What To Do About Dry, Rough or Cracked Dog Paw Pads


When it comes to dog paws and their pads, there’s a certain amount of natural wear and tear they can take without you having to worry.

But, if you notice your dog’s paws are dry, rough, cracked, you might like to know about products such as paw pad butter and balm, that might help nourish the paws.

We’ve split the guide below into two parts:

– What options you have for dry, rough or cracked dog paw pads

– FAQ questions on dog paws, dog paw pad health, and dog paw pad care

It’s important to note, if you think your dog’s paws are in a more serious condition like for example they are bleeding, blistering, burnt etc. – it would be worth going to see your vet.

Let’s take a look at the guide below!


(NOTE: this is a general information guide only, and is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. A qualified vet or animal expert is the only person qualified to give you expert advice in regards to your pet/s)

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What To Do About Dry, Rough or Cracked Dog Paw Pads

In case you wanted to check them out straight away, some of the top rated dog paw waxes and balms we mention in this guide are: 


Onto the guide …


What To Do About Dry, Rough Or Cracked Dog Paw Pads


Firstly, What Should Healthy or Normal Dog Paws Look Like?

We’ve previously written about paw pad care and what you might expect from healthy dog paw pads.

Dog paws and pads are different to human feet and skin in that dog paws are built for shock absorption, harsher temperatures, and rougher surfaces.

In fact, dog pads have a cushion looking tissue/skin on the underside of the paw and are made of fat, connective tissue and a tough/thick skin called keratinized epithelium.

This thick skin is well insulated and allows them to walk on hotter and colder surfaces than what your human feet allow you to, as well as standing up to rough ground.

This skin can harden up, look dry, rough and develop small cracks as part of walking on rough surfaces like gravel, bitumen/asphalt, concrete or uneven hiking trails (where there are rocks, gravel etc.) for example.

It’s important to note, if your dog is mostly a house dog that is used to walking inside your house and on softer grass outside for example, you’ll want to be wary of taking them suddenly to a harsher surface like a hiking trail, rocky beach or super hard and rough asphalt – this sudden change can cause damage to a soft paw.


How Can I Treat and/or Repair Dry, Rough and Cracked Paws?

Although it is normal for paws to harden up or look slightly rough and develop small cracks as a result of adapting to newer harder or sharper surfaces, that doesn’t mean that treating the paws won’t help them.

The most common way dog and pet owners do this is by applying a protective, or moisturising substance, to protect the skin with a semi permeable layer, or replenish the skin with moisture and vitamins.

(There’s several ways to protect a dog’s paw pads for example in hot, cold or salty environments.)

Some common options used are:


Waxes and balm

Some waxes are great for protection from hot and cold surfaces, as well as ice melting salts.

Others also have vitamins and oils that make them good for moisturising.

There are some fantastic protection waxes and USDA organic certified waxes and balms for dog paws on the market.


Coconut Oil

Natural and organic coconut oils formulated for dogs have many benefits.

They can be rubbed into skin to moisturise and restore dry skin and rough skin.


Moisturisers and Creams

Moisturisers and creams are specifically for speeding up healing of paw pads and bringing back or maintaining moisture in paw pads.

ResQ Organics does a good non toxic moisturiser that is worth looking at.



Lotions do essentially are very similar job that moisturisers and creams do.

They help bring moisture and minerals back to the skin to repair them. Chemical free lotions are a good option.


Dog Boots & Shoes

Dog boots and shoes are more of a preventative, but will provide a layer of protection (rubber soles) between your dog’s pads and the ground. 

Something like the My Busy Dog Dog Shoes With Velcro Strap and Anti Slip Soles (on Amazon) is popular.


Home Remedies

We wrote a guide here about potential home remedies for rough or dry dog paw pads.


What Are Serious Signs In Your Dog’s Paws That You Should Take Them To The Vet?

