Foot Pad Disease in Dogs

David Tayman D.V.M.
VCA Columbia Animal Hospital's

There are several known causes of cracked foot pads and unfortunately unknown reasons of this disorder. If a dog chews its paws, it may be walking in or on a chemical that’s irritating its feet. Rug shampoos, floor cleaners, or garden sprays, for example, can irritate the paws of some dogs. The sore and inflamed paws that result may prompt the animal to chew its feet, aggravating the existing irritation and causing pad cracking. Some other possibilities are that the dog may be having an allergic reaction to a substance it breathes or eats, a chronic yeast infection similar to athletes foot, a nutritional zinc deficiency, or autoimmune disease. A veterinarian can help identify possible culprits and suggest ways to eliminate the problem.

Yeast infections may be diagnosed by the evaluation of skin smears taken of the paw. This condition is treated by the use of antifungal medications.

Zinc deficiencies may be diagnosed through history, clinical signs, skin biopsy, breed predisposition, diet, and age. In rapidly growing dogs, either feeding a diet high in cereal or calcium may produce this disease. Breeds reported to have this disease are Great Danes, Dobermans, Beagles, Shepherds, German Short Haired Pointers, and Poodles. Certain breeds such as the Husky or Malamute may have a decreased absorption of zinc through the digestive tract.

Allergy testing through a blood sample or skin testing is also available to assist us in treating your pet. Your veterinarian will then recommend if indicated allergy injections to stimulate your pet’s immune system.

Another possibility is nasodigital hyperkeratosis - an ailment affecting either the nose or foot pads (or both) of older dogs. In hyperkeratosis, keratin - the tough, fibrous outer covering of foot pads - grows excessively. Often, the hard, cracked pads appear to have "keratin feathers" around their edges. A vet can diagnose this ailment by analyzing a section of pad tissue. Although hyperkeratosis can’t be cured, it can be controlled. The veterinarian can carefully trim excessive keratin and instruct the owner on techniques to hydrate the pads, retarding excessive keratin growth. One such technique is to soak the pads each day in a 50 percent propylene-glycol solution over a period of several days.

Lastly, an animal can suffer from an auto-immune disease of the skin (pemphigus), in which the immune system goes haywire and mistakes skin cells for enemy invaders. In the most common type of pemphigus, pus-filled sores - which eventually break and form crusts - develop on the foot pads, bridge of the nose, and ears. Again, a vet can test for pemphigus by analyzing a sample of the affected skin. If pemphigus is the culprit, the veterinarian may treat it with immune-suppressing drugs.

reprinted with kind permission from David Tayman D.V.M
VCA Columbia Animal Hospital's
10788 Hickory Ridge Rd. Columbia, MD. 21044
Phone- 410-730-2122  Fax    410-992-9511
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The above information is simply informational. It's intent is not to replace the advice of a veterinarian nor to assist you in making a diagnosis of your pet. Please consult with your own veterinarian for confirmation of any diagnosis. Your pets life may depend on it.