Dog Footpad Diseases

By Jane Meggitt

Dog footpad diseases, formally known as pododermatitis, result from allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders, trauma, environmental agents, dietary deficiencies and other issues. Treatment depends on the underlying cause. If your pet's footpads become red or inflamed, swollen, cracked or overgrown, take him to the vet as soon as possible for an examination and diagnosis.

Canine Pododermatitis

Dogs with pododermatitis may lick the affected footpads constantly, and you might notice blood on the pads or smell a foul odor. Your vet will examine your dog's feet and take a history of your dog's health, noting any accompanying symptoms unrelated to the feet. She also knows if certain breeds are predisposed to specific types of pododermatitis. Different footpad diseases present different symptoms, although there is overlap. Footpad issues caused by allergies -- among the most common causes -- require dietary changes if the culprit is a food allergy or lifestyle changes for dogs with environmental allergies. Other health problems may reveal a disease in which footpad problems are only one symptom.

Idiopathic Nasodigital Hyperkeratosis

Older dogs are prone to idiopathic nasodigital hyperkeratosis, in which excess keratin forms on the footpads and nose. Canine distemper can cause similar keratin formation, but tends to affect younger dogs and is accompanied by often life-threatening symptoms. There's no cure for idiopathic nasodigital hyperkeratosis, but it's not a painful condition and is more of a cosmetic problem.

Pemphigus in Dogs

The autoimmune disease pemphigus consists of several types, of which pemphigus foliaceus is the most common in canines. In autoimmune diseases, the dog's body attacks healthy tissue, misinterpreting it as diseased tissue. Affected dogs develop pus-filled or ulcerated lesions on the head and footpads, with the condition eventually spreading all over the body. The footpads also grow disproportionately and crack. Your vet conducts various tests to diagnose the condition, with a skin biopsy necessary for a definitive diagnosis. Treatment consists of high doses of steroids, which can cause significant side effects. This immunosuppressive therapy may be necessary for months before the pemphigus is eradicated.

Zinc Responsive Dermatosis

If your dog's footpads start thickening and developing cracks, he may suffer from zinc responsive dermatosis. This condition also causes hair loss or scaling around the face and genitals. All affected areas might be stricken with secondary bacterial infections. If your vet identifies a zinc deficiency in your dog's diet, she can recommend foods with adequate amounts of this vital mineral. If testing reveals that your dog can't properly absorb zinc, lifelong supplementation may reverse the condition. Your vet will prescribe antibiotics for any secondary infections as well as medicated shampoos and ointments to heal lesions.