Unless they're causing our beloved canines obvious pain or discomfort, many people don't regularly examine or notice the condition of paw pads. Dogs rely on their pads for insulation during cold and hot months, to absorb shock from the ground, and to help them with traction during movement. A discolored pad, or even a white spot on a dog paw usually means that something is amiss, although the cause may not always be a serious medical issue. That said, keep an eye on the condition of your dog's paws, an essential part of keeping her healthy.
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Causes of discolored pads
A dog's paw pads can become discolored for a number of reasons. Because dogs use their paws to get around, regardless of the weather or terrain, they may simply become discolored through environmental exposure, like grass or mud stains. Sometimes, the hair between and around the paws will take on a reddish-brown or rust color if a dog has a yeast infection, which may also cause paw pads to appear inflamed. Red paws can also appear as the result of frostbite, burns, flea dermatitis, or allergies, among other causes, according to Vet 360.
If you see dog paw pads turning white, there are several possible explanations. White, crusty pads can appear as the result of dryness or exposure to rock salt, as well as more serious conditions like hyperkeratosis, hookworm dermatitis, hard pad disease, and vitiligo, which is an auto-immune condition. Contact pododermatitis occurs when a dog's feet become inflamed as a result of hormonal disorders, tumors, cancer, and environmental factors, says VCA Hospitals. Additionally, cuts and scrapes can become infected, sometimes leading to discolored lesions.
Treating unhealthy paw pads
In order to effectively treat your dog's discolored paw pads you will need to correctly identify and diagnose the underlying cause. Often, cleaning the affected area and treating the condition with medication, either systemic or as a topical cream, will address the issue. Sometimes, certain causes leading to discolored paw pads cannot be cured, such as allergies or immune issues, and preventing recurrence by following a treatment plan from your vet is the best course of action. If your dog has lesions, chronic dryness, a yeast infection, or scaly paws, consult your veterinarian immediately as any of these conditions can cause discomfort and pain for dogs.
Keeping your dog’s paws safe
Prevention, when possible, is often the best medicine. Adding paw health care into your dog's regular grooming or maintenance routine may help reduce the risk of issues that lead to discoloration, or at the very least, will help you spot discolored feet sooner than later. Preventative Vet recommends regularly checking your dogs paw pads for foreign objects, swelling, or irritation. Avoid walking your dog on hot pavement on days with high temperatures and sunny skies, and use booties or protective balm on snowy days when your dog may step on rock salt.
Additionally, regular toe nail trims can help improve overall paw health. If your dog frequently experiences yeast infections on his paws, be sure to wipe his feet well after coming inside, especially after walking in the rain, and discourage licking of the area.
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.