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I Stepped on My Dog’s Paw, What Should I Do? Our Vet Explains What to Do

Written by: Dr. Samantha Devine DVM (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on May 8, 2024 by Dogster Team

jack russell terrier dog lying on carpet

I Stepped on My Dog’s Paw, What Should I Do? Our Vet Explains What to Do

VET APPROVED

Dr. Samantha Devine  Photo

WRITTEN BY

Dr. Samantha Devine

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Yikes! Your dog was running underfoot, and you stepped on its paw? Your dog probably let out the biggest yelp, startling you! We, as dog owners, probably have stepped on our dog’s paw at least once. It makes us feel terrible, but what about your dog? Are they hurt? What should you do if you stepped on your dog’s paw?

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What Do I Do if I Stepped on My Dog’s Paw?

First, you should take a deep breath and reassure both you and your dog. Your hearts are probably beating a mile a minute. Put down anything you’re carrying. Do a quick initial assessment. Does your dog have any open wounds that are bleeding? If so, apply gentle pressure and get them to a veterinarian immediately.

Is your dog bearing weight on the paw? If they are, give them a few minutes to see if that continues. For dogs that are holding their paw up, do they start using it again pretty quickly?

If it’s safe for you, gently palpate your dog’s paw and see if anything seems painful. Be careful doing this, as even the friendliest dogs can snap when they’re in pain.

Give your dog a few minutes to see what they will do. You can monitor if they do not favor their paw and seem unreactive. If you see one or more of the following signs, contact your veterinarian to have your dog examined:

  • Open wound
  • Swollen paw
  • Refusal to bear weight on the paw
  • If your dog is tender or reactive to having their paw handled
  • Digit or paw held at an odd angle
pembroke welsh corgi dog limping
Image Credit: Jus_Ol, Shutterstock

Possible Injuries

Most of the time, your dog will be fine if you step on it. You might even have a pup with a flair for the dramatic who yelps if you step near its paw…ask me how I know.

There is a chance that you could injure your dog accidentally by stepping on them, especially if you have a little dog. Puppies are especially at risk for traumatic injuries as they grow and develop, partially because they tend to be small but also because their growth plates haven’t finished closing. Soft tissue injuries and bone fractures are possible. If you’re wearing a heavy-duty boot or high-heeled shoes, you could also easily cut your dog’s skin.

Diagnosing an Injury to the Paw

If your dog shows evidence that their paw is hurting, they need to be examined by a vet, ideally sooner rather than later. You’ll tell your veterinarian about what happened during the exam, and your dog will get a nose-to-tail physical exam. Your veterinarian should palpate the affected leg from the top of the leg down to each toe. They’ll check to see if your dog is painful, has evidence of swelling or external wounds, check for symmetry, and more.

Radiographs (X-rays) are used to check for broken bones. These diagnostic images are also helpful in looking for evidence of soft tissue swelling. Depending on your hospital, your veterinarian may send the images to a radiologist for further review, which could take a few minutes or a few days.

vet examining dog's paw
Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

Treatment After Stepping on Your Dog’s Paw

If your veterinarian determines your dog has a mild soft tissue injury, they’ll likely recommend exercise restriction. You’ll need to keep your dog confined for several days except for short leash walks. While your dog recovers, they shouldn’t run around or jump off the furniture.

Your veterinarian will likely prescribe anti-inflammatory pain medications for your pup, such as:

  • Rimadyl (carprofen)
  • Metacam (meloxicam)
  • Galliprant (grapiprant)

If the vet determines that your dog has a fracture, they’ll likely need to bandage or splint your dog’s paw. Sometimes, your dog might need surgery to correct and stabilize the leg.

Other considerations

  • If your dog has arthritis-related leg pain, they might be candidates for a monthly injection called
  • Fish oils with omega-3 fatty acids can be helpful for dogs with arthritis pain to decrease inflammation, but they aren’t a quick fix.
  • Certain diets, such as Hill’s j/d, are beneficial for joint health. There’s even a weight loss and joint health diet, Metabolic Mobility by Hill’s.
  • You could also consider alternative treatments, such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, laser therapy, and hydrotherapy.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

I Accidentally Stepped on My Dog’s Head. What Do I Do?

If you step on your dog’s head, neck, or body, the safest thing to do is to have them examined by a veterinarian. It’s straightforward to cause a traumatic injury, even accidentally.

Is There Anything I Can Give My Dog at Home for Leg Pain?

You should not use medication without talking to your veterinarian. In most cases, the best course of action is to have your dog examined by your veterinarian, who can prescribe effective pain medication.

Never use human pain medication for your dog. Some might be ineffective, but others, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), can be downright dangerous to give your dog. Doggie aspirin is available over the counter, but it is associated with gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding, and it can limit more effective pain medication options for your dog.

female veterinarian checking dog's paw
Image Credit: Wasan Tita, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Your dog is a family member, and it’s scary to think we might have hurt them. If you step on your pup, take a moment to watch your dog move and see if anything feels painful. If you have any questions or see anything out of the ordinary, call your veterinarian’s office to have your dog checked over to be safe. It’ll give you peace of mind.


Featured Image Credit: evrymmnt, Shutterstock

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