Canine pododermatitis may sound alarming, but it is not a disease in itself. Instead, it is a condition that encompasses various underlying issues that lead to inflammation and irritation in a dog’s paws. Imagine it as a catch-all term for describing the discomfort caused by inflamed paws. This can manifest as your furry friend worrying his toes, nails, and foot pads. Unfortunately, this behavior can lead to secondary infections, exacerbating the initial symptoms. If you notice your dog persistently licking or chewing his feet, or struggling to walk on hard surfaces, it’s possible that he has pododermatitis.
Aside from red and itchy paws, other symptoms of this common problem can include localized swelling between the toes, the development of open and draining fistulas with a pus-like or bloody discharge, and a foul odor. While pododermatitis can primarily affect your dog’s feet, it often spreads to other areas of the skin as well. Regardless of whether your dog is a working canine or simply enjoys barking at delivery trucks and chasing squirrels, this condition can significantly impact his daily life. So, let’s dive deeper into the causes, treatment, and management of pododermatitis.
What Causes Canine Pododermatitis?
Pododermatitis can be caused by various diseases and foot infections, such as bacterial or yeast infections, allergic dermatitis, trauma with secondary infections, parasites (such as demodicosis), neoplasia (abnormal tissue growth), autoimmune diseases, congenital conditions, endocrine and metabolic disorders, as well as skin cancers. Although pododermatitis may not be life-threatening, it can severely affect your dog’s quality of life. Therefore, it is crucial to identify and address the root cause.
Common Underlying Diseases That Cause Pododermatitis
When diagnosing pododermatitis, veterinarians often suspect one of the following underlying conditions:
Demodicosis is a skin disease caused by a parasitic mite called Demodex canis. While these mites usually live quietly in a dog’s hair follicles when the immune system is healthy, they can cause severe inflammatory skin disease when the immune system is compromised. Demodicosis typically affects more than just the paws, leading to symptoms such as swelling, scaling of the skin, and hair loss. Treating demodicosis may require long-term therapy to achieve remission and prevent recurrences.
Yeast (fungal) and bacterial foot infections are also common causes of pododermatitis. Yeast infections, often secondary to an underlying condition called atopic dermatitis, can result in itching, redness, discharge, and discoloration of the dog’s toenails. Ringworm, a soil-dwelling fungus, can also lead to pododermatitis. Bacterial infections may cause symptoms such as licking, biting, pain, redness, swelling, hair loss, crusting, draining sinuses, and possibly abscesses.
Atopic dermatitis is an itchy and inflammatory skin disease triggered by environmental allergens, similar to hay fever in humans. Dogs with atopic dermatitis often scratch, rub, lick, or chew their paws, as well as other affected areas like the face, ears, limbs, flanks, and belly. While atopic dermatitis requires lifelong management, it can be effectively controlled, allowing your furry friend to have a good quality of life.
How to Treat Pododermatitis in Dogs
Considering the multitude of underlying causes, treatment options for pododermatitis vary. Identifying the specific cause and focusing treatment on that aspect offer the best prognosis. It’s essential to take action sooner rather than later, as delaying treatment can lead to scarring or worsening symptoms.
Treatment for localized demodicosis is usually unnecessary. However, if your dog is affected by generalized demodicosis, the veterinarian may prescribe one of the following three medications:
- Amitraz dip: An FDA-approved medication applied weekly or bi-weekly.
- Ivermectin: A liquid deworming agent for cows, which can be given orally to treat demodicosis in dogs.
- Milbemycin oxime: A heartworm preventive tablet that can also be given daily to treat demodicosis.
Treatment should continue until repeated skin scrapings, performed two to four weeks apart, reveal no evidence of mites.
Once a test confirms a yeast infection, your vet will prescribe topical products, antifungal wipes, shampoos, and possibly antihistamines, steroids, or anti-itch medications if the initial treatments prove ineffective.
Depending on the severity of the infection, your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated shampoo, ointment, lime or sulfur dip, or oral medication. Improvement should be noticeable within one to three weeks. Keep in mind that ringworm is contagious to both other pets and humans, but you can prevent its spread by using medicated bath products and thoroughly cleaning your home and your dog’s living environment.
Bacterial infections often indicate an underlying issue, such as atopic dermatitis. Once your vet confirms the diagnosis, treatment options can range from antibacterial shampoos, soaks, sprays, and wipes to a course of antibiotics in severe cases.
In addition to antifungal treatments (if yeast is present), your vet may prescribe antihistamines, steroids, anti-itch medications, or recommend ruling out food allergies and flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) as potential causes. Ruling out food allergies could involve a trial to introduce a new protein or an elimination diet that removes and then gradually reintroduces specific ingredients to identify the allergen. Preventive flea and tick medications can quickly address FAD. If all else fails, your vet may refer you to a dermatologist for advanced testing.
For most forms of pododermatitis, the National Institute of Health suggests covering your dog’s feet with a bootie or shoe during the recovery period.
Katten TrimSalon is here to support you and your pet through every step of their journey to healthier paws. If you suspect your dog is suffering from pododermatitis, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Visit Katten TrimSalon to learn more about our services and how we can help your furry friend recover and enjoy his adventures once again. Remember, the sooner you address pododermatitis, the sooner you and your dog can get back to your favorite activities together.