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What are Inflammation of the Paws?

Pododermatitis, or the inflammation of the paw and pad, can become painful and debilitating if it is left untreated. The diseases and disorders that can instigate this kind of swelling are many and the treatment plans may vary depending on what the cause of the discomfort is diagnosed as.

Mild cases may have fewer symptoms, although excessive grooming and licking of the paws are relatively standard regardless of the cause of the disorder. More severe cases may escalate to bleeding, sloughing of paw pads, and reluctance to stand or walk. Swollen feet should be evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause.

Inflammation of the paws, also known as pododermatitis, can be quite irritating and often painful to the dog. As pododermatitis has multiple triggers, treatment is usually focussed on the underlying cause of the swollen feet.

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Symptoms of Inflammation of the Paws in Dogs

Dogs of any age, sex, or breed may develop pododermatitis. The dog’s feet are likely to be tender to the touch, and they may be reluctant to stand or walk. Other signs of swollen paws include:

  • Biting nails
  • Bleeding from paws
  • Cracking of the paw pad
  • Excessive foot licking
  • Foul odor
  • Lameness
  • Lumps on foot
  • Redness
  • Sloughing paw pads
  • Warmth from feet

Types

Although dogs of any breed or gender can develop inflamed paws for a number of reasons, some breeds of dog may be more likely to develop diseases or disorders that lead to inflamed paws. Some examples of paw disorders that result in swelling and are breed specific include:

Familial Footpad Hyperkeratosis

  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Dogue de Bordeaux
  • Golden Retriever
  • Irish Terrier
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Labrador Retriever

Idiopathic Sterile Granuloma of the Feet

  • Boxer
  • Collie
  • Dachshund
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • English Bulldog
  • Golden Retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Weimaraner

Zinc-Responsive Skin Disorder

  • Siberian Husky
  • Alaskan Malamute
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Causes of Inflammation of the Paws in Dogs

Several different circumstances can lead to paws becoming swollen. Some of these may well include:

  • Allergies - Allergies of all sorts, environmental, contact, and food allergies, tend to show up on the skin for most canines, and one of the first areas they can affect are the paws

  • Bacterial and Fungal Infections - This type of disorder often presents with feet that are swollen, itchy, and often smelly
  • Environmental - Dogs may also get swollen feet by burning them on hot pavement, injuring them with caustic materials, or by stings or bites by insects

  • Immune-Mediated Disorders - Autoimmune disorders such as Pemphigus Foliaceous can induce painful hyperkeratosis of the pad of the paw
  • Tumors - In some cases, the swelling may be due to a tumor or tumors that have grown on the patient’s paw or paws

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Diagnosis of Inflammation of the Paws in Dogs

As many conditions can affect the state of the paws, there are many techniques and tests that may be utilized to determine the origin of the pain and swelling. Your veterinarian will typically start a thorough physical examination with a focus on the condition of the paws. Hairs from the edge of the area of the hair loss may be examined microscopically to determine if there is any thinning or weakness in the structure of the hair itself. 

The examining veterinarian will also typically examine a skin sample taken from the affected paw or paws under the microscope, a technique known as cutaneous cytology. Cutaneous cytology may allow the technician get visual confirmation of fungal, parasitic, or bacterial infestation that may be present on the surface of the skin. Standard diagnostic tests such as a biochemical profile, urinalysis, and a complete blood count may be evaluated to assess the hormonal balance and to check for infections or indications that the immune system was being overactive.

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Treatment of Inflammation of the Paws in Dogs

Treatment of pododermatitis will be dependent on treating any underlying disease or disorder that is responsible for the pain and discomfort. If the cause is related to any sort of substance, such as ice melt or cleaning solution, the feet should be thoroughly washed and cleaned and medications such as antibiotics or antifungals may be needed to help with any bacterial or fungal infections. Corticosteroids or anti-inflammatories may also be administered either orally or by injection to reduce swelling and inflammation or medications to adjust for imbalances in the patient’s blood chemistry levels. Dogs with tumors or pustules on the feet may require surgery to remove the growths before the pain and swelling will be eliminated. 

