Our dogs' feet frequently come into contact with a number of surfaces, both inside of the home and outside in the world around us. Without shoes to protect them, sometimes, those feet can become damaged, irritated, or even infected, which can result in red feet. If you notice that your dog's feet are red, identifying the cause of the redness is the first place you should start in order to treat her condition.
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What do red feet mean?
A dog's feet can be red in two places: the paw pads, and the skin around those pads, usually in between the toes or around the nails. Red paw pads may be attributed to a condition known as pododermatitis, says VCA Hospitals. This condition is caused by inflammation that can be symptomatic of allergies, immune-related diseases, infection, or disorders which may cause a dog's hormones to become out of balance. Often, the paws or pads will become red and swollen, and may produce pus-filled lesions. Additionally, red, cracked paws may be attributed to dryness, which is not uncommon during the cold, winter months.
If your dog has red skin on his feet, it is most likely caused by a yeast dermatitis, which can lead to irritation, a reddish-brown color on the fur, and often, a "corn chip-like" smell. Yeast infections on canines are certainly uncomfortable, but it is a fairly common condition, is not contagious, and is easily treatable. Yeast dermatitis is commonly caused by allergies, sebum (skin oil) production, and sometimes, immune deficiencies.
What to do if your dog’s paws are red
Identifying the cause of the redness is the first step — sometimes, like in the case of a yeast infection, this can be done simply by looking at the condition of the paws. In other cases, a visit to your veterinarian may be in order, where an analysis of a skin scraping may be better able to pinpoint the underlying issue. Red, cracked paw pads can usually be made better by applying a protective barrier around the feet, like booties, along with a hydrating cream. For dog's with foot ulcers, inflammation, or pain, prescription medication is most likely needed, according to the diagnosis after identifying the cause of the pododermatitis.
For dogs with yeast infections on their paws, topical sprays or creams or oral medications can be prescribed by a veterinarian, which may be needed for dogs with recurring outbreaks. Because yeast infections are caused by fungus, an anti-fungal treatment provided with at-home ingredients may be sufficient in some cases. One such ingredient is vinegar, which can be mixed with water and used to soak the paws for several minutes on a daily basis, until the infection has subsided.
While tea tree oil is commonly recommended for its antifungal properties, it is not recommended that it be used to treat a yeast infection on a dog's paws, or any area of the body that may be easily licked, as tea tree oil is known to be toxic to pets when ingested, accordion to Pet Poison Helpline.
How to prevent red feet
While some causes of red feet are easily treatable, no pet owner wants to see their dog uncomfortable, so taking preventative measures may save your canine from unnecessary pain. If you notice any signs of swelling or irritation on your dog's paws, or if it seems that your dog is in pain, consult a veterinarian immediately to address any possible underlying causes.
Yeast infections may be prevented by keeping your pet's paws dry as much as possible. This may require wiping their feet after they come in from a rainy walk. You may also need to discouraging licking. Keeping toenails trimmed, clean and dry, can also help, as fungus tends to rest under the nails.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.