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Dog Paws with Blood Blisters: Top Causes & Vet Advice

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diagnosing a paw issue in a dog with the dog laying on the table at the clinic

This article was updated on September 8th, 2023

As a veterinarian, I see a wide variety of issues on dog’s paws, including blood blisters. Bleeding or swelling on paws can be very dramatic and alarming. In this article we will explore the various causes of blood blisters and give guidance on how to approach them. Conditions that appear like blood blisters will also be discussed.

What are blood blisters on dog paws?

Inured Dog paw
Swelled Dog Paw

Blood blisters are an accumulation of blood in a small sac under the skin’s surface. This may result in a raised, reddened, or purplish coloured area on the paw. They may occur between the toes, on the pads, or on the top surface of the paw. Blisters filled with clear fluid or with infected fluid (abscess) may also occur on the paws.

These blisters generally appear very suddenly and often after an injury. They may be very sensitive to the touch and may causing limping. Your dog may also become very preoccupied with licking the area. This can result in an infection, bleeding, or a very wet area around the blister.

Top causes of blood blisters on dog paws

1. Trauma and injuries

Trauma or injuries are the top causes of blood blisters on the paw. Stepping on any sharp (e.g. thorns or nails) or rough surfaces (e.g. hot tar or concrete) can cause a blood blister. Walking on a hot surface, especially tar on a sunny day, can cause swelling and blistering on the paw pads. Remember to test the heat of the surface before allowing your dog to walk on it. If you cannot comfortably keep the palm of your hand on the surface for 2 minutes, then it is too hot for your dog.

Dog with Wounded  Fingers

Trauma will normally cause a single blood blister that is not severely painful and that resolves in a few days. If the dog’s paw pads are blistered due to walking on a hot surface, they are generally severely painful and will required immediate veterinary attention.

Foreign bodies, for example grass-seeds, can cause small blood blisters, that often become infected and start oozing a blood-tinged pus. In most cases, veterinary intervention is  required to remove the foreign body and to treat the area with antibiotics.

Dog treatment with antibiotics
Dog with Grass Seed Abscess

2. Allergies and irritants

Allergies to grass seeds and other pollens may cause irritation, swelling and formation of blisters or pustules on the feet. Insect bites or stings may also cause a small, raised bump that may look like a blood blister.

Encountering irritants (e.g. pool acid or strong alkaline solutions like drain cleaner) can cause marked blistering on the feet. If you suspect exposure to an irritant, it is important to also check your dog’s mouth and tongue because they will often lick their feet and then these irritants can cause blistering and inflammation in their mouths.

A dog with injured paw

In most cases of allergies or irritant exposure, the dog will need veterinary attention to treat underlying issues and potential complications.

3. Infections and disease

Bacterial and fungal infections can cause blistering or abscesses on the paws. There are several systemic diseases including autoimmune diseases that can also cause blood blisters.

Senior Poodle dog infected paw with irritated redness skin and bleeding from fungus.

Tick borne diseases can also result in a drop in blood platelets resulting in blood blisters in various places on the body.

If you notice any worsening symptoms, or blood blisters in more than one area of your dog’s body, it can be an indication of severe disease and they need to visit a vet immediately.

Bleeding Under the Skin of Dog

4. Toxins

Exposure to rat poison drops the vitamin K levels in the dog’s body leading to bleeding throughout the body. In a small number of cases this can cause bleeding under the skin on the paws.

Rat poison exposure can be fatal. If you are noticing more than one blood blister, pale gums or if your dog is struggling to breathe, it is a veterinary emergency, and they should see a vet immediately.

5. Nail trauma

Broken nails or overgrown nails can causing bleeding and blood blisters on a dog’s paw. These injuries can be very painful and often need  veterinary assistance. Local or general anaesthesia is sometimes required to remove the broken nail. Pain management and antibiotics are also often required.

Damaged Dog Claw And Fingers

Conditions that may look like blood blisters:

1. Calluses

Calluses are thickened areas on a dog’s skin or pads. They can look like blood blisters but that are not filled with fluid and are not painful. They normally occur in dogs that are very active or dogs that have an abnormal conformation and put pressure on other areas of their pads.

Veterinarian examines dog leg calluses
Beagle dog paw print from the bottom of the paw.

