Footpad Disorder (German Shepherd) in Dogs

Footpad Disorder (German Shepherd) in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Footpad Disorder (German Shepherd)?

Many of these conditions show up in the first six months of life, when your dog suddenly just does not want to run or play or is chewing or licking his paw. You may also see spots of blood on the floor and other hard surfaces where your dog has been walking. It is important to have your canine evaluated by a veterinary professional because some of these conditions have dangerous underlying disorders running concurrently such as with malignant histiocytosis and nodular dermatofibrosis.

Footpad disorders in German Shepherds are common and some are thought to be hereditary or congenital conditions. Some of these include pododermatitis, nodular dermatofibrosis, calcinosis circumscripta, cutaneous histiocytosis, systemic histiocytosis, malignant histiocytosis, and eosinophilic granuloma. Some of these cause the foot pads to become very soft and tender, commonly turning into footpads covered with crusty lesions or ulcers. The footpads may bleed after walking on rough or hard surfaces.

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Symptoms of Footpad Disorder (German Shepherd) in Dogs

Because there are several different footpad disorders, the symptoms can vary greatly, but they all include lesions or other abnormalities of the footpad. Many times, what may seem like a simple scratch or sore on the foot is just a symptom of something else. The signs of each condition are varied, but the most common include:

Calcinosis Circumscripta

  • Hard lumps in the skin of the footpad
  • Usually affects other parts of the skin such as ears, mouth, and tail

Cutaneous Histiocytosis

  • Plaques or nodules on feet, extremities, head, and scrotum
  • Does not affect the organs
  • Chronic, with intermittent periods of regression

Eosinophilic Granuloma

  • Plaques on footpad
  • Lameness (pain when walking)
  • Reluctance to play or exercise
  • Depression
  • Lack of energy

Malignant Histiocytosis

  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Seizures
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Inflammation of the liver and spleen
  • Older dogs are mostly affected
  • Progresses quickly and leads to an early death

Nodular Dermatofibrosis

  • Nodules under skin
  • Renal disease
  • Liver cancer
  • Weight loss
  • Swelling of abdomen due to retained fluid


  • Soft footpads
  • Lesions on footpads
  • Ulcers or crust on tips of the tail, ear, and nose
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Lack of pigmentation in the affected paw

Systemic Histiocytosis

  • Masses on skin
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Eye problems
  • Respiratory difficulty
  • Organ enlargement
  • Chronic and rapid fluctuation


  • Calcinosis circumscripta is caused by the dissolution of collagen and calcium deposits in your dog’s system
  • Cutaneous histiocytosis is a skin disorder that affects the deep connective tissues
  • Eosinophilic granuloma is an allergic reaction with plaques caused by a white blood cell called eosinophils
  • Malignant histiocytosis is an aggressive and fatal form of histiocytosis
  • Nodular dermatofibrosis is a skin disease characterized by nodules of inflammation under the skin
  • Pododermatitis is a skin infection of the footpads
  • Systemic histiocytosis is a skin disease seen in German Shepherds with kidney or liver disease

Causes of Footpad Disorder (German Shepherd) in Dogs

  • Idiopathic (unknown)
  • Trauma or foreign object in paw (eosinophilic granuloma)
  • Calcinosis circumscripta is caused by the breakdown of fat tissue that degrades into calcified tissue.
  • Certain breeds are more susceptible to footpad disorders such as Weimaraners, Pekingese, Mastiffs, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Shepherds, English Bulldogs, Dalmatians, Dachshunds, Bull Terriers, Boxers, and Basset Hounds

Diagnosis of Footpad Disorder (German Shepherd) in Dogs

A physical examination will be performed first, including palpation, vital signs, and auscultation. The veterinarian will also need to have an ypdate of your dog’s recent illnesses and injuries as well as a recount of what symptoms you have seen, if any. Blood and enzyme tests will reveal an increase in the blood enzyme lipase in some cases, some may have marked increases in eosinophils (white blood cells), and others can be completely normal.  In all cases, the veterinarian will collect tissue samples for biopsy from several of the lesions. These will be examined under a microscope for evidence of abnormal cells, bacteria, fungi, or parasites. In addition, ultrasound and x-rays will be done to look for other abnormalities.

Treatment of Footpad Disorder (German Shepherd) in Dogs

There are several treatments such as medication therapy, foot protection, and surgery in extreme cases.

Medication Therapy

Treating footpad disorders depends on the cause but usually starts with medication such as oral antibiotics and glucocorticoids or antibiotic cream and steroid ointment. In some cases, such as nodular dermatofibrosis and histiocytosis, treatment may be more invasive and dangerous. For example, chemotherapy or radiation may be necessary for neoplasia.

Surgical Treatments

The usual treatment for calcinosis circumscripta, nodular dermatofibrosis, and some types of histiocytosis is to excise (remove) the tissue in the area to prevent spread or complications. Radiation and blood transfusions may be done, depending on the diagnosis.

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Recovery of Footpad Disorder (German Shepherd) in Dogs

Your dog’s prognosis depends on the cause of the illness and health of your dog. Nodular dermatofibrosis, systemic and malignant histiocytosis are all usually fatal within one or two years. The rest of these disorders are considered to be treatable with one or more of these treatments.

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