Your dog's paws serve many essential purposes, allowing it to walk and run, offering protection from rough surfaces, aiding in temperature control and more. These crucial tools are important to protect, especially in high-risk situations. When your dog is outdoors, its paws are constantly exposed to different terrains and harsh elements. As a result, paw inflammation and injuries happen.
Regular paw care is essential to prevent common problems. Pododermatitis is one of the biggest concerns for your pup's feet, causing irritation, discomfort and sometimes pain. It can be caused by various things, from infections to allergies or various medical disorders, so understanding this common skin problem is a must for every dog owner.
Dog Pododermatitis Definition
Canine pododermatitis is inflammation of the skin on a dog's feet or paws. It can impact one or more paws and typically affects the nails, nail folds, paw pads and skin between the toes. Pododermatitis may start as itchy and irritating but can become painful without treatment. The condition can also lead to weakness in the limbs and general fatigue.
Pododermatitis is not itself a disease but a tell-tale sign that something else is wrong. It is a common symptom of many diseases, including some serious ones. Therefore, even if it doesn’t look severe, pododermatitis is something that you should always take seriously.
Dog Pododermatitis Causes
There are various causes of pododermatitis in a dog's paws. Here are some of the most common:
- Paw infection: A dog paw infection may display redness, a foul scent, lesions with discharge and swelling. Dogs can pick up infections from the ground, but they can also develop them from excessive licking. If a dog keeps licking a wound, it can transfer bacteria residing in its mouth onto the open cut. While pododermatitis itself is not contagious, if it stems from an infection, it may be transferable.
- Parasites: Some parasites, such as ticks, mange mites and hookworms, can cause pododermatitis.
- Allergies: Environmental, contact and food allergies often present in the paws first since they are how your dog physically interacts with the world. In these cases, your dog would show signs of itchiness by chewing on its paws.
- Foreign objects: Pododermatitis could be caused by sharp objects piercing your pup's feet or insect stings or bites. These leave your dog vulnerable to infection.
- Genetics: Some breeds are more susceptible to getting pododermatitis, such as boxers, bull terriers, Dachshunds, German shepherds, golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers.
- Damaged nails: Serious nail damage can expose tissue and leave your dog susceptible to infection. Long nails may break by the base, causing bleeding. A dog can also suffer from nail avulsion, where the nail tears from the paw at the base.
There are also some diseases and medical conditions that are associated with pododermatitis:
- Immune-mediated disorders: Lupus, pemphigus and vasculitis compromise the body's ability to defend against infections. Crusts, ulcerations and sometimes blisters may be present in these cases.
- Hormonal disorders: Addison's Disease, Cushing's disease, hypoestrogenism and hypothyroidism weaken the immune system and increase the chance of infection.
- Tumors: Cancerous tumors grow over the dog's feet, such as nail bed squamous cell carcinoma and epitheliotropic lymphoma.
- Viruses: Canine distemper virus lowers the immune system, resulting in secondary infections.
Determining the Cause
It’s essential to determine the exact origin of pododermatitis because, while the condition itself may not be severe, the underlying cause could be. Vets will diagnose the cause based on the dog's medical history and clinical symptoms.
During the pododermatitis diagnosis process, the vet will carry out a thorough physical examination to see if the dog's paws are red and swollen and if lesions and discharge are present. They may then take a skin sample from the affected area to examine under a microscope using a technique known as cutaneous cytology.
Cutaneous cytology is one of the most common diagnosing methods used. It looks for the presence or absence of inflammatory cells, bacteria, yeast and parasites. If a parasite is suspected, they may take skin scrapings or hair pluckings to determine the exact type.
A complete blood count is another common way to determine the cause of pododermatitis. Blood count tests can detect a virus, disorder or hormonal imbalance. Urine testing, food trials, biopsies and radiographic imaging can also help pinpoint the exact origin.
Determining the Cause as an Owner
While your vet can conduct a medical analysis to determine why your dog is experiencing pododermatitis, it helps if you can find potential causes, as well. It's important to be aware of your dog's genetic history and any allergies it has so you know if it's particularly susceptible to pododermatitis.
