Hands up if you've never had a blister on your heel?
Thought so. Not many hands up.
Blisters are an all too common consequence of breaking in new shoes or putting fashion before function when it comes to footwear. A blister is often the price of wearing those staggeringly-high stilettos or squeezing into shoes that don't fit.
But what about dogs? Of course, our fur friends don't wear shoes, but can they still get blisters?
Can Dogs Get Blisters?
As it happens, blisters in dogs tend to happen for different reasons than in people. And doggy blisters are far more likely to be the result of a health problem than a misadventure with Moschinos. From pemphigus to pyoderma, read on to learn about doggy blisters and how they differ from people blisters. [See also: Skin blisters and pustules in dogs.]
Does My Dog Have Blisters?
A blister is basically a fluid-filled bubble on the surface of the dog's skin. Traditionally we think of blisters as being filled with a clear fluid (serum). Indeed, if a blister is filled with pus, it has a different name - a pustule! Now pustules are a different story altogether, so let's not get distracted, but get back to those blisters.
A blister is formed when the topmost layers of skin cells lift away from the deeper layers. Fluid (serum) tends to seep into the dead space, and hey presto, a blister has formed.
To work out if your dog has blisters, take a careful look. Indeed, a top tip is to look for tiny blisters (these have a special name - vesicles). You are more likely to see baby-blisters (vesicles) than their big brother. This is because the dog often rubs and pops the mature blister, and destroys the evidence, leaving behind an ulcer (a crater in the skin).
How Do I Treat My Dog's Blisters?
OK, let's assume it's a blisteringly (get it!) hot day. Your dog walks on a hot pavement and his pads blister up.
In this scenario, rest the dog so he takes the weight off his paws. Apply a layer of moisturizing barrier cream, and lightly bandage the paws. Change the dressing twice a day, and be vigilant for a bad smell or discharge. If this happens, get straight to the vet.
If you spot blisters elsewhere on the body, then get the dog checked by a vet. This is because blisters can be a sign of autoimmune disease, and need to be looked at.
Whilst waiting for the appointment, don't be tempted to interfere or pop the blister. Try and leave it intact because it can give the vet lots of information. Indeed, an intact blister is extremely valuable when it comes to running diagnostic tests such as cytology or histology.
In truth, the underlying cause of the blister needs to be diagnosed, so this can be treated and the blister banished.
How are Blisters in Dogs Similar to Blisters in People?
A blister is a blister - a bubble-like separation of the top sheets of epidermal cells. Whilst the signs are the same, the reasons they form are different in dogs to people.
Of course, blisters can form in dogs due to friction, repeated rubbing, or thermal burns. But this is the exception, rather than the rule, and an underlying health problem is the more likely explanation.
How are Blisters in Dogs Different than Blisters in People?
First things first. A dog's pads have their own 'shoe leather' - a tough outer layer of keratin. When a dog is over-exercised, this is more likely to wear away than form a blister. Thus, sore feet are more common than blisters.
True blisters in dogs are usually the result of either a foreign body worming between the toes, or of autoimmune disease such as pemphigus. The latter are most often found around or near the lips, eyes, anus, vulva, or where the nail joins the toe.
These blisters are a symptom of an underlying health condition which needs treatment. This usually means taking immunosuppressive drugs, such as steroids. In addition, a burst blister may become infected and a course of antibiotics is necessary to control this secondary infection.
A spaniel develops a blister-like swelling in the webbing between two toes on a front paw. The vet suspects a foreign body beneath the skin. They lance the swelling and use fine forceps to retrieve a grass awn. The blister is flushed, and the paw bandaged. Two days later the dressing is removed, the skin has healed, and the spaniel gets the go-ahead to resume walks in the park.