Spending the majority of their time on their feet, it is easy to see why it is so vitally important to make sure that you take good care of your dog’s paws. Despite the fact that they are durable and designed to withstand a great deal of activity and wear, they do encounter some problems. Understanding the disorders and problems associated with your dog’s paws will help you recognize when he is experiencing pain, so you can resolve the problem before it becomes serious or debilitating.
1. Cracked Foot Pads – although the exact cause is not known, something is causing enough irritation to affect your dog’s paws. Some possibilities could be an allergic reaction to walking on surfaces treated with chemicals, such as salts and de-icing preparations used on concrete and other surfaces during cold weather, rug shampoos, floor cleaners or even garden sprays and fertilizers used near patios and outdoor areas of the yard.
Symptoms: bleeding, inflammation, or an infection in more severe cases.
Treatment: apply balm to pad once or twice daily* to help restore the proper moisture to the pad.Checked the paws frequently and keep the pads clean and dry until healed. If there is an infection, apply an antibiotic cream (prescribed by a veterinarian) on a piece of gauze; keeping it clean and dry by placing a toddler’s sock over the paw and taping it securely, but not tightly, around the dog’s ankle to protect it. As long as your dog does not seem to be in pain, continue his normal activities, including walks.
*discontinue using the balm once the pad is healed, so the pads do not become too soft. It’s best for the pads to be healed, but tough enough to protect the rest of his foot.
2. Callus – a condition which occurs when the paw pads are subjected to tough conditions repeatedly, causing them to form a thick layer of protective cells in an effort to prevent further damage. The pads then become too hard, and more prone to drying and cracking, which makes them more vulnerable to infections as well.
Symptoms: cracks, pads become hard, pain and discomfort because the flexibility of the pads is diminished.
Treatment: apply a balm treatment until the pads return to normal, and keep the pads and areas between the pads clean and free of debris.
3. Nasodigital Hyperkaratosis – this disorder affects the tough, outer covering of the foot pads (and also the nose in older dogs); causing the covering and edges of these areas to grow excessively.
Symptoms: hard, dry, cracked pads (and/or nose), excess horn-shaped tissue will protrude from the afflicted area, causing pain and discomfort. Generally only the edges of the pad or nose are affected, but in severe cases the entire area will be affected.
Treatment: This ailment cannot be cured; however, it can be successfully controlled with medication to soften the affected areas, along with your veterinarian trimming the excess growth when needed.
4. Pemphigus – an auto-immune disease of the skin. The dog’s immune system mistakenly attacks the paw pad’s skin cells as if they were a disease or infection.
Symptoms: pus-filled sores resembling blisters that burst and form a crust on the paw pad (in more sever cases, this disorder may also spread to dog’s muzzle above his nose and his ears).
Treatment: Your veterinarian can make a diagnosis by analyzing a sample taken from the infected paw. If needed, your vet will prescribe a drug that suppresses the immune system to allow the paw to heal.
5. Allergies and Internal Illnesses – can cause the paw pads to crack. Animals’ bodies will manifest allergies through itchy feet. Itchy feet will cause your dog to bite or chew his paws, resulting in sore, cracked pads. Liver disease also causes paw pads to crack. A zinc deficiency, which is a common symptom of a poor quality diet, can also manifest by affecting a dog’s paw pads.
Treatment: These conditions need to be diagnosed by your veterinarian who will then prescribe the necessary treatments and medications to control the underlying conditions which will relieve the symptoms which have appeared on your dog’s paw pads.
6. Hard-pad Disease – a condition which manifests itself by affecting your dog’s paw pads, causing them to be sore and cracked may occur after your dog has battled canine distemper.
7. Zinc Deficiency – a poor quality diet will also cause a dog to have very thick paw pads, leaving them more susceptible to drying and cracking. This is usually diagnosed by observing the clinical signs, examining the skin and evaluating the dog’s history, age and breed.
Because dogs are such sturdy animals, who seem to need little maintenance beyond feeding and occasional grooming, care of their feet is often forgotten. Pet owners need to pay close attention to their dog’s paws and make sure they check them frequently for debris, splinters, cracked pads and swelling. An inflamed paw pad can lead to cracks, pain and discomfort, which if left unchecked can result in infection and more serious conditions.