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Pododermatitis in Dogs

What Is Pododermatitis in Dogs?

Pododermatitis in dogs is a common issue that arises when dogs excessively lick or chew their paws, leading to inflammation and potential infections of the skin, nails, nail folds, or foot pads. It typically manifests between the toes but can affect any part of the paw. While it’s not a standalone disease, pododermatitis can occur in dogs of any age, gender, or breed.

Despite its focus on the paws, pododermatitis often accompanies other symptoms such as overall itchy skin or skin infections. If left untreated, it can cause pain and discomfort, possibly resulting in limping or lameness. Thus, it’s crucial to seek veterinary attention if you notice excessive paw licking or suspect pododermatitis in your dog. A veterinarian can diagnose the condition and establish an appropriate treatment plan to address the underlying causes and alleviate discomfort for your pet.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms of pododermatitis in dogs encompass a range of observable signs:

  • Excessive licking or chewing of the paw
  • Reddening of the skin on the paw
  • Presence of red or brown staining
  • Hair loss on the paw
  • Swelling of the paw
  • Painful sensations in the paw
  • Itchiness in the paw
  • Limping or lameness
  • Swollen skin around the nail
  • Discharge, which may be clear or opaque, along with waxy or oily debris, particularly within the toe folds
  • Localized swelling or the appearance of small nodules, often situated between the toes
  • Potential leakage of pus or bloody discharge
  • Abnormal odor emanating from the paw
  • Formation of scar tissue

Certain breeds are more prone to experiencing pododermatitis, including Boxers, Bulldogs, Bull Terriers, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Irish Setters.

Causes

The causes of pododermatitis in dogs are multifaceted, often involving a combination of factors:

  • Allergies, including atopic dermatitis, contact allergies, and food allergies, are the primary culprits behind pododermatitis. These allergies prompt dogs to experience itchy paws, leading to the development of pododermatitis.
  • Interdigital furunculosis arises from deep bacterial infections between a dog’s toes.
  • Foreign bodies, such as foxtail plants, other plant parts, and grass seeds, can embed themselves between a dog’s paws, inducing discomfort and infection due to licking and irritation.
  • Trauma or insect bites on the paws may result in secondary bacterial and/or fungal infections due to excessive licking driven by pain, discomfort, or itchiness.
  • Infections caused by Demodex mites, Malassezia fungus, Staphylococcus bacteria, and ringworm fungus can also lead to pododermatitis.
  • Skin tumors like histiocytomas, squamous cell carcinoma of the nail bed, and lymphoma may contribute to pododermatitis in dogs.
  • Hormonal diseases like hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease can compromise a dog’s immune system, potentially leading to pododermatitis.
  • Autoimmune skin diseases such as pemphigus foliaceus, although rare in dogs, can also trigger pododermatitis.

Certain factors elevate a dog’s susceptibility to pododermatitis, including:

  • Obesity or being a large/giant breed, which places increased weight on the paws.
  • Dog breeds with short, wiry hair around their feet, such as Boxers, English Bulldogs, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers, are predisposed to pododermatitis.
  • Abnormal weight bearing on limbs due to congenital defects, arthritis, or torn ligaments can also heighten the risk of pododermatitis in dogs.

Diagnosis

Veterinarians employ various methods to diagnose pododermatitis in dogs:

  • They begin by gathering a comprehensive medical history and conducting a physical examination to assess the extent of the dog’s condition. Pododermatitis can often be identified visually by observing symptoms and lesions on the dog’s paws.
  • Veterinarians may recommend specific skin diagnostic tests to identify the underlying cause of pododermatitis, which is essential for devising an effective treatment plan. If nodules are present on the dog’s feet, extracting fluid from the center of the lesion can aid in diagnosis.
  • In cases of advanced or chronic pododermatitis, or if there is suspicion of a foreign body or tumor, veterinarians may perform local or surgical biopsies and conduct paw X-rays. Blood tests may also be conducted to identify any hormonal deficiencies, such as thyroid hormone and cortisol levels.
  • Allergies are often diagnosed after secondary infections have subsided, as it may take time to eliminate potential allergens. It’s crucial to provide veterinarians with any pertinent information that may assist in diagnosing the cause of pododermatitis. Details regarding flea prevention, the use of topical therapies, changes in diet or treats, alterations in lifestyle, and environmental shifts can all aid veterinarians in determining the root cause of the condition.

Treatment

Treatment for pododermatitis in dogs is tailored to the underlying cause identified by the veterinarian:

  • Upon diagnosis, veterinarians devise a specific treatment plan for the dog’s pododermatitis. Minor lesions that do not cause discomfort, such as those affecting a single paw or between a few toes, may be managed at home using medicated wipes, mousse, or shampoos like Duoxo® S3 (available as wipes or shampoo) and Dechra® products.
  • If the dog experiences pain or if the paw lesions worsen or persist beyond a few days, immediate veterinary attention is necessary. Commonly prescribed antibiotics for skin infections include Cephalexin, Cefpodoxime, and Convenia®.
  • Treatment for mange varies based on lesion severity. Topical creams and shampoos containing benzoyl peroxide are often recommended for small, localized lesions. Insect repellents and flea/tick prevention measures can aid in managing demodex infections. Additionally, depending on the cause of pododermatitis, veterinarians may prescribe anti-inflammatory or steroid medications as part of the treatment regimen.

Recovery and Management

The recovery and management of pododermatitis in dogs depend largely on the underlying cause:

  • While some causes of pododermatitis may not have a definitive cure, it’s possible to manage the condition medically to ensure your dog remains free from pain and itching. Most infectious causes, such as those stemming from bacteria, fungus, ringworm, and mange, can be effectively treated with appropriate medications.
  • Hormonal causes can be managed through medication aimed at supplementing the body’s low hormone levels. Prognosis varies from good to guarded, contingent upon the successful diagnosis and treatment of the underlying cause.
  • Diagnosing and treating pododermatitis can be a complex and lengthy process, often causing frustration for pet parents. Regular follow-up examinations and diagnostic tests are essential for veterinarians to identify and address the underlying issues, though this process may take weeks to months.
  • There are preventive measures that may help avoid pododermatitis. If you observe your dog licking excessively, immediate intervention using a recovery collar and seeking veterinary treatment for the underlying condition can mitigate the risk of pododermatitis development.

Pododermatitis in Dogs FAQs

How long does it take pododermatitis in dogs to heal?

  • The duration of healing for pododermatitis in dogs varies depending on the underlying cause. Recovery may take days, weeks, or even months. Some cases can be completely cured, while others require ongoing management with appropriate treatment.

Can pododermatitis in dogs resolve on its own?

Pododermatitis does not typically resolve without medical intervention and treatment. If your dog exhibits symptoms such as excessive licking and biting of their paws, it’s important to seek veterinary care promptly.

Can dogs develop pododermatitis due to food allergies?

  • Yes, pododermatitis can be triggered by food allergies in dogs. Excessive licking and chewing of the paws are common signs of food allergies, especially in young to middle-aged dogs. However, these symptoms can also stem from environmental allergies or other underlying causes.
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