Treating Paw Inflammation: What is Pododermatitis in Dogs?

by | Nov 23, 2021 | Dog Health

Paw pads protect your dog’s feet from different surfaces. Because of this, these pads are constantly exposed to various elements that can irritate them. This inflammation is called pododermatitis, and it can make simple tasks like walking painful for your dog. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss all the things you need to know about canine pododermatitis, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What is Pododermatitis in Dogs?

Pododermatitis refers to the inflammation of the skin on the paw pads of your dog. It is a common skin problem that can affect one or more of your dog’s paws. It usually targets the paw pads, nails, nail folds, and interdigital space or the skin area between the toes and the paw pads.

This skin problem commonly occurs in the following dog breeds:

  • Basset Hounds
  • Boxers
  • Bull Terriers
  • Dachshunds
  • English Bulldogs
  • German Shepherds
  • German Short-Haired Pointers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Great Danes
  • Irish Setters
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Mastiffs
  • Weimaraners

What Causes Pododermatitis in Dogs?

Pododermatitis can develop because of various reasons, such as an underlying disease, an infected surface, or an allergic reaction. Knowing the cause will help determine the right course of treatment for your furry friend. We have listed the common causes of this condition below so you’ll know what to watch out for:


Paw inflammations often arise from different kinds of infections. These can either be bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or viral in nature. Examples of these conditions include:

  • Bacteria – pyoderma, furunculosis, staphylococcus, pseudomonas, actinobacillosis, actinomycosis, mycobacteriosis, nocardiosis
  • Fungi – dermatophytosis, candidiasis, Malassezia
  • Parasites – Demodicosis, hookworm, Pelodera, ticks, trombiculiasis
  • Virus – Canine distemper


Allergies are also one of the most common causes of canine pododermatitis. Once an allergic reaction is triggered, it can induce inflammation on your dog’s paws. It often appears in younger pups, those that are around 6 months to 3 years of age.

Common triggers for an allergic reaction in dogs include dust, pollen, and food items. Here are other allergic conditions that can inflame your dog’s paws.

  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Food allergies
  • Flea allergy dermatitis

Foreign Bodies

Different foreign elements can also trigger paw inflammation when your pet comes into contact with them. It can penetrate the skin layer and lead to varying degrees of irritation. Some examples include grass seeds, plants, foxtails, thorns, wood slivers, and wood splinters.


In some cases, pododermatitis can also be passed on to younger pups if their parents had an underlying genetic health condition connected with pododermatitis. For example, a young Bull Terrier can acquire paw inflammation if their parent has suffered from lethal acrodermatitis. It also includes the familial variant of paw pad hyperkeratosis.

Hormonal Disorders

Did you know that hormonal imbalance can also lead to developing pododermatitis? An upset in the hormonal levels can weaken the skin’s immune system and make the paws susceptible to infections. Fortunately, it appears quite rare in these conditions, but it helps to know when it can occur.

Some examples of hormonal disorders your dog can have include:

  • Addison’s Disease
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Hypoestrogenism
  • Hypothyroidism

Immune-Mediated Diseases

Aside from hormonal imbalance, some immune-mediated diseases can also induce inflammation on your dog’s paws. After all, these conditions compromise the body’s defenses against harmful elements and infections. With a weakened immune system, your dog becomes vulnerable to skin infections such as pododermatitis. These immune-mediated conditions can include the following:

  • Adverse cutaneous drug reaction
  • Lupus
  • Lymphocytic plasmacytic pododermatitis
  • Pemphigus
  • Vasculitis

Cancerous Tumors

Pododermatitis can also occur for certain types of malignant tumors in your dog. The most common cancers that cause paw inflammation include epitheliotropic lymphoma and nail bed squamous cell carcinoma.

What are the Symptoms of Canine Pododermatitis?

It’s important to treat the inflammation as soon as possible, so that you can prevent severe complications in the long run. To do this, you need to keep a close eye on the symptoms of pododermatitis in dogs. Listed below are the signs to look out for:

  • Redness and swelling on paws and feet
  • Itchiness on skin
  • Excessive licking and biting at paws
  • Inflammation on nails (paronychia)
  • Pus from lesions
  • Hair loss around the paw area
  • Presence of nodules
  • Scabs, blisters, and abscesses on the paws
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Ulceration on the paw area
  • Varying degrees of lameness

How is Canine Pododermatitis Treated?

The treatment for pododermatitis will depend on what caused it. Your vet will first have to determine the underlying condition, so that they can recommend the right treatment plan for your dog.

To detect the cause, your vet may conduct a thorough medical history review, physical examination, and a series of dermatological tests on your dog’s paws. These tests include skin cytology, skin scrapings, hair plucking, bacterial and fungal cultures, biopsies, blood and urine tests, food trials, and radiographic imaging. They will help rule out conditions and precisely pinpoint what is causing the pododermatitis.

Once your vet has diagnosed the condition, they can discuss the treatment options available for canine pododermatitis. Remedies often include systemic and topical therapy to alleviate the symptoms and help your dog recover. To help you make an informed decision, here’s a list of available treatment options based on the cause.

Treatment for Infections

For infectious pododermatitis cases, the treatment strategy will depend on the nature of the infection. As we might recall, these conditions can either be bacterial, fungal, or parasitic.

Bacterial and fungal paw inflammations often require medication. Your vet will recommend systemic antibiotics for bacterial paw infections in dogs for at least six (6) weeks. If the infection runs deep, the antibiotic treatment can last from around 8-12 weeks. In the case of fungal paw inflammation, your vet will prescribe anti-fungal medicine to combat the disease.

On the other hand, parasitic infections require topical ointments, special shampoos, and foot soaks to exterminate the parasites in the affected area. It’s also important to keep your dog’s resting area and toys clean to prevent the infection from coming back.

Treatment for Allergies

Paw inflammation stemming from allergies is not yet curable at the moment. But you can minimize the frequency and severity of its symptoms by removing the source of the allergy. For most cases of allergies, your vet will recommend medication such as antihistamines, cyclosporine (for seasonal allergies), and steroids.

Meanwhile, food allergies often require a change in your dog’s diet. To do this, you’ll need to find the source of the allergy via a process of elimination to know what part of their diet is causing the reaction. Your vet will suggest removing one or two food types at a time (e.g., fish and potatoes) and observing their reactions.

Cancerous Tumors

If the pododermatitis has cancerous origins, then your vet will suggest treating cancer first. Your options include chemotherapy, radiation treatment, and surgery. The proper treatment strategy will depend on the recommendation of a trusted veterinary oncologist. You can discuss these options with them to find the best choice for your dog.

Other Underlying Diseases

If the inflammation occurs due to an underlying condition, your vet will recommend treating that disease first. After all, the paw inflammation can be reduced once the root cause is taken care of. Treatment options can include medication, topical solutions, and related strategies.

Receive the Best Care for Pododermatitis in Dogs

Canine pododermatitis often arises from an underlying primary condition. Leaving it untreated can cause your dog immense pain. Fortunately, a wide range of treatment options is available to ease the symptoms and help your dog live a healthier life.

Want more advice about your dog’s health? Check out the TPLOinfo blog today.

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