Beyond knowing your dog's background information, you should maintain an awareness of its body and surroundings. Monitor your dog's nails daily to verify that they're in good health. Paying close attention allows you to notice warning signs quicker.
Meanwhile, keep tabs on your home and yard to see if there are any hazards that could injure your dog's paws. It helps to detect and remove hazards before an injury, but taking the time to find the culprit after an injury that caused pododermatitis can help your vet provide the appropriate treatment.
Dog Pododermatitis Treatment
Because it is a symptom rather than an actual medical condition, the specific cause will determine how to treat pododermatitis in a dog's paw.
Even if the cause is an infection, the dog paw treatment needed varies with the type of infection. For example, suppose the cause is a bacterial infection. In that case, a course of antibiotics will be prescribed, with or without topical treatment. However, if inflammation is due to fungus, an antifungal medicine will be necessary.
The condition may not be curable if pododermatitis occurs due to an allergic or immune-mediated cause. However, anti-inflammatory topical or oral medication will help reduce the swelling and alleviate the pain. Surgical removal may be necessary for tumors.
Pododermatitis Recovery Time for Dogs
Depending on the cause and the severity, it can take up to 12 weeks for the dog's foot inflammation to heal fully. However, even for severe cases, you should start to see improvement within 2 to 4 weeks. Still, you should continue the entire course of treatment as advised by your vet, even as symptoms improve.
Pododermatitis in dogs rarely goes away without treatment as it's not a simple skin irritation but rather a symptom of an underlying medical condition. What's more, the longer it goes untreated, the more serious it can become. Pododermatitis typically starts as swollen, red and itchy feet, which can progress to painful sores and even lameness. Therefore, if you suspect pododermatitis in your dog, the best thing you can do is book an appointment with your vet.
Treating Your Dog's Pododermatitis at Home
When combined with veterinary-prescribed medication, a pododermatitis home remedy may help to speed up your four-legged friend's recovery.
Here are a few reliable ways to provide pododermatitis treatment at home that can relieve symptoms and help your pet feel more comfortable:
- Vinegar solutions: If you suspect a yeast infection, you can wipe the paws using a homemade vinegar solution. Mix distilled white vinegar and water at a 1:10 ratio. Alternatively, suppose your dog's paws seem incredibly itchy. In that case, you can apply apple cider vinegar or coconut oil to the affected foot.
- Soothing foods: Adding some yogurt to its food may also help relieve itchiness caused by an allergy.
- Bathing: When you first notice the inflammation and are waiting to see your vet, you can try to relieve the symptoms by soaking its feet in warm water or washing them with dog shampoo.
- Rest: Your vet will likely suggest that you minimize your dog's movement and exercise during the treatment period. However, whether you have to restrict all walks will be determined case-by-case.
- Bandages: If you take your dog out for walks, it's best to bandage the infected paw to prevent further damage and avoid taking it on rough surfaces.
Never give your dog any human medication such as painkillers, even if your dog seems in pain.
There are some general things you can do to reduce the chances of your dog getting pododermatitis. However, as it is a broad condition, nothing can guarantee total prevention. Here are some things that may help you prevent pododermatitis dog paws.
- Implementing a healthy diet: The more robust your dog's immune system, the less chance it will have of picking up an infection. By feeding high-quality, complete dog food with the appropriate nutrients, you'll help your pup stay healthy.
- Establishing a grooming routine: A common cause of dog paw infections is overgrown or broken nails. Therefore, nail trimming can help prevent inflammation. In addition, regular paw cleaning with antibacterial wipes or shampoo will reduce the chance of bacterial infection.
- Being careful of where it walks: Sharp or rough terrain can cut your dog's feet, and hot surfaces can cause burning or blistering.
- Wearing dog boots: If your pup tolerates wearing dog boots, this can be an excellent way to protect its sensitive paws during walks.
Pododermatitis dog paws can be highly irritating and painful for dogs, preventing them from walking and running with ease. If you notice your dog's paws are red between the toes or swollen, book an appointment with your vet without delay. The faster you determine the inflammation's cause, the faster your four-legged friend can get back to its usual playful and happy self.
Last Updated on September 19, 2023 at 9:00 AM