Cracked Paws, Crusty Noses And Calloused Elbows In Dogs Explained


Dry and cracked dog skin, noses, elbows and paws are a fairly common problem for dogs in South Africa. While some underlying diseases like liver problems, mineral deficiencies or auto-immune diseases can cause crusting paws or skin lesions, the majority of milder problems can be easily managed at home or avoided altogether.


Cracked paw pads are a common problem, particularly in summer. Hot paving and sand can burn the paw and toe pads making them crack open and bleed which may lead to infection if left untreated. 

A crack that has penetrated through the hard layers and into the deep dermal tissue of the paw pad is extremely painful. These may need to be bandaged and can take months to heal, so the key is prevention. 


1. Avoid Hot Surfaces

Hot surfaces like sand, paving or tar can burn their paws even if they seem to be absolutely fine. Try to avoid these types of surfaces or at least go out in the early mornings or late afternoons when it’s a bit cooler. 

Humans avoid the burn by hopping between shady spots and puddles, but our dogs are too busy thinking about all the fun to be had, so they often overdo it.

Test whether a surface is too hot for your hound to handle…

TIP: Place the back of your hand on the surface. If it’s too hot for you to keep it there for at least 5 seconds then it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.

2. Avoid excessive exercise on hard or rough surfaces

Even if the surface isn’t too hot, excessive exercise on tar or paving can wear through the paw pads’ protective layer.

Whether simply running around the pool for hours or running 5 km with you day in and day out, keep an eye on their paw pads. If they seem sensitive or dry, treat them with an emollient such as DERMOSCENT BIOBALM and give your dog some time off to allow the pads to recover. 

3. Keep an eye on your pooch’s pedicure

If your dog spends lots of time indoors or on softer surfaces like sand and grass, they’ll need to have regular nail trimmings to avoid excessively long or ingrown nails. Tar and paving act as a type of nail file for the nails but if your dog doesn’t spend much time on these, he’ll need a regular clipping to keep those nails short. 

As a dog’s nails grow and start to curve downwards, the nail hits on the ground as they walk and this can be very uncomfortable. The longer they get the more trauma is caused in the nail bed as each step forces the nail upwards.

Once the nail has grown into the paw pad, the skin can break and become infected or even form an abscess. Avoiding this with regular nail trimming is key.  

Your groomer or vet can perform nail clippings. If you start from puppyhood and use positive reinforcement and treats, you can train your dog to sit nicely while you do regular nail clippings at home. Follow this link for a guide on how to clip your dog’s nail and see which clippers are best suited to your needs.


There are a few reasons why our dogs’ noses become hard, dry and crusty. Most of the time it doesn’t bother them, but here are a few things to look out for:


These can be caused by repeated exposure to sunlight – our pets also get sunburnt like us and is most often seen in white haired dogs and cats with fair/unpigmented skin. Applying PET SUNBLOCK daily is important for these pets, particularly for those that spend lots of time outdoors. Just as we can develop some types of skin cancers from repeated sunburn, so too can our fur-kids. 

If your pet has a sore on the nose that won’t heal, ask your vet to check it out. They can perform a biopsy to find out what’s up and treat it accordingly.


While French and English bulldogs are prone to developing a problem called nasal hyperkeratosis, it can affect any dog. This condition is the thickening of the nose which can become quite extensive. BUT it usually doesn’t bother them and isn’t necessarily a major issue. 

However, if the cracks extend into the deep, sensitive tissue and become infected; it can be a bit of a nightmare and difficult to treat.  An emollient like DERMOSCENT BIOBALM has been shown to help manage this condition and prevent deep cracks from developing. The sooner you start applying it, the better. This will keep your dog’s snout shiny and moisturised.

If your dog spends a lot of time digging with his nose in the sand, little sores or scratches can form, or even bee & wasp stings can happen. Swellings, growths, or any nasal abnormality for that matter, should be checked by a vet and treated if necessary.


Callouses and hygromas (swelling on the elbow) are common problems in large breed dogs. ESPECIALLY if they’re lean breeds like Great Danes or Dobermanns. The point of the elbow and even the hock (the ankle area on the back legs) can form a swelling after repeated trauma. 

These lean, active dogs often bump themselves on hard floors or inside their kennels. The body’s response to this is for the skin to harden and for a pocket of fluid to develop. This pocket of fluid is called a hygroma and it isn’t easy to get rid of. The good news is that it isn’t painful and you can manage your dog’s condition by giving them lots of soft bedding to lie on. 

If your dog is limping then it’s unlikely to be a superficial problem and a joint could be involved. 

If you’re worried, have your vet take a look at your dog.

Whether it’s their nose, paws or elbows; your vet will be able to guide you in making good decisions for your pet’s health and well-being.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *