Pododermatitis in dogs: symptoms, causes and treatments

Pododermatitis refers to a large number of skin conditions of the dog's feet. Their origins and treatments are varied

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Pododermatitis, what is it?

We shouldn't talk about dog pododermatitis but rather dog pododermatitis as this set of dermatological diseases that affect the end of the dog's legs comes from different origins and manifests itself in equally different clinical pictures .

Indeed, the term pododermatitis is a generic term which designates an inflammation of the skin which covers the fingers, the interdigital spaces (between the fingers), the pads and/or the claws of the dog.

This skin condition may be restricted to only one paw of the dog but it can also, in other cases, affect both paws of the animal or other areas of his body .

What are the symptoms of pododermatitis?

Pododermatitis can be expressed by:

  • interdigital erythema, in other words redness of the skin between the dog's fingers. This is particularly the case with pododermatitis of allergic origin or bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection. Very often, the redness is accompanied by pruritus, an intense itching sensation.
  • hair loss (or alopecia),
  • appearance of nodules or fistulas in the foot, likely to be accompanied by lameness,
  • erosions or ulcerations of the skin, less frequently.

As pododermatitis causes discomfort and/or pain in dogs, it is common for the animal to insistently lick its paws at the risk of further complicating the condition.

Pododermatitis in dogs: possible origins

The causes of pododermatitis in dogs are very varied.

When only one foot is reached

When only one leg of the dog is affected, it is likely that pododermatitis originates from:

The presence of a foreign body

The inflammation may be due to the presence of a foreign body that has entered under the skin. Spikelets are a classic and common example in dogs. These dry grasses found along country lanes and in fields of tall grass in late summer plant themselves between the dog's fingers and then penetrate under his skin. The very hard barbels of this plant then allow it to migrate through the tissues of the interdigital spaces. It then causes swelling between the fingers and the formation of a fistula that causes the animal to compulsively lick the affected paw.

The treatment is based on the removal, in the office or by surgery, of the foreign body followed by the administration of antibiotics.

A behavioral problem

A pododermatitis can be of psychogenic origin. Dogs that suffer from anxiety may compulsively lick or chew on one of their paws, causing lick dermatitis. Often it is the left front paw at the wrist joint that is the subject of intensive licking. This disorder is indicative of great psychological suffering in the animal which should be relieved using behavioral therapy, accompanied if necessary by anxiolytic drugs. Alternative medicines such as herbal medicine can also naturally support the effects of behavioral therapy.

A skin tumour

Although they are relatively rare in dogs, the presence of a localized tumor on the foot can also be the cause of pododermatitis in dogs.Among these tumors, one can encounter squamous cell carcinomas, mastocytomas or melanomas. They are manifested by the appearance of a mass or ulceration on the dog's fingers or at the base of its claws.

The treatment will depend on the nature of the tumor which the veterinarian will have to identify by means of a skin biopsy and imaging tests.

When several feet are reached

When several feet of the dog are affected then pododermatitis can find its origin in:

Irritation, burns or frostbite

Irritation is the most common and widespread cause of pododermatitis in dogs.

The skin that covers all areas of the dog's foot is often subjected to strong pressure due to the weight of the animal or to numerous frictions, which favors the development of irritations at this level.

Some irritating or caustic substances present in the dog's living environment can also cause irritation in the dog's feet. This is the case for certain fertilizers, herbicides, household products or hydrocarbons.

It is then necessary to identify the substances in question to avoid their contact with the dog's paws and clean them carefully with water and mild shampoo to solve the problem.

Contact of the paws with a very hot substance such as the asph alt of sidewalks in the middle of a heat wave or, on the contrary, very cold such as frozen ground can cause burns or frostbite, causing pododermatitis . The skin of the pads and fingers may then show erosions or ulcerations.

An allergy

Pododermatitis can also be of allergic origin in the event of atopic dermatitis, food allergy or intolerance or, more rarely, in the event of dermatitis due to allergy to flea bites. The allergic cause is the second cause of foot damage in dogs.

