Stop Pododermatitis Dog Paws in Their Tracks: Our Powerful Tips

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Is your dog licking its paw a lot? Does it have red skin between the toes?

The most common cause is a Pododermatitis dog paw. It can make everyday activities, such as walking or running, painful for your best friend.

Cute white dog licking paw

Why are My Dog’s Paws Red?

Pododermatitis dog paw is not a diagnosis of a disease. It is a clinical manifestation involving inflammation, pain, and redness between dogs’ toes. Other dermatological symptoms of a more severe disease may or may not be present.

Pododermatitis in dogs is often self-perpetuating, multifactorial, and resistant to empirical treatment. Thus, it is a frustrating disease for veterinarians and owners.

What is Canine Pododermatitis?

Dogs’ footpads are comparable to the soles of our shoes. Their thick epidermis protects them against mechanical trauma. Also, the large fatty pads provide elasticity to absorb impacts. Under normal conditions, the daily routine strengthens their pads.

They contain sweat glands that produce a secretion to improve traction when running and climbing. Besides, they are very important in scent demarcation (territory marking).

Finally, the paw pads also contribute to body temperature regulation. Dogs sweat through them to help control their temperature.

Among the disorders that can affect footpads is pododermatitis in dogs. It is an inflammation of the skin that can affect:

  • Interdigital spaces
  • Pads
  • Nails
  • Nail beds
  • Adjacent tissues

Canine pododermatitis is very common in veterinary dermatology. Due to the variability of its etiology, it is essential to identify the primary cause of the disease.  When the diagnosis is correct, clinical management is simpler and more accurate.

The Causes


It is the most common cause of pododermatitis in dogs. For example, foreign body injuries, such as stones, thorns, crystals, or cuts of the plantar pad

Yet, there are many other causes that we will list below:


  • Bacterial. Superficial (staphylococcus) or deep (actinomycosis, actinobacillosis, nocardiosis, mycobacteriosis)
  • Fungal. Superficial (dermatophytosis, Malassezia, candidiasis) or deep (phaeohyphomycosis, sporotrichosis, blastomycosis, cryptococcosis).
  • Parasitic. Demodicosis, hookworm dermatitis, tick infestation, leishmaniasis.
  • Viral. Canine Distemper



  • Pemphigus foliaceus
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Vasculitis
  • Adverse cutaneous drug reaction
  • Lymphocytic plasmacytic pododermatitis


  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperadrenocorticism


  • Sterile interdigital pyogranulomatous pododermatitis


  • Familial paw pad hyperkeratosis
  • Lethal acrodermatitis of Bull Terriers


  • Superficial necrolytic dermatitis (hepatocutaneous syndrome)


  • Acral lick dermatitis
  • Acral mutilation syndrome


  • Nail bed squamous cell carcinoma
  • Epitheliotrophic lymphoma
Golden retriever licking his paws

Clinical Signs of a Pododermatitis Dog Paw

The clinical signs common to all these causes are:

  • Inflammatory changes:
  1. Irritated dog paws and redness of the affected area
  2. Swelling of the skin and foot
  3. Increased temperature of the area
  4. Pain leading to lameness
  5. Bacterial and fungal complications
  • Sores on dogs’ paws include nodules, blisters, abscesses, or ulcers. Also, serosanguinous or bloody secretions
  • Itching can generate constant paw licking and hair color changes, as well as hairless areas

But, there are particularities of each pathology that we will mention below:

  • Distribution of the lesions

Some causes of pododermatitis only involve the animals’ paws, such as contact dermatitis. Many other ailments, for example, atopic dermatitis, can affect other body parts.

  • The number of paws affected

Some conditions impact only one paw. Others affect all four limbs, like systemic diseases. Pododermatitis can also involve the hindlimbs or the forelimbs. For example, flea allergy dermatitis affects the hindquarters.

  • The appearance of the lesions associated with each disease

In the case of contact dermatitis, pruritic bumps on the exposed areas appear. Another example is Pemphigus foliaceus. The characteristic lesions are pustules. As these are fragile, many patients present scabs because of the dried pustules. It affects the face and inner side of the ear. Also, abscesses may form on the edges of the pads.

  • Some diseases affect both hairless and hairy skin. Others do not

For example, atopic dermatitis only affects hairy skin. But autoimmune diseases can also affect the pads and cause scabbing and hyperkeratosis.

  • Don’t forget the nails!

Some causes of pododermatitis affect not only the skin but also the nails. Examples are dog foot fungus, bacterial paw infection, and leishmaniasis.

