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What are Carpal Pad Injuries?

What are Carpal Pad Injuries?

Your dogs carpal pad is the hard knuckle at the back of the wrist joint. Carpal pad injuries include carpal hyperextension when the ligament tears or ruptures, carpal arthritis, swelling, grazing causing bleeding, punctures. We strongly recommend supporting your dogs carpal to provide protection and reduce re-injury.

Best Carpal Pad Supports

The carpal pad is that protruding bump (knuckle) of hard skin that sits just above the dew claw on your dog’s forelegs. They’re located at the carpus (wrist joint). The carpal pads consist of thick, fat, keratinous skin.

This is an often overlooked, but crucial, part of a dog’s paw. Carpal pads provide traction and stability during movement. They adapt to temperature changes. They act as stopper pads (hence why they’re sometimes known as stopper pads) and shock absorbers because they’re flexible and padded. They also help dogs to brake.

Another function of the pads is to help your dog with motor control and balance. They provide extra precision when your dog is moving at speed. They give extra support and grip when your dog’s running or jumping.

A dog carpal pad injury can be quite common.  Wounds include cuts, tears, punctures, scrapes, abrasions, or grazes that cause bleeding. In serious cases, there can be strain, or even lacerations, to the carpal muscle and ligaments.

Sometimes, a carpal pad injury can be a symptom of another condition. For example, carpal hyperextension can present as pressure sores or ulcers on the carpal pads. This is because they're rubbing against the ground where the joints collapse. Carpal arthritis/osteoarthritis or carpal arthrodesis surgery can also affect the carpal pad.

Penny, with double carpal hyperextension

Penny, with double carpal hyperextension

The Therapaw Carpo Flex X Wrap offers moderate to firm support to your dog's wrist and carpal joint. This will support ligament or tendon damage, post-operative support, carpal hyper-extension, chronic arthritis and general weakness in the wrist. Your dog can enjoy all normal activities whilst wearing this support.

Penny Uses Therapaw Carpo X Wrap

What are the signs of a carpal pad injury in your dog?

When your dog’s stopper pad is injured, there'll be a reluctance or inability to put weight on the affected paw.

Other symptoms are:

  • Lameness or limping - difficulty in walking or uneven gait
  • Your dog indicating pain when walking or supporting the paw
  • Frequent licking or biting of the paw
  • Fatigue, low energy, lethargy
  • Lack of enthusiasm for, or disinterest in, activities they normally enjoy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unusually grumpy mood, even depression
  • Fatigue
  • Bloody or red paws
  • Swelling - inflammation around the carpal pad may indicate injury. The pad may look swollen and larger than usual.
  • Your dog may cry out when the injury happens
  • Whimpering, whining, crying
  • Fur loss around the paw

Types of Dog Carpal Pad Injuries

You might have seen your dog with one of the following carpal pad injuries:

  • Carpal hyperextension - this is common carpal injury, the carpal ligament is pulled, torn or completely ruptured. Your dogs carpal pad will start to get lower to the floor
  • Carpal arthritis and osteoarthritis - arthritis can show in one or both front legs. Your dog might show swelling on the angle of the carpal joints can change. Arthritis symptoms include your dog getting out of bed slowly, going slower on walks, finds tight corners difficult or uncomfortable.
  • Carpal arthrodesis -produces a change in gait for your dog
  • Carpal strain - due to exercise or an accident e.g. your dog jumping down from a high wall
  • Carpal damage - due to an accident. This can include lacerated the carpal muscle and ligaments
Boo, with right front carpal arthritis

Boo, with right front carpal arthritis

The Therapaw Carpo Flex Sports Wrap is a moderate support for the dog's carpal joint / wrist / front lower leg. The Carpo Flex Sport wrap offers relief from mild arthritis, sprains to the lower limb and ligaments, protects against injury, re-injury and alleviates pain.

Boo Uses therapaw carpo sport

What should I do if my dog has a carpal pad injury?

First Aid for carpal pad flesh wounds

  • If your dog has cut or torn the carpal pad and it’s bleeding, you need to do first aid quickly. Dealing with it immediately will lessen the possibility of developing serious complications - such as an infection.

  • Reassure your dog and keep calm.

  • Check for glass, splinters, a broken claw, or other debris. Flush the wound with clean, lukewarm water.

  • Remove any foreign objects with tweezers. If something’s difficult to get out, don’t force it. In these situations, the safest action is to go to your vet. Serious damage can happen if you try to force it.

  • Stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the wound with a clean, absorbent cloth. This is an emergency if the wound’s still bleeding after 10-15 minutes. Get your dog to the vet as fast as you can.

  • If the pad is hanging, go to your vet once you’ve bandaged the area. In these cases, stitches, antibiotics, or pain relief might be necessary. If this happens, your dog will be in extreme pain.

  • If the bleeding does stop and there’s no embedded object, wash again with clean, lukewarm water. Disinfect the cut with an antiseptic (such as diluted betadine or hydrogen peroxide). Soak cotton wool with the solution and swab the area.

