Just as a human's foot is prone to developing various infections, a dog's paw pad is just as vulnerable to infection. Paw pad infections can worsen or spread if left untreated. Therefore, it is important for owners to regularly examine their dog's feet and report any issues to the dog's veterinarian.
Basic day-to-day activity can lead to an infection of a dog's paw pad. This is because the dog comes into contact with a plethora of germs, both bacterial and fungal, which can lead to an infection. Furthermore, contact of the paw pads with the feces of other dogs or animals can lead to viral or parasitic infections which enter through a cut in the paw pad.
There are two common types of paw pad infections: bacterial and fungal. While it is possible for a virus or a parasite to enter the body through the paw pad, the infection that results usually does not directly affect the paw pad. Instead, the paw pad becomes infected with bacteria or fungi that entered through the same wound. Yeast is just one type of fungi that can infect the foot and there are a plethora of bacteria that can cause a canine paw pad infection.
Often, the signs of a foot issue are easy to recognize. Dogs with an infection of the paw pad―especially one that occurred following an injury―may limp or favor one paw over the other. Yeast infections and bacterial infections can produce visible deformities such as scarring, spots on the pads or pus. The affected paw pad may be red in appearance or it may be swollen. The dog may display various other signs such as whimpering when walking, chewing on the paw or refusal to walk due to the pain of the infection.
As with any disease, the dog may be subjected to several different tests before the veterinarian can come up with a definitive diagnosis. Specifically for a paw pad infection, the veterinarian will examine the paw and he may choose to take a sample and perform a culture to determine the type of infection that is present. In some regions where fungi are an issue―such as blastomycosis―the veterinarian may choose to run additional blood tests to determine if a fungus entered through the paw pad and caused a more widespread infection.
Once the type of infection is identified, the dog may require either an antibiotic medication or an antifungal medication. For either situation, there may be topical and oral medications that will need to be administered. Length of treatment can vary from a few days to several weeks, depending on the severity and type of infection present. In the event that a more severe infection has occurred because it entered through the foot, as sometimes occurs with blastomycosis, then more aggressive treatments may be necessary.