Much like a great pair of shoes, a dog’s paws provide support, traction and absorb shock for their bones, tendons and ligaments. However, a dog’s paws also can be important indicators of how your dogs overall health is. Because your dog’s paw pads have a high turnover rate, they require a lot of nutrition and blood to function. If something is wrong, it is likely to show up as a change in your dog’s paws. Regular examination of their paw pads is important to maintaining your dog’s health. Checking their feet, even when your dog is healthy, can help you detect even the smallest changes. It is important to pay attention to these warning signs on your dog’s paws before it turns into a larger problem.
If you dog is limping or favors one foot over the other, check for injury. If your dog stepped on a thorn or sharp object, they may have a cut or puncture. If your dog has loose skin, a blister or a raw ulcer on the bottom of their paw, it could be because of extended exercise on rough, sharp or hot surfaces. On rare occasions these wounds could develop without abnormal amount of activity because of split paw disease. Either way, if your pet is injured, taking them to the vet right away is extremely important. If you can’t get them to the vet right away, wash the wound by squeezing out a clean cloth that was soaking in warm water and lay it on the injury. The warmth and moisture takes off surface debris. It also helps blood flow to the injured tissue and prevent infection. Let the paw air out and protect the wound by covering it with a clean sock or cloth and tape. Take them to the vet as soon as possible. An injury to your dog’s pads can take up to three weeks to heal.
If your dog’s paw takes longer than three weeks to heal, then there is a chronic problem. A dog’s pads should be resistant to injury if the dog is used to high activity. It is rare for most dogs, other than working or hunting dogs, to split or crack their paws by running around if that is their daily routine. Liver disease can be caused by toxins, medications, cancer, bacteria, viruses, or autoimmune and degenerative issues. It can manifest in the paw pads as wounds that won’t heal and consist of chronic infections, crusting, thickening, erosions, ulcerations and blisters. Depending on the cause, treatment for liver disease may include surgery, corticosteroids, antibiotics, special diets, nutritional supplements and more.
Believe it or not, your dog can have allergies. Allergies can cause chronically irritated feet in dogs. If your dog is allergic to things like pollen, mold, mites, or food ingredients, the result can make their feet itchy. They will lick and chew their skin, which will make it red, itchier and sometimes infected. Treatment for allergies includes avoiding potential allergens, medication or immunotherapy.
Endocrine issues are caused by hormonal imbalances, which affect the regulation of body functions including normal skin and hair production. If your vet suspects your dog may have an endocrine issue, they will run a panel of tests. The most common canine endocrine issues that can affect your dog’s paws are Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism. Cushing’s disease usually occurs in middle to old age dogs. Symptoms include thinning skin, chronic infections, panting, a pot-bellied appearance, excessive thirst, and urination. Treatment may include surgery or medication. Hypothyroidism is when a dog produces low levels of the thyroid hormone. Symptoms include weight gain, lethargy, an unhealthy coat, and recurrent infections. Treatment includes a long-life thyroid hormone supplementation.
Like humans, dogs have an immune system that is responsible for fighting off foreign cells within their body. In the case of autoimmune diseases, the immune cells attack healthy cells. Symptoms of immune diseases are excessively licking their paws, swollen or cracked paws, reoccurring lesions or blisters that spread to multiple paws. Autoimmune issues are rarely curable, but they can be kept under control with corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive medications. Bacterial infections caused by problems with autoimmune diseases can be treated with antibiotics and medicated baths.