Understanding Pododermatitis in Dogs: A Veterinary Guide

Let’s talk about something called pododermatitis in dogs. It’s a big word, but it’s basically when a dog’s paws get all red, swollen, and irritated. There are some signs you can look out for, like if your dog is licking his/her paws a lot or if they’re limping.

Now, why does this happen? Well, there are a few reasons. Sometimes it’s because of allergies, like if your dog is allergic to something they stepped on or something they ate. Other times, it could be because of infections from bacteria or fungus. And sometimes, it’s just from too much friction or pressure on their paws, like if they’re walking on rough surfaces a lot.

But don’t worry, there are ways to help your furry friend feel better! You can take them to the vet, who can give them some medicine or recommend special creams or ointments. They might also suggest changing their diet or making sure they’re not walking on rough surfaces too much.

It’s important to take good care of your dog’s paws, just like you take care of your own feet! So if you notice any signs of pododermatitis, be sure to give your dog some extra love and attention, and they’ll be feeling better in no time!


Occasional paw licking in dogs is a part of their normal grooming behavior. However, when this behavior becomes excessive and is accompanied by signs of inflammation, it may indicate an underlying condition known as pododermatitis. This post is to assist you in understanding why dogs get sore feet, how to tell if your furry friend has it, what the vet can find out, and what exactly can be quickly done to make them feel better. So if your dog’s paws seem painful, don’t worry!

What is Pododermatitis in Dogs?

Pododermatitis is a medical term referring to the inflammation of a dog’s paw skin, potentially affecting one or multiple paws and varying parts of the paw including digits, around the nail, or the pads. According to Dr. Millie Rosales, a board-certified veterinary dermatologist, understanding the broad scope of this condition is very important for effective management and treatment.

Primary Causes of Pododermatitis in Dogs

Identifying the root cause of pododermatitis is essential for effective treatment. The condition can be triggered by a variety of factors, from environmental allergens to more complex health issues. Dr. Rosales emphasizes the multifactorial nature of pododermatitis, highlighting the importance of a comprehensive diagnostic approach to uncover the primary cause.

Common Triggers and Health Conditions

  • Allergies: Food or environmental allergens (atopy) like pollen can make a dog’s feet very itchy, leading to excessive licking and subsequent infection.
  • Mange: A skin disease caused by mites, leading to severe itching and inflammation.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: Conditions such as pemphigus foliaceous or pemphigus vulgaris can cause paw inflammation.
  • Hormonal Disorders: Imbalances such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease may contribute to skin issues.
  • Metabolic Disorders: Including hepatic cutaneous syndrome, often linked with liver dysfunction.
  • Nutritional Disorders: Deficiencies, especially in zinc, can affect skin health.
  • Fungal Infections: Ringworm is a common fungal cause of skin inflammation.
  • Parasites: Hookworms and other parasites can cause or exacerbate pododermatitis.
  • Foreign Bodies: Objects like foxtail grass seed heads, splinters, or glass can embed in the paw, causing inflammation.
  • Behavioral Issues: Compulsive disorders or anxiety can lead to excessive licking and chewing of paws.
  • Other Conditions: Diseases such as Leishmania or cancer can also be underlying causes of pododermatitis.

Secondary and Predisposing Factors

Understanding the secondary and predisposing factors is crucial in managing pododermatitis. Secondary infections, often bacterial or fungal, can exacerbate the condition. Certain breeds and physical attributes can predispose dogs to pododermatitis, necessitating a tailored approach to treatment and prevention.

Recognizing Secondary Infections

Secondary infections are common in dogs suffering from pododermatitis, with bacteria and yeast frequently complicating the inflammation. These infections can significantly increase discomfort and require prompt treatment to prevent further complications.

Predisposing Factors in Dog Breeds

Dr. Rosales points out that breed-specific characteristics, such as the conformation of Bulldogs and Mastiffs, can predispose dogs to pododermatitis. Obesity, allergies, and physical traits like webbed paws or thickened pads contribute to the risk and challenge of treatment.

Signs of Pododermatitis in Dogs

Recognizing the signs of pododermatitis early can lead to a quicker diagnosis and treatment, potentially preventing more serious complications. Dr. Rosales highlights several symptoms that dog owners should be vigilant about.

  • Excessive Licking and Chewing: Indicative of discomfort or itchiness in the paws.
  • Redness and Inflammation: Visible signs of irritation between the toes or on the pads.
  • Ulceration and Crusting: Severe cases may show bleeding, crusted, or swollen paws.
  • Hair Loss: Around the affected area due to excessive grooming or irritation.
  • Hyperpigmentation: Dark patches on the skin indicating chronic inflammation.
  • Brown Saliva Stains: From licking, noticeable on the fur around the paws.
  • Thickening of the Skin: On or around the pads, leading to discomfort.
  • Draining Tracts: Indicative of deep infection or abscesses.
  • Lameness: Difficulty walking or reluctance to put weight on the affected paw(s).
  • Behavioral Changes: Such as decreased appetite or lethargy, may accompany the physical symptoms.

Diagnosing Pododermatitis in Dogs

Diagnosing pododermatitis involves a comprehensive evaluation by a veterinarian, including a detailed medical history and physical examination, followed by specific diagnostic tests to identify the underlying cause.

Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnostic approaches may include skin scrapings, hair plucking, fine needle aspirations for cytology, biopsies, blood work, and possibly X-rays to detect foreign bodies. Allergy testing or food trials may be recommended if an allergic cause is suspected.

Treatment Options for Pododermatitis in Dogs

Treatment of pododermatitis is multifaceted, aiming to address both the primary cause and any secondary infections. Dr. Rosales outlines a comprehensive approach to managing this condition.

Managing Secondary Infections

Treating secondary infections promptly with antibiotics or antifungal medications is crucial for alleviating discomfort and preventing further complications.

Addressing Primary Causes

Treatment strategies vary widely based on the underlying cause and may include dietary changes, medications for allergies or autoimmune diseases, topical treatments, and in some cases, surgery to remove foreign bodies or tumors. 

Prognosis for Dogs with Pododermatitis

The prognosis for dogs with pododermatitis varies significantly depending on the underlying cause of the condition. Dr. Rosales emphasizes that while many cases can be managed effectively, resulting in a good quality of life for the dog, certain conditions may pose more serious challenges.

  • Allergic Diseases: Generally have a good prognosis with proper management and treatment.
  • Foreign Bodies and Parasitic Diseases: Removal or treatment often leads to full recovery.
  • Nutritional Disorders: Can be corrected with diet adjustments, improving the condition.
  • Autoimmune and Hormonal Disorders: May require ongoing treatment but can be managed.
  • Severe Cases: Such as those caused by cancer or specific metabolic disorders, may have a less favorable prognosis.

Early detection and treatment are crucial in improving the prognosis for dogs with pododermatitis. Ongoing management and care are often necessary to prevent recurrence and ensure the best possible outcome for your pet.


With the right approach and ongoing care, most dogs with pododermatitis can lead happy, active lives. If you suspect your dog may be suffering from this condition, seek veterinary advice promptly to begin the journey toward healing and comfort. 

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