Many of these methods of treatment take days or weeks before the underlying illness is controlled, and the animal may be reluctant to stand or walk.  Excessive discomfort in the feet may be further treated with topical anti-inflammatory and corticosteroid drugs. It is crucial to follow a veterinary professional’s instructions on all medications that are administered in order to be certain that the different specific drugs that are provided do not interfere with one another, and that no overdoses occur due to treatment with various forms of similar medications.

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Recovery of Inflammation of the Paws in Dogs

The prognosis for dogs who are exhibiting painful or swollen paws will depend on the ability to treat the underlying disorder. Some disorders may be managed in a relatively short amount of time and without a great deal of trouble, but others complaints may be more stubborn and take weeks or months to be fully eliminated. 

Additional support measures may need to be utilized until the paw pad is healed as compromised paws can be particularly susceptible to environmental hazards. In order to properly care for the damaged paws, they should be cleaned, inspected, and moisturized regularly, and socks or shoes designed to protect a dog’s paws may be recommended to protect the healing tissues.

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Written by Darlene Stott

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 04/20/2017, edited: 02/26/2021

Inflammation of the Paws Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Pit Bull

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Two Months

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1 found helpful

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Swollen Paws

My puppy has red rash along his groun area and all 4 paws are swollen. His back.legs are red and swollen

Jan. 26, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Maureen M. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hi, Sorry about that. That sounds like an allergic reaction. Please visit the vet for some antihistamines or anti-inflammatory drugs. Good luck

Jan. 26, 2021

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Maltese

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Eight Years

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My dogs started limping about a week ago, the pad on the front paw was a little swollen, I took her to a vet and they gave her antibiotics and anti inflammatory medication, since then it is just getting worse, first developed what looks like a wart and the other pads are swollen and red in between them. I cut the hair between her pads and washed with Curaseb. Nothing is improving and I am doubting my vet diagnosis since we had issues before. Please any guidance would be appreciated. She is in pain and not walking at all. I put an e-collar to avoid licking and soaked with Epson salt today.

Jan. 6, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, this looks like a growth between the foot pads. I would have this removed and sent off for a biopsy. The antibiotics and anti-inflammatories will help some but may not make this go away.

Jan. 6, 2021

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Yorkshire Terrier

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Seven Years

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My sister closed the door on one of his toes . He’s limping and using his good paw to walk.Now it’s swollen. We’ve been trying to cover it with a sock so he can stop licking it . It’s a lot more swollen today . I’m putting Neosporin . What are other recommended treatments that I can do to help him get better.

Jan. 4, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, he may have hurt his toe. There are not many good over the counter pain medications that you can give to dogs. The best thing is for your vet to prescribe your dog some pain medications and make sure it isn't broken. He needs to rest as much as possible to allow this to heal. If he is continually licking at things, it would be best for him to wear an e-collar to prevent him from being able to lick his toe.

Jan. 4, 2021

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West Highland White Terrier

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One Year

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My westie mutt has been licking her right paw nonstop and it looks like her two middle toes are swollen. Is this from a bite or from allergies? If she stepped on something, what can I do to help with the swelling?

Nov. 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. It is possible that she did get a insect bite or some kind of irritation to those toes, but sometimes having her licking at it can cause more damage. If she is not leaving it alone, it would probably be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can look at the area, see what might be going on, and get the right treatment for her.

Nov. 23, 2020

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Mutt

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One Year

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9 found helpful

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Paw Swelling

Redness and swelling on paw, holding paw up (front right), looks as if swelling is mainly from one side/toe

Nov. 20, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. It is difficult to say what might be going on without being able to see the Paw, but if it is an insect bite or a local irritation, they keeping him from licking at it over the next 24 hours may help resolve the problem. If it is something that is not improving, or he is not putting weight on it, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and see what might be causing this problem.