Diagnosis and Treatment

How do I know if my dog has pododermatitis? The diseases that cause pododermatitis in dogs have similar clinical manifestations. Thus, an accurate diagnosis based on the lesions is impossible. The veterinarian must perform further tests.

  • They will complete a physical examination and get a good clinical history.  Also, perform microscopic analysis of the hair, deep skin scraping, and cytology.
  • Culture and antibiogram are advisable if there are any signs of fungi or bacteria.
  • Consider a skin biopsy if this initial approach does not lead to an accurate diagnosis.
  • Patients with systemic signs need a thyroid or adrenal function evaluation. Radiographs are necessary if there is suspicion of a foreign body.

How to treat my dogs’ red paws? It is necessary to find the underlying cause of the symptoms. And then decide the best treatment:

  • If needed, disinfect or apply topical treatments and trim the hair in the area.
  • Use disinfectants to clean the sore on the dog’s paw.
  • If a bacterial infection is present, antibiotics are essential. If the case is very severe, use local ointments and oral antibiotics. Infection extending to the nails requires prolonged antibiotic therapy (six to eight weeks). If fungi are evident, the treatment will be antifungals. The appropriate antiparasitic is necessary to combat the presence of parasites.
  • Remove foreign bodies.
  • Allergies have no cure. Treating them to improve the dog’s quality of life and control the symptoms is possible. Generally, the treatment of allergies is lifelong.
  • Endocrine or autoimmune diseases need lifelong treatment.
  • The cause of acral licking dermatitis is often due to the dog’s boredom, especially when alone. Physical activity, frolicking, and interaction with other animals could improve this.
  • In some instances, it will be necessary to use a pet cone to prevent the dog from licking the affected area. Licking aggravates the condition and complicates recovery, besides favoring bacterial proliferation. 

The Outcome

Pododermatitis is not a severe disease in itself. But we must seek veterinary help soon. It is essential to avoid bacterial infection or the consequences of profuse licking.

As we can see, many causes can trigger pododermatitis in dogs. It is important to rule out etiological agents and reach the appropriate diagnosis.

Discovering the cause can be tedious. It requires patience and the collaboration of the owner with the veterinarian. It is a road worth traveling to put an end to your best friend’s pain!

Our Vet-Expert’s Prevention and Maintenance Tips

As you know, prevention is the best way to avoid the appearance of dog paw pad problems. Tips to bear in mind:

  • Hydration: Keeping dogs well hydrated is very important.
  • Hygiene and infection prevention: After each walk, clean your dog’s pads when you get home. Use gauze or cotton wool soaked in saline solution or neutral soap without perfume. Dry the interdigital spaces and the area between the pads. Examine their paws for foreign objects.
  • Nail hygiene: Keep nails short and clean. If the nails are black, do not cut the internal blood vessel and cause bleeding.
  • Prevent self-mutilation caused by itching: You can use the traditional pet cone. For this collar to work, its length must be longer than the dog’s snout, being uncomfortable for our friend. Nowadays, inflatable collars are friendlier for the dog’s comfort. Also, relieve itching by placing cold compresses on the dog paw swollen areas.
  • Protection with shoes: Canine boots are adapted for very active dogs or those living in icy areas. Boots serve to protect the paws from injury due to aggression or erosion. It is imperative to maintain good hygiene and avoid moisture retention.
  • Protective films: They are one of the best prevention methods. Their effect is to moisturize and strengthen the pads. The application should be before physical activity or as a preventive method. There are different products in creams, gels, or ointments on the market.  They contain Vaseline, centella asiatica, echinacea, zinc, etc.
  • Nutritional supplements: They reinforce the normal structures of the body. Examples: Biotin, omega 3-6, etc.

Canine Pododermatitis – Breed Disposition

Some breeds are more prone to pododermatitis due to the conformation and anatomy of the pads. Among the short hair breeds, we find the:

  • Boxer
  • Bulldog
  • Bull Terrier
  • Pointer

And among the long-haired breeds:

  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Irish Setter

Regardless of the breed, predisposition to pododermatitis increases in:

  • More active dogs that jump, run, or transit irregular areas
  • Dogs with bad posture. It generates bone deformities causing a deviation of the weight on their toes
  • Dogs with long nails that cause the toes to curl, resulting in calluses
Dog licks his paw

Final Thoughts

In the veterinary clinic, pododermatitis is a persistent pathology in canines. Regardless of the cause, the breed, or the daily physical activity, it is a condition that produces a lot of pain and discomfort with every step! As we always say, prevention is better than cure!