2. Cysts

Sebaceous cysts do occasionally occur on a dog’s paw. They are generally benign and in many cases will resolve on their own. If they are large, uncomfortable, or become infected then veterinary intervention will be required.

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

Interdigital cysts often form between the toes and are because of constant trauma or an auto-immune condition. If your dog gets recurring cysts then the veterinarian will recommend biopsies of these cysts to ascertain the cause and to prescribe the relevant treatment.

interdigital cyst on dog paw
Cyst in the paw of a dog

3. Tumors

Tumors such as hemangiomas, histiocytomas, mast cell tumors or hemangiosarcomas can develop on a dog’s paw. Hemangiomas and hemangiosarcomas are from blood vessel origin and are often red and raised and can look very similar to a blood blister. Hemangiosarcomas can be very aggressive and prompt treatment is required to prevent spreading to the rest of the body.

Red tumor on a dog's paw

Histiocytomas generally occur in younger dogs and can appear almost overnight. They are generally benign and often disappear on their own.

Mast cell tumors can develop extremely quickly and are malignant and can be very aggressive. Prompt veterinary treatment is required.

If your vet suspects one of these tumors, they will either recommend fine needle aspirates or biopsies to ascertain he cause and advise on the appropriate treatment which may include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

4. Abscesses

An abscess is a localized infection that can occur when bacteria enter a wound or a foreign object becomes embedded in the paw. Abscesses can sometimes resemble blood blisters due to the accumulation of pus and blood under the skin. They are usually painful and require veterinary attention for proper treatment.

Visit the vet or wait-&-see?

If you notice a single, small, swelling or blood blister that is not painful and not causing your dog any discomfort then you can try home treatment and monitor the blood blister carefully.

If your dog is in any way unwell, for example, has a poor appetite, has pale gums, is lethargic, limping or in discomfort then it is better to visit the vet for further investigation and appropriate treatment.

WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]

Treating a blood blister at home

In some cases, if the blood blister is caused by minor trauma, then it can be treated at home and it can heal with rest and care. If you notice any change or worsening in the blister or in your dog’s behaviour, then it is best to stop home treatment and take them to see a vet as soon as possible.

The following steps can be taken to treat the blood blister:

1. Clean the area with a mild, pet-safe antiseptic. Be sure to dilute the antiseptic according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This will help to reduce the risk of infection. Do not use harsh soaps or chemicals as this could irritate the blister further.  

washing dog's paw in bucket

2. If the area is swollen or reddish then you can apply a cold compress. Be sure to wrap the cold compress in a clean cloth and apply it to the area for no more than 10 minutes. This can be done two to three times a day. This can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Do not allow the cold compress to be in direct contact with the dog’s skin.

3. Minimise your dog’s activity to limit further trauma to the area.

4. If your dog is licking the area or if it is getting dirty when the dog walks around, cover it in a light dressing. Be sure to check that the dressing is not too tight. Applying a mild antiseptic ointment can also aid in healing. Sometimes a small sock that is pulled over the foot and secured with Elastoplast is sufficient.

5. If they are continually licking, then an Elizabethan collar may be required to limit access to the injured paw.

If you see any worsening of the blood blister or if your dog appears unwell, please take them to see a vet as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

· Can blood blisters on dog paws heal on their own?

Yes, if they are small and related to a minor trauma they can heal on their own. If they are large or worsening or if they are in more than one area, this indicates that there is a more severe disease process present and veterinary treatment is indicated.

· How long does it take for blood blisters to heal?

If they are minor, they generally heal in less than a week. But if they are severe then several weeks’ treatment may be required

· Can blood blisters on dog paws be contagious?

Because they are mostly due to trauma, blood blisters are not contagious.

· Can I pop a blood blister on my dog’s paw?

No, it is not recommended to pop a blister. This can cause severe bleeding and pain and increases the risk of infection.

Blood blisters on dog paws can be a source of concern for pet owners. While some cases may resolve themselves with proper care and rest, it’s important to recognize when veterinary intervention is necessary. By following the steps outlined above and consulting with your veterinarian, you can ensure your dog receives the appropriate care and support for a speedy recovery. Remember, early detection and treatment are key to the well-being of our furry friends.


  • Dr. DeWet, Veterinarian

    Dr Ingrid de Wet has worked as a veterinarian for over 10 years after earning a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) from the University of Pretoria (2009). She is part owner of Country Animal Clinic in South Africa.

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