Nov. 21, 2020

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Ariel

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Mini Australian Shepterrier

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2 Years

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Swelling
Pain
Limping

I took my dog running on a hot day. Some of it was on pavement. The next day she was limping. I thought she had a blister. The next day she was limping more so I took her to the vet to see if it was something other than a blister. The vet took x-rays and did a thorough exam but could not see anything. They prescribed pain medication. Two days later one of the toe pads was swollen to about three times the size it should be. Again, I took her to the vet. Still, no idea what is wrong. They prescribed an antibiotic and pain medication. Something is wrong and no one seems to know what it is! She just keeps getting worse.

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Xena

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Labradoodle

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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Swollen Feet, Rash, Licking,

My 1 1/2 year old labradoodle has suffered since we got her at 4months old with a rash on her feet, back worse than front...I am able to treat locally and clear up most of the time but recently the rash covered her spine and stomach. Vet said staff and put her on 3 weeks of antibiotics. We finished those and the next day her feet started again.. I’m at a loss

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Cookie

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Mixed large breed not sure exactly

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16 Months

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Lethargy
Swollen Paws
Chapped Lips

My dog has inflammation between her toes one of her front paws and one back paw look worse and redness that almost seem as if it's bleeding, she seems tired and is keeping off them !

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Piper

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Australian Shepherd (Standard, Toy or Miniature)

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Swollen Pad
Swollen Pad Limping

My 12.5 year old mini aussie shepherd, Piper, has a severely swollen pad with lameness. We are pretty certain of what is causing the issue, just not how to fix it. She lost a toe in an accident about 6 years ago. The toe was partially torn off. The vet cleaned it up and closed the wound, and after a time it healed and she seemed ok. She has always had lots of problems with her legs, as she had 3 luxating patella surgeries as a puppy, causing arthritis. So, when she began limping on her front leg, we thought it was the same type of thing. The limping only began recently, 6 years after the toe amputation. She now licks it constantly until it is swollen and has sores. It had gotten so bad that we took her to an emergency vet a few weekends ago because she wouldn't walk on it at all. Our regular vet has looked at it several times, but no one can give us any answers. The emergency vet biopsied the area, which then got infected, and she ended up in the vet hospital for 3 nights, as she was becoming septic. It has been a nightmare. She had to have a bandage for several weeks, with multiple bandage changes, heavy antibiotics, carrying her up and down the stairs, etc. Now, the biopsied area has healed (she is cancer free, no other infections), the bandage is off, and she is back to licking it. I know a cone would stop that, but that still doesn't solve the problem of why she is licking it, and she can't live in a cone forever. One of the vets at the emergency place thinks that she is in pain from a little piece of the toe bone that was not removed. We decided not to remove that now because she is an old dog and has endured so many surgeries. She is a super smart, loving dog, and I feel so bad for her. We just don't know where else to turn. The only options given to us were surgery (again, like her 7th)or an orthotic maybe to pull the other toes in and take pressure off the pad. We ordered an orthotic but couldn't get a good fit via an online company. I have researched animal orthotics, but none are in my area. And she refused to walk with it on. Any advice or ideas or out of the box thinking would be greatly appreciated. We have probably spent close to $10,000 on medical care for her during her lifetime, but will do what it takes to fix her.

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Rocky

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Pit bull

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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Moderate severity

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Bleeding

Last August (2017) my dog got an abscess in between his toes and was on prednisone. It went away until this August, same thing. They put him on prednisone and it has been on going. He got another abscess and then it turned into nothing but a disaster. He has no hair on the outsides of his toes and has been bleeding from his feet for months. I get it to stop by soaking his feet in Epsom Salt and peroxide but it starts all over again. I have salves, sulfodene, socks, medimitts, anything to help him and I am at a loss still. We have had a shot that is supposed to last 6-8 weeks, but it did not help. We are on our way back to the very because I cannot have him living this way.

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