  • Now pat dry the wound. Next, use antimicrobial wound spray or antiseptic cream to prevent infection. If you want to apply an antibiotic cream, they’re only suitable for minor cuts and scrapes, NOT deeper wounds. Application should be 2 or 3 times a day for the next 10-14 days or until the wound has closed, if you’re not dressing the wound.

  • To dress the wound, wait until the cream or spray is dry. Place a non-stick sterile pad over the wound and wrap that with non-stick gauze. Secure with medical tape. Have it snug but with enough room for circulation.
  • You can then put an elastic bandage over the dressing and wrap it all the way to the wrist. You should be able to insert 2 fingers into the bandage. If you can’t, it’s too tight.

  • Keep the bandage clean by putting a sock over it. The paw bandages should be changed daily. Re-apply wound spray/antiseptic at the same time as the bandage changes.

  • Keep your dog calm and limit their activity. This will allow the injury to heal and not re-open. Too much activity is likely to make it start bleeding again. Keep the bandage dry. Find a waterproof medical boot or put a plastic bag over the foot and secure it with tape.

  • Consider cutting the fur around the paw pad, as this can be a breeding ground for microorganisms and moisture build-up. Both of which can interfere with the healing process.

  • Prevent your dog from licking the injury site (even with the bandage on). Use a collar to stop any licking, chewing or biting.

  • If the wound is hanging, go to your vet once you’ve bandaged the area. In these cases, stitches, antibiotics or pain relief might be necessary. If this happens, your dog will be in extreme pain.

  • If the wound starts swelling, smelling bad or developing excess redness, these are all signs of infection. It means the wound needs immediate veterinary attention.

  • Even if the wound seems to be healing well, get a vet check-up to confirm progress and rule out complications.

  • Dog paw cut healing time can vary. Cracked, dry skin or a minor scrape can take a week. More serious cuts or deep gashes will take longer. Where there’s a serious complication, recovery can be a lengthy process. The pads are often used, so healing can be longer than expected. Keeping your dog quiet and less active will allow the wound to mend more.
Ebony, greyhound, prone to straining his carpal

Ebony, greyhound, prone to straining his carpal

The Walkabout Compression Sleeve is excellent for your dog if they are experiencing arthritis, joint pain, tendon or ligament weakness in either their front or back legs. The sleeve provides support and compression, which increases circulation and reduces inflammation.

Walkabout Compression Sleeve for Front

Injuries without bleeding

Your dog shows all the signs of a carpal pad injury, but it’s not bleeding. It could be a friction burn. There might be something under the skin. In these situations, taking your dog to the vet for an examination is best. Your vet might recommend an X-Ray might, to rule out any bone issues.

Paw pad injuries as a side effect of another condition

If your dog’s paw pad injuries are because of carpal hyperextension, consult with your vet. They might recommend a front leg support or splint, or even surgery.

What causes dog carpal pad injuries?

Dogs’ can hurt their paw pads in several ways - some avoidable, some less so:

  • Sharp objects - the obvious culprits are broken glass, jagged rocks, metal shards, thorns, splinters or any sharp edge that can pierce the skin of the pad. Any and all of these have the potential to cause serious injury to the paw pad, and maybe even cause the dog paw pad to have an injury flap.
  • Overexercise - this is when friction burns and erosion to the paw pads happen (turns at speed, emergency stops, timed agility activities)
  • Underexercise - without regular exercise, the paw pads can become too soft and more vulnerable to wounds and injuries
  • Burns - hot pavements or sand can burn your dog’s paw pads. Snow can also cause ice burns.
  • Long claws - if they’re too long, claws can cause an abnormal tread. Painful calluses then develop because of awkward, misaligned posture.
  • Breed - certain breeds are prone to paw pad issues such as cracked paws, infections, and injury.
  • Puppy paws - puppy paws are weaker and softer, which makes injury more likely. Puppy paw pads are softer and, therefore more vulnerable to injury.
  • Bone deformities - can affect normal weight bearing. Weight distribution through the paws is affected, and as a result, paw pads can be vulnerable to injury.
  • Chronic diseases - Pododermatitis (inflammation of the paw's skin) and fungal infections, among others, can harm the paw pads.
  • Behaviour problems - some dogs can be afflicted with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), characterised by repeated licking or biting of their paws or other self-mutilating behaviours.
  • Allergies
  • Bites - flea and ticks in particular
  • Parasites or fungi
  • Hormonal imbalances/disorders
  • Chafing/rubbing between paw skin folds
  • Dog bites
  • Pregnancy - puts extra force on the paw pads
  • Obesity - Puts extra force on the paw pads

Can I prevent dog paw pad injuries from happening?

Paw pad injuries happen. Some are more preventable than others. The main thing is to treat them quickly.

Having a dog first aid kit is a good idea. It means you’re prepared for most eventualities. A muzzle can be helpful if you need to dress your dog’s wound and they’re not so keen on touching it!

