nail injuries or issues
  • pad burns
  • insect stings
  • spider bites
  • snake bites
  • excessive licking such as due to allergies
  • blocked lymphatic drainage
  • cancer

Single foot swelling

When your dog has only one foot that is swollen, a localized issue is most likely. However, a careful examination of the affected foot is likely to provide a clue.

However, it doesn’t mean that—however frequent—foreign body or trauma is the only possibility. Some cancers, such as mast cell tumors, can lead to local swelling as well. So when looking for wounds, don’t dismiss any lumps or bumps you might find in the process.

Infections are usually secondary to another problem and can lead to swelling of one or more feet.

Foreign bodies

Foot foreign bodies can cause lameness, pain, and inflammation. In addition, the affected foot can swell either from the body’s effort to contain and remove it or from secondary infection.

For example, embedded grass awns—such as foxtails—can cause serious damage.

Wounds and injuries

Wounds and injuries are generally easy to identify when you scrutinize your dog’s foot. Typically, cuts and abrasions don’t make the foot swell. Instead, it is when the wound gets infected when you might find swelling.

A broken bone, however, such as a broken toe, is likely to swell.

Insect stings, spider or snake bites

I had my share of a dog getting stung in various places, including the feet. For example, a bee sting in the foot can result in substantial swelling and can be quite painful.

Spider bites can cause major swelling and lead to serious infections. Unfortunately, it can be hard to identify. If your dog’s swelling worsens, spreads, or if they’re in substantial pain, see a veterinarian.

Blocked lymphatic drainage

Blocked lymphatic drainage leads to edema. It can happen when a mass, tumor, or other obstruction further up the leg blocks the flow of the lymphatic fluid.

Caution: Bandaging that is too tight or children placing things like rubber bands around body parts are dangerous and can lead to edema.

Swelling of multiple feet

Allergies or adverse reactions

Allergies are a common cause of paw issues.

While exposure to some vegetation, such as poison ivy, can irritate the feet, the feet—however counterintuitive that is—can also respond to inhalant and food allergens.

As a result, the feet become inflamed, red, itchy, and swollen, especially if your dog licks them incessantly.

Pavement burns

During hot weather, pavement can become extremely hot and burn your dog’s pads. Such burns are painful and cause swelling of your dog’s feet and paws.

Infections

Both bacterial and fungal infections can make your dog’s feet swell. While with trauma or foreign body, an infection can be localized to a single foot, with systemic issues such as allergies, it is likely to invade all feet.

Along with the swelling, you might find lesions, discharge, hair loss, and excessive licking.

Tumors

While some cancers, such as mast cell tumors, are a single lump of bump, other cancers can affect multiple feet. For example, nail bed cancer is likely to present in more than one foot.

Immune disorders

The immune system can affect your dog’s feet by not working sufficiently or going off the rails. In addition, conditions that suppress immune function can lead to secondary infections.

Autoimmune conditions can cause excess inflammation. For example, even though it usually goes after the dog’s face, discoid lupus is a condition that can cause swelling of the legs and feet.

If your dog’s foot or feet as swollen doesn’t resolve, or if they are in pain, seek veterinary help.

Related articles:
Swelling (Edema) in Dogs

Further reading:
Swollen Paws in Dogs
Pododermatitis in Dogs

Categories: Dog health advocacySwellingSwollen feetSymptoms

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Jana Rade edited by Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience. Dr. Joanna Paul BSc BVSc is our wonderful sponsor and has been kind to edit and fact-check my important articles.

15 Comments
  1. This is great information. I have definitely had that scary moment as a pet owner when I notice one of my dogs limping and I’m not sure why. It’s important to remind ourselves that it may be something small and easily solved, so we shouldn’t jump right to the fear and worry of the more serious causes like cancer. Start by checking it out and getting a better idea of what’s happening. For our one dog, it was simply that a small stick managed to get stuck between two toes in his fur there and he couldn’t seem to pull it free.

  2. Our husky was just diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder- I’m learning a lot about them now. Good to know that some can cause foot swelling!

  3. As a Registered Veterinary Technician I cannot stress the importance of checking your dog’s paws on a regular basis! They are such a huge indicator of health – and even changes of texture of the paw pads can tell you a lot about a dog’s health. I know I always check my dog’s post after hiking for not just burrs and foxtails, but also ticks! We also do foot-bathes on a regular basis to help with allergies.

  4. So many things to consider. Scary! Thank you for sharing these suggestions as to what might be causing the swelling – what to look for. Great information.

  5. Great post! I never owned a dog however the same tips you provide can be used for those with cats too. I remember my cat Precious (an indoor cat) escaped out the front door when a delivery person came. I retreived her within 5 minutes as she only ventured away from our apartment about 25 feet. However in that time she happened to get a spider bite on her paw. I didn’t know until she started favoring her paw and licking the area frequently. I took her to the vet and she inspected her paw pads intently and sure enough she found two small puncture wounds from a spider. Luckily I took her to the vet in a timely fashion and Precious was prescribed antibiotics and recovered like a champ. Thanks for sharing these tips and spreading awareness.

  6. robincrittear

    Very interesting! I hadn’t thought about how autoimmune disorders could affect the feet. You are absolutely right – they can. I have a neighbor whose dog has a limp and the veterinarians can’t figure it out. He’s very frustrated. Perhaps it is a sneaky autoimmune disorder or a spider bite of some kind. If I see him around, I will share this with him.

  7. I remember your post about the foxtails that do so much damage to dogs! That certainly made me think, so a post about the things that can do damage to a paw made me sit up and take notice.

    I thought it would be a few cuts, or stone damage so I was surprised to find there are so many other things that can do damage to a dog’s paw. I did not realise about heat damage until I went to Arizona and the BlogPaws attendees were given free dog boots because walking a dog could be so harmful. (People were out walking dogs at 5 a.m.!)

    This post needs to be pinned to every fridge of ever dog owner!!

  8. Great information, as always. I think paw issues are something every dog owner will deal with at one time or another. Luckily the only paw related issues that have come up with my own two dogs have been minor, burrs or sap stuck between their toes and stuff like that.

  9. Swollen paws can be an issue. You did a great job detailing the issues. My dog will often stop in place, hold his paw up, and look at me when he has a sticker in one of his paw. I come running and rescue him. He has me trained. But I know it must hurt too.

  10. I blogged about Layla and her one paw this week but all is good now and I found the problem phew but I monitor everything with her especially as she is aging

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