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What Happens if You Step on Your Dog’s Paw?

There’s nothing pet owners love more than their furry friends following them around, but sometimes they can get in the way and cause you to step on their paws.

So, what happens if you step on your dog’s paw?

If you step on your dog’s paw, it may yelp because it’s in pain, but it usually won’t cause permanent damage depending on the circumstances (such as how small the dog is and if you were wearing shoes); however, you may cause a break or sprain in your dog’s paw.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss what happens when you step on your dog’s paw and what to do about it. 

I’ll also go over how dogs’ paws are sensitive and why that is, and provide some tips about your dog’s paws. 

Are Dog’s Paws Sensitive To Pain?

A dog’s paws are sensitive to pain and touch in general. 

According to Wag Walking, their paws provide a lot of sensory information to their brains because of the numerous nerve endings that are present in their paws. 

This means any touch is heightened for them, whether it be pain or pressure. 

According to Caroline Springs Vet, dogs can determine what type of terrain they’re walking on without even looking because of the nerve endings in their paws.

A dog’s paws are made this way so that a dog can be aware of its surroundings or sniff to follow a trail of something they’re looking for. 

This may be why your dog doesn’t want you touching its paws, even if you’re being gentle. 

Even though dogs’ paws are made so that they can walk on different surfaces, it’s still sensitive to everything it touches, which also explains why dogs don’t like getting their nails trimmed. 

If a dog has experienced trauma when getting their nails trimmed, they don’t forget about it. 

Therefore, they have a bad reaction because they’re anticipating it happening again. 

That’s why it’s important to correctly trim your dog’s nails, and if you can’t do it on your own, a professional should do it to keep your dog at ease. 

When thinking of a dog’s paws, think about your own hands and feet. 

Human hands and feet are very sensitive and provide a lot of sensory information to our brains, so if you pinch your hand in a door or someone steps on your foot, it hurts really bad. 

This is because there are a lot of nerve endings in the hands and feet, just like a dog’s paws.

According to Spring Time Inc., another reason dogs don’t like their paws being touched could be because it’s a survival instinct — all dogs have natural instincts to keep themselves alert and safe. 

Sometimes pulling their paws away from you or the dog groomer is because their natural instincts are kicking in. 

A dog’s paws are a crucial part of its body, so it’s perfectly normal for your dog to want to protect itself; it’s actually a sign of an intelligent dog. 

What To Do if You Step on Your Dog’s Paw

If you step on your dog’s paw, it’s important to closely monitor your dog for the next few minutes to see if there was any serious injury to the paw. 

Usually, when you step on your dog’s paw, no serious damage is done, but it’s still possible, so it’s always best to thoroughly check:

  1. Give your dog some love so that it can calm down and not be afraid of you: They don’t understand what happened and that it was an accident, so you must make them feel safe. 
  2. Leave your dog alone for a few minutes before inspecting the paw: It’s important to wait so that any immediate pain has mainly subsided in that amount of time. 
  3. Notice how your dog walks and if it tries to lick its paw: Look out for any bleeding or swelling if you can. 
  4. After you’ve waited a few minutes, try and carefully handle the paw to inspect it: Carefully feel the paw and see if you feel anything broken or swollen, and if the dog yelps, it’s likely a sign that the paw is sprained or broken.

For more information. check out my article discussing how dogs behave if they have a broken leg. [Will a Dog Lay on a Broken Leg?]

Depending on your dog’s reaction to these steps, you may have to take your dog to the vet. 

When To See a Vet After Stepping on Your Dog’s Paw

If your dog is yelping when you touch the paw or limping when it walks, this could be a sign there’s a sprain or broken bone. 

This will require immediate medical attention, so it’s best to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

If you also notice any bleeding or discoloration, you should definitely take your dog to the vet. 

Your dog may also whine and have its ears back, which is a sign it’s distressed and in pain.

On the occasion that it’s the weekend and you can’t get into an emergency vet, there are a few things you can do to nurse the wound until then: 

  • Grab an ice pack and apply it to your dog’s paw to help ease the swelling and numb the pain. 
  • Grab an ace bandage and carefully wrap your dog’s paw to keep it stable until visiting the vet. 

Doing either of these may be a challenge because your dog probably won’t want you to touch its paw. 

If your dog doesn’t yelp after doing this, then your dog is probably fine and doesn’t need to go to the vet. 

It’s best to just keep an eye on your dog and how it acts with that certain paw — if it’s acting normal and not limping, then no serious injury has occurred. 

Can You Hurt Your Dog’s Paw Stepping on It Barefoot?

You can definitely still hurt your dog’s paw by stepping on it while barefoot, as the weight from your body will still be on your dog’s paw. 

Most owners are bigger than their dogs, so the extra weight is going to hurt. 

If your dog is extremely small, such as a puppy or a small dog breed like a chihuahua, it’s going to hurt even more because your weight compared to there’s is significantly different. 

In cases like this, a possibility of a broken or sprained paw is more likely. 

That being said, stepping on your dog’s paw while wearing shoes will most likely hurt worse because shoes add extra weight and a harder surface. 

If someone steps on your foot while wearing shoes as opposed to barefoot, you’ll notice a difference — it’s the same for a dog’s paws. 

Do Dogs Know When You Accidentally Step on Them?

Dogs don’t know when you accidentally step on them. 

It’s impossible for dogs to understand the meaning behind their owners’ actions, at least according to many studies. 

However, immediately comforting your dog after stepping on its paw stops the dog from associating you with negative emotions.

Of course, owners may speak to their dogs and apologize for accidentally stepping on them, but the dog won’t know what they’re saying. 

However, dogs have been said to understand human emotions to an extent — they can tell when you’re happy or when you’re mad at them for chewing up your favorite pair of shoes. 

This is because they can sense the shift in emotions through your tone of voice and through the chemical changes that occur in your body.

According to Androscoggin Animal Hospital Staff, dogs can sense when a person is sick due to a chemical reaction that occurs and releases specific pheromones. 

To you, you smell the same, but dogs have a high sense of smell and can detect a shift in scent.

So, as your dog grows up and gets to know you, they may be able to understand that even though they just got stepped on, you’re not mad, so they won’t interpret this as anger towards them. 

There have also been studies done to see if dogs know when their owners are upset or crying, and most results suggest that they do.

Dogs were proven to go and comfort their upset owners because they could sense that something wasn’t right. 

None of this can be 100% proven for all dogs, but many behaviors of dogs suggest this.

For example, when dogs are abused by an owner, their demeanor is scared or aggressive. 

If they have a loving owner who has accidentally stepped on them, their entire demeanor isn’t going to change over that. 

This is because they don’t interpret it as something to continuously be scared of, whereas in an abusive household, they would be on alert at all times.  

Dogs are always on alert in general for basic survival instincts and because they have heightened senses.

So, it’s not too far-fetched to believe that they can decipher between an accident and an angry abusive act towards them. 

Many owners, when greeting their dogs or praising them for doing something good, will have a happy or excited tone of voice.

Dogs seem to pick up on this and wag their tale or jump in excitement. 

This shows they can understand their human is happy and they should be too — without knowing exactly why. 

Therefore, when accidentally stepping on them, they may not fully understand what happened, but if you pet them and apologize and have a calm voice, they won’t associate you with negative emotions.

That’s why it’s always crucial to check on them immediately after and give them lots of love so they can sense that you’re not upset with them. 

Dogs are very smart animals, and the bond between a dog and its owner will always be something special that we may never know all the answers to how it works. 

One thing is for sure, if you take good care of your dog, then your dog should understand you on somewhat of an emotional level to be able to comprehend when accidents happen.

Other Issues That Cause Your Dog Paw Pain

If you’ve noticed recently that your dog is extremely cautious with its paws and refuses to let you touch them, there may be something else going on. 

If you haven’t stepped on your dog’s paw, the pain could be an issue with your dog’s nails.

Dogs can acquire issues with their nails, such as: 

  • Ingrown nail: If a dog’s nails aren’t properly groomed, they’ll become too long and curl back in on themselves, causing extreme pain.
  • Bacteria Infection: A bacterial infection can come from various things, such as issues in your dog’s environment or allergies, so it’s important to take your dog to the vet so that this can be treated with an ointment or oral medication.
  • Fungal Infection: According to Vet Derm, A fungus such as ringworm can inhibit one or more of your dog’s nails, giving them crusty nails and surrounding skin

Any of these can cause pain and discomfort to your dog’s paws, making them seem more sensitive to you touching them than normal. It’s important to visit the dog groomer on a regular basis to avoid nail and paw issues.

To determine if your dog may have one of these issues, look out for symptoms such as:

  • Crusty nails or skin around the nails
  • Brittle nails
  • Bleeding
  • Split nails
  • Discolored nails
  • Pus coming from the nail area

Your dog displaying any of these symptoms is an indication that something needs treatment. so make sure you book a vet appointment as soon as you can. 

Final Thoughts

When you step on your dog’s paws, it can cause them temporary pain and, in severe cases, a sprained or broken paw. 

A dog’s paws are full of nerve endings, making them sensitive to pain and touch. 

If you accidentally step on your dog’s paw, make sure to monitor how it acts for the rest of the day. 

If there’s a sprain or break, you’ll know pretty quickly based on your dog whining or limping. 

Stepping on your dog’s paw with or without shoes is going to hurt because of your weight compared to theirs, so try and be careful.