A Comprehensive Guide To Pododermatitis In Dogs

Your dog’s legs and paws are in constant movement. They climb steps, walk over grass and gravel, and they protect your dog from injury when he jumps.

A dog’s paw pads have to withstand a lot throughout the day but it does sometimes happen that the skin around your dog’s paw pads gets irritated.

This is broadly called canine pododermatitis, and while the name sounds terrifying, there are some easy things you can do to ensure your pooch gets the right care for his paws.

We explore the causes of pododermatitis in dogs, and how to easily treat it.

A Comprehensive Guide To Pododermatitis In Dogs

What’s Canine Pododermatitis?

Pododermatitis is an inflammation of the skin on your dog’s paws. It’s a common condition that occurs when the outer layer of the foot or paw gets irritated and begins to swell.

This swelling may be accompanied by pain, heat, redness, and/or itching. Some dogs even experience hair loss around the paws.

This disease can affect one or all of your dog’s paws. Canine pododermatitis typically attacks the nail folds, nails, and paw pads.

Any area where there is the skin between the paw pads and the toes can be affected.

Causes Of Pododermatitis In Dogs

The cause of canine pododermatitis isn’t always clear when you first notice it in your dog.

Canine pododermatitis can be caused by bacterial infections, an allergic reaction, or an existing disease in a dog.

Sharp Objects And Irritating Toxins

If your dog has been injured by something sharp, such as a thorn or splinter, he could develop pododermatitis.

Your dog may also step into other foreign bodies or chemicals that could cause their skin around the toes to become inflamed. Acid-based chemicals, like household cleaners, often penetrate the top layer of the skin. This irritates the sensitive paw pads.

But it’s not just household toxins that could be the cause of pododermatitis. Also, thorns, wood splinters, and grass seeds can pierce the skin of your dog’s toes.

If you spot a foreign object in your dog’s paw, it’s important to remove it immediately, so it doesn’t penetrate deeper into the skin as your dog walks.

Fungal Infections

Another possible cause of canine pododermatitis is a fungal infection. Fungi are small organisms that grow in moist areas of the body, including the feet.

These fungi can infect the skin of your dog and cause his paw pad to swell up.

Bacterial Infections

Bacteria, too, can cause this type of problem. If your dog comes into contact with bacteria while playing outside, these germs can enter the skin through cuts or abrasions.

Once inside the skin, the bacteria can travel to the toe pads and cause them to swell up.


Some parasites can also cause canine pododermatitis. These include fleas, ticks, and mites.

Flea bites can irritate the skin and lead to an allergic response. Fleas can also carry tapeworm eggs, which can cause severe intestinal problems if ingested.

Ticks can transmit diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis. Although mites can cause dermatitis in dogs, they’re usually found on the belly, ears, and legs.

Hormone Disorders

In some cases, hormones play a role in causing canine pododermatitis. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause the skin around the feet to become swollen.

Also, other hormonal changes can lead to the weakening of the immune system and make the dog’s paws vulnerable to inflammation and infections.

Hormonal diseases such as Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease or hypoestrogenism can all be causes of canine pododermatitis.

However, these cases are very rare and may also be the result of other factors.


Allergies are one of the most common reasons why a dog develops pododermatitis. Allergic reactions occur when the body reacts to substances that aren’t normally harmful.

For example, pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds can trigger allergies in many people as well as dogs. Some of the most common dog allergies include contact dermatitis, flea allergies, eczema, and food allergies.

Itchy skin is the first sign of an allergy. Your dog might scratch at his paws or lick them excessively. He may even rub his face against furniture or carpets.

The itching makes him uncomfortable and he may start avoiding certain places where he used to spend time before the condition developed.

Your vet will need to examine your dog to find out what caused the allergic reaction, and he’ll then prescribe medication to help alleviate the symptoms.

Dietary Changes

Your dog’s diet plays a big part in whether he has a healthy footpad. It’s essential to feed your dog a nutritious diet throughout the year.

Just like us, dogs can also develop food allergies over the years, or they may be allergic to new foods you try. A dog’s diet should always contain plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

If you notice any signs of unusual behavior like your dog not wanting to eat the new food or any red patches, you need to speak to your vet.

Immune Diseases

Several types of immune-related diseases can affect a dog’s feet. Some of these conditions are more common than others, but they all have similar effects on the body.

One of the most common is immune-mediated polyarthritis (IMPA). This type of arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the joints.

This can happen after exposure to foreign proteins or bacteria. The symptoms of IMPA vary depending on which joint is affected.

Paw swelling, lameness, pain, and stiffness are just a few of the signs. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent damage to the joints.

Other forms of immune-mediated polyarthritic disorders include systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

These conditions are less common than IMPA, but they’re still serious health problems. They can cause severe pain, disability, and even death if left untreated.


Cancers can affect almost every organ in the body of a dog, including the skin.

In dogs, cancers affecting the paw pads are called pododermatitis carcinomas. These tumors grow quickly and can spread through the skin tissue.

They usually appear between the toes. You may see blood, pus, or crusts around the area. Sometimes cancer spreads into the nail bed, so the nails turn black and fall off.

Depending on how far cancer has spread, a vet may be able to remove the tumor with surgery. However, chemotherapy and radiation treatments can also be effective in some cases.

What Dog Breeds Are Most Commonly Affected By Pododermatitis?

Several dog breeds are more prone to developing pododermatitis than others.

These breeds include:

  • Boxers
  • Dachshunds
  • German shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • English bulldogs
  • Basset hounds

Symptoms Of Pododermatitis In Dogs

The first sign of pododermatitis is often an inflamed paw pad. It starts as a small patch of thickened skin and becomes redder and swollen.

Over time, the inflammation worsens, causing the skin to become thicker and harder. As the condition progresses, the paw pad becomes painful and hot to touch.

You might also notice scabs forming on the paw pad. Sometimes the skin cracks and peels away. When this happens, you’ll find that the paw pad looks darker and they develop a bad odor.

Your dog will probably scratch at their paws because they feel itchy and uncomfortable. You may also notice pus, blisters, and hair loss around the area of the paw pads.

When To See A Vet For Your Dog With Pododermatitis

If you notice any of the above symptoms, make sure to contact your veterinarian right away.

Pododermatitis isn’t something that should go undiagnosed. Left untreated, it could get worse over time and cause your dog serious pain. That’s why it’s important to have regular checkups with your vet.

He will perform a thorough physical examination to determine whether there’s also anything else going on with your dog’s health.

Treatments Of Pododermatitis In Dogs

Once your vet determines that your dog has pododermatitis, he will likely prescribe a treatment plan. The treatment depends on the underlying causes of the irritated skin.

Some of these treatments are used to relieve the symptoms, while others are meant to prevent them from getting worse. The most commonly prescribed medication for treating pododermatitis that is caused by infections is antibiotics.

A antibiotic is one of the best ways to treat bacterial infections and fungal infections. For parasitic infections, your vet will prescribe a topical ointment or a foot soak with a shampoo.

Final Thoughts

Pododermatitis can be a painful disease for your dog if left untreated for some time. But the good news is that it’s easy to cure with antibiotics and a gentle foot bath.

Megan Turner