Be aware of your surroundings. It pays off to check the terrain where your dog is playing or exercising for sharp objects.

Protect your dog's paw pads from extreme temperatures - don’t walk your dog in the hot summer midday sun or let your dog play in the snow for too long. Invest in protective boots for hot summers and cold winters.

Keep an eye on your dog’s levels of physical activity. Make sure they don’t overdo it.

Treat your dog’s paws if they’re going to do an exceptionally long walk. Your vet will know of products to strengthen and harden the tissue. Ask them what they recommend.

Some owners use home remedies to moisturise cracked paw pads due to dry skin or temperature changes. Coconut oil and Vitamin E include anti-inflammatory, moisturising and anti-bacterial elements. Applying either to your dog’s paws in a thin layer can be helpful to relieve symptoms. Aloe vera is soothing and will help heal, regenerate, and moisturise paw pad skin that’s been injured. If you’ve got aloe vera leaves, use it directly from the leaf onto the pawpad.

There are also commercial paw moisturisers available.

Clear and dry your dog’s paws after wet, muddy walks. Moisture and damp paws are effective breeding grounds for fungi and bacteria that can cause problems. Avoid this by drying paws well.

Checking your dog’s paws regularly means you can remove any small pebbles, grit or any other debris that might cause problems.

Consider a joint supplement to keep the carpus and other joints healthy. Strong, well-conditioned joints are less likely to result in damaged paw pads.

Regular vet appointments mean that any disease, either chronic or acute, that might result in carpal paw pad injury (e.g. arthritis), can be detected in good time.

How to help around the house

Your dog may need to wear a cone or donut to stop him licking the wound. A light, protective carpal support may be used over, or instead of a bandage, particularly once healing is well established to prevent re-injury.

What age do carpal paw pad injuries happen?

These injuries can happen to any dog at any age. However, puppies may be more prone due to the softness of their paws and paw pads.  Pregnancy, obesity, arthritis and carpal hyperflexion are increased risk factors. 


Carpal pad injuries in dogs can be distressing for both dogs and their owners, but with prompt attention, proper care, and preventive measures, most injuries can be effectively managed. Regular paw maintenance, attention to your dog's environment, and immediate first aid can go a long way in ensuring the well-being of your beloved dog, and to keep those carpal pads healthy and functional. If in doubt, always consult with your veterinarian for professional guidance tailored to your dog's specific needs.

Max, with front leg carpal arthrodesis

Max, with front leg carpal arthrodesis

Give your dog the carpal support it needs! The Balto Joint Carpal Compression Band is excellent for injuries or weakness around your dogs front carpal and wrist, including arthritis and ligament issues. With adjustable straps and ergonomic design, your dog will be back to running in no time!

Max uses Balto joint splint

Zoomadog Customers: How to help your dogs carpal pad

“Just wondering what carpal wraps you would recommend for a very active whippet? When he gets excited he spins in a circle when chasing or playing etc he does this and occasionally he has had a strain where he has overextended his carpal joint. I’m looking for wraps to support him? He is otherwise fit and healthy, just want to support his joints as much as possible.”

Your whippet sounds very active! The Therapaw Carpo Flex Sports Dog Wrap would be the best for your whippet, they are great for helping to protect against injuries. It provides light to medium support, stabilising your whippet’s wrist without holding it rigid, and can be worn all day although we would recommend taking it off when your dog is resting.

“Our 12 yr old retriever Crunchie, her paw and leg are under considerable stress, with both tendon and ligament damage. She is currently having physio and hydro at Battersea dogs home in London. They have recommended the carpal splint highlighted below. Does this sound the right solution?”

Yes the Balto Joint Dog Carpal Compression Splint is good for moderate cases of carpal tendon or carpal ligament damage. It has removable splints so you can adjust the strength as your dog recovers. You might also like to look at the Carpal Splint if you dog needs more carpal support or the Therapaw Carpo Flex X which offers moderate support, and the added benefit of being able to be worn all day, in and out the house.

“Hi – last week someone left a broken bottle on a field and whilst he was playing it severed an artery, lacerated his muscle and some small ligaments just in front of his stopper pad on his front left foot. They sent him home with no support advised he may need further surgery should the foot flat. Being a typical Staffy and fiercely independent and without any support his foot has because flatter and the wound opened up again (it’s in a really awkward place to heal) so he had surgery again and they’ve said he now has some carpal hyperextension. I was thinking this brace would allow the carpal tendons and ligaments time to heal properly”

Thank you for your message about your Staffy – sorry to hear about the glass bottle. Very unlucky. For a splint, you would be best to get a paw splint called a ‘Bootie Splint’ here. This is exactly the same as the Full Leg Splint with the same shape at the paw but only half the height so is lighter.
If you want a wrap which is a lot more comfortable than a rigid splint, or maybe after the Bootie Splint has been on a while and the healing begun, the Therapaw Carpo wraps for hyperextension are very popular.

Carpal Pad Injury in Dogs - Causes, Prevention and How to Help

Read Further about Carpal Injuries

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