The following might some signs of an injured, damaged or unhealthy pad or paw:

Inflammation or Visible Skin Reactions

Skin appears thin and ready to split, and not thick

Skin has trouble repairing itself



Severe cracks instead of small rough looking cracks



Cuts and open wounds

Splinters and thorns

Ulcers and infections

Visible cues your dog is in pain (can’t walk, yelping when something touches the paws)


FAQ On Dog Paws & Paw Pads

A dog’s paw pads are responsible for cushioning and absorbing forces through your dogs paw.

Any issues with them can not only be painful for your dog, but cause further issues to do with joints, bones, ligaments, muscles and more.

Below we outline what dog paws and pads are, what they are made of, what functions they provide, how pads become unhealthy or injured, common paw and pad health issues, pad damage signs to look out for, and might be done about damaged pads.


What Are Dog Paws, and What Are They Made Of?

Paws are the entire foot of your dog – the bone, ligaments, muscles, skin, claws (nails), and the pads on the bottom of the paw.


What Are Dog Pads, And What Are They Made Of?

Pads are cushion looking tissue/skin on the underside of the paw and are made of fat, connective tissue and a tough/thick skin called keratinized epithelium.


What Are Dog Paws & Pads Used For On A Dog’s Body?

Obviously, dog paws on a dog are comparable in some way to feet on a human, but dog paws and pads are much harder wearing and have different functions.

Dog pads provide support and traction, as well as shock absorption to the bones and muscles in their paws, legs and through the rest of the body.

There’s three main types of dog pads under your dog’s paw with slightly different functions:


The digital pads

Tthe pads on each toe/claw of the paw. Shock absorbers that protects bones and joints


The metacarpal pad

The bid pad in the middle of your dog’s paw. Shock absorber that protects bones and joints in the foot


Carpal pad

The pad a little further up from the underside of the paw. A navigational pad, or brake type pad that helps your dog grip and navigate when going up or down steep surfaces.


Pads are well insulated and allow them to walk on hotter and colder surfaces than what your human feet allow you to.

It is normal for a dog’s pads to look rough if they have been walking on rough surfaces like gravel, bitumen/asphalt, concrete or uneven hiking trails for example.

Dogs that spend most of their time walking on grass or softer/smoother surfaces might have smoother looking pads.


What Causes Unhealthy or Injured Dog Paws/Pads?

Problems and health issues with your dog’s paws/pads are most often caused by one of two things:

– A sudden change in activity, environment, or surface your dog is not used to. For example, if your dog spends most of its time at home on grass and concrete, and you take them out to a hiking trail where there are rough and sharp rocks, or a rough path – this could cause problems

– A health condition or deficiency causing problems on the pads. For example, if your do isn’t getting the right nutrition or a disease or organ function is effecting how the skin maintains itself on the pad – this can effect the minerals and blood supply getting to the pads which have a high cell turnover rate.


What Are Common Problems Or Health Issues With Dog Paws & Pads?

The following are some common problems or health issues to do with dog paws and pads:

Skin damage caused by force or external objects

Liver disease causing pad damage

Allergies causing damage

Hormonal imbalances causing damage

Autoimmune diseases causing damage


You can read more about each of these health conditions and contributors here.


What Are Signs Of Unhealthy or Injured Paws and Pads?

The following are some signs of an injured, damaged or unhealthy pad:

Skin appears thin and not thick


Severe cracks instead of small rough looking cracks




Splinters and thorns

Ulcers and infections


What Can Your Do If Your Dog’s Paw or Pads Are Injured Or Unhealthy?

The best thing to do is take them to a vet.

It depends what the issue is as to how they manage or treat it, but for serious injuries they may have to:

Remove foreign objects

Clean the pad/paw and disinfect it

Dry it out

Dress it

Allow up to 3 weeks to allow pad tissue to re-grow


If there is problems elsewhere in the body like the liver, that’s a whole separate issue.

For minor cracking and skin damage, some owners simply apply a paw balm, wax or lotion which is a bit like a moisturiser.



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