It can also be due to a contact allergy. In the latter case, the lesions are then only present on the areas of the foot that are in contact with the ground.

Allergic causes of pododermatitis generally cause interdigital erythema (redness of the skin between the fingers) as well as severe itching which is the cause of intense licking. With the exception of contact allergy, other areas of the body may also show lesions.

A fungal or parasitic infestation

Fungal and parasitic pododermatitis are quite common in dogs.

They can thus be linked to the proliferation of fungi or microscopic yeasts on the dog's skin. Malassezia pachydermatis, Candida albicans and ringworm agents can thus be involved, among other fungal infections.

Parasitic pododermatitis, for their part, can be linked to infestation by demodex, the agent responsible for demodicosis, by chiggers in the event of trombiculosis, and more rarely by Pelodera larvae, which infest the dogs sleeping on dirty, damp litter.

A bearing conformation anomaly

Some dogs have so-called "horseshoe" pads where the skin between the two central pads forms a hairy bridge over a support area. These hairs will then create lesions during pressure: the hairs will incarnate in the dermis and cause an inflammatory reaction. This type of inflammation is more common in short-haired dogs.

Bacterial multiplication

The end of the dog's paws are areas often in contact with dirt and moisture and are particularly conducive to the multiplication of pathogenic bacteria such as Staphylococcus pseudintermedius in the skin.

The treatment for this type of pododermatitis is based on antibiotic therapy.

An autoimmune disease

Several autoimmune diseases in dogs can cause foot damage.This is particularly the case of pemphigus, vasculitis, cold agglutinin disease, bullous pemphigoid and mucous membranes, epidermolysis bullosa, etc. Depending on the disease causing it, foot lesions may be associated with other lesions located elsewhere on the animal's body.

A metabolic disease

The presence of dermatological lesions on the dog's feet can be one of the signs of a metabolic disease such as chronic kidney failure, liver cancer or even hyperparathyroidism.

A disease of genetic origin

Zinc-responsive dermatosis in Nordic type dogs which can also, among other symptoms, be the cause of pododermatitis. The latter is then characterized by a marked thickening of the pads as well as by the presence of scales and crusts.


One of the signs of distemper is thickening of the skin of the pads.

How is pododermatitis treated in dogs?

Before tackling the causal disease, the veterinarian will try to break the cycle of inflammation caused by the licking of the dog in the event of pruritus, discomfort or pain in one or more several legs. For this, he can use a collar to prevent the dog from introducing germs by licking his lesions.

Then, in a second step, he may possibly prescribe local antiseptics as well as topical treatments to limit inflammation or relieve pruritus.

Beyond these first-line treatments, the veterinarian may also prescribe treatments that will treat the underlying disease causing the pododermatitis.

Most often, it could be:

Local treatments and daily baths

Frequent baths with antiseptic solutions associated with local application of fucidic acid may be necessary in case of bacterial pododermatitis.

Frequent cleaning of the paws with a mild or treating shampoo followed by careful drying of the spaces between the fingers can also help in the event of irritation, parasitic or fungal infestation or atopy.

Behavioral therapy

If the cause of pododermatitis is related to anxiety or boredom, your veterinarian can advise you to have a behavioral consultation in order to clearly identify the problem that is at the origin compulsive licking of the animal. The practitioner will thus be able to best advise you on the implementation of a behavioral therapy, associated or not with a drug treatment allowing to relieve the anxious state of the dog.

General treatments

When local care is not enough or is not indicated, the veterinarian may resort to general drug treatments. Thus, he may prescribe antibiotics in the case of bacterial pododermatitis, antifungals in the case of fungal pododermatitis, immunosuppressive drugs in the case of autoimmune pododermatitis, an elimination diet in the event of a food allergy, etc.

You will understand, the treatment of pododermatitis in dogs will depend on the identified cause of the condition. Only your veterinarian is able to determine the origin of the problem during a dermatological consultation and after various examinations.

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