Paw Problem Prevention and Treatment

By Kim Ribbink

Paw Problem Prevention and Treatment

Tails are wagging, noses are in overdrive and the local park is abuzz with canine activity. Your furry friend is in its element, charging around like a shopper on a big sale day, bounding through long grass and dirt and relishing a few delectable smells. All is good in doggie world . . . until you notice your dog is suddenly limping.

The great outdoors (and sometimes even indoors) can present a multitude of perils for dogs and their owners. Becoming familiar with your dog's paws and aware of potential hazards will help both you and your dog with any potential paw problems that may arise.

The Problem Is Clear (Sometimes)
While a glass-induced gash may be obvious, tiny shards of glass piercing the foot can be hard to see. "Usually, soaking the feet in warm water will assist in pushing the glass out," says Jason Fusco, DVM, ACVS, an orthopedic surgeon at New York's Animal Medical Center. If your canine is still limping after the warm water soak, bring it to a veterinarian for further assistance.

A few times a year, Dr. Fusco will see a dog with mysterious lameness, which generally turns out to be caused by a piece of chewing gum stuck in the hair between the pads. In addition to chewing gum, escalators can pose problems for dogs' paws. "We have seen instances of inch-deep cuts, and even giant parts of feet sliced off from escalators," Dr. Fusco says. For this reason, try to avoid taking your dog on an escalator. But if you must, carrying smaller dogs could help prevent this problem.

Weather to Walk
In colder climates, salt on the sidewalks and roads presents a winter challenge, as ice and snow can become lodged in the crevices of the paw and cause your dog pain. Louise Murray, DVM, director of medicine for the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, learned just how painful winter walking can be for dogs when she fostered a young pit bull named Sophie.

"She couldn't walk more than a few steps before her paws hurt so much that she would stand there and lift them up one by one and stare at me," Dr. Murray says.
You can help prevent this paw pain by avoiding obvious areas of salt. Some other alternatives are to put boots on your dog's paws or use musher's wax to protect the feet, suggests Dr. Fusco.

During the summertime, be aware of hot surfaces. Dr. Murray notes, for example, that black asphalt will be hotter than a light-colored sidewalk or patches of grass.

Nail Care
When dogs spend most of their lives indoors, their nails can grow so long that they dig into their pads, catch and tear, and even make it difficult for the dog to walk. Dr. Murray recommends getting advice from your vet on the how to  clip your canine's nails, or having the vet do it for you.

The dewclaw -- a residual thumb -- can grow into your dog's foot and should be watched carefully and trimmed, Dr. Fusco says. He warns owners of older dogs to be alert for a nail falling out or getting pulled off, since this can be a sign of cancer.

Itching and Allergies
Like us, dogs can suffer from allergies. While we exhibit symptoms through respiratory problems, dogs tend to get itchy skin, particularly itchy paws. A dog with an allergy will lick its paws incessantly, causing the paws to turn a reddish brown color from the red dye in the dog's saliva. A vet trip is in order if you observe such symptoms, especially since they could also be linked to an inflammatory disease called pododermatitis. Dr. Murray notes that this can be attributed to several factors, including a bacterial infection, an allergic reaction, or even an overactive immune system.

In the Breed
Certain breeds can be prone to special problems. Greyhounds and Rottweilers are susceptible to sesamoid disease, a non-specific lameness that's difficult to diagnose, Dr. Fusco says. Greyhounds also are prone to corns from abnormal weight-bearing on the toes. "Removing the corns will only cause them to come back if the weight-bearing is not adjusted," he says. Controlling weight gain through feeding with restricted calorie commercial pet foods and monitoring consumption amounts is one way owners can keep weight-bearing problems in check. Surgical procedures may also correct more severe, chronic conditions.

According to Dr. Murray, grooming is even more critical for curly-haired dogs, such as poodles and Bichons. "If they're not kept well-groomed, the hair can get so matted that it gets tangled around their legs and can cut off their circulation," she says. "When that happens, the dog can lose the lower part of the leg or the foot."

A Final Word
As we can see, dogs' feet are complex. This makes breed issues, hair between paw pads and overgrown nails difficult to detect. Keeping an eye out for signs of discomfort, and staying on top of day-to-day care can ensure your dog is happy, healthy and eager for its next walk.

Kim Ribbink is a freelance writer and editor based in Perth, Australia, who specializes in health care and the life sciences, as well as pets. She has been a journalist for 20 years, working for magazines, newspapers and online publications covering a broad range of topics.


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Posted on October 4, 2007

Emma Hammond says: I found this fascinating article really useful in answering many questions I had about paw health. Where do I find out more about the range of "paw boots" for snowy weather?

Posted on December 25, 2007

georgina says: Please tell me how to heal/correct my shihtzus inflamed paws. Also the various wats that emerge in his body. (age 13 yrs) pampered.

Posted on January 2, 2008

Claudia says: My 8 mnth old ShisTZu seems to have allergies. I was told it may be food allergies for she chews at the bottom of her feet. Vet said to give her benedril and is also trying an allergy spray as well as shampooing her 2 times a week. Is benedril harmful to puppys and is there a way to pinpoint what may be causing her allergies? Was told expensive testing doesn't always come back with cause. Should I try making her food and treats? Help - Tosha's mom.

Posted on February 9, 2008

elizabeth davis says: My dog's nails got so long, some of them have fallen off....is this normal? Will they grow back and is it a big medical issue? She doesn't seem to be in any pain. We think they got snagged on something. What can we do? I feel terrible!!!!

Posted on February 15, 2008

Lesa Demery says: I have a 5 year old Chihuahua and she is always licking her feet they are now a reddish brown. what is this caused by? I have heard its food allerigis or a yeast/fugi Also have a new puppy who is 7 weeks she has been to the vet and is in good health I was wondering can my new puppy get what my other dog has if it is the above?

Posted on March 13, 2008

louise brent says: My new rescue springer spaniel has pink pads on her front paws and has burst blisters on both. I have been trying to keep to grass only whilst they heal. is there anything I can do to toughen the pads to prevent this happenning again?

Posted on June 7, 2008

jeremy says: my dog has this hole or gash on the top side of her paw. it looks like a nail was ripped out of there, but she still has all of her nails. the hole is a bit deep and there's a bit of swelling around the hole. what is it and what can i do?

Posted on June 23, 2008

Angie says: my 2 year old pit has one nail on her front paw that is starting to turn black near her toe and she's been licking it occassionally. I understand that because of that the paw itself is turning red but what is causing the toenail to change color?

Posted on August 7, 2008

cherry frisby says: what to do for pit bull nails we cut her nails but where the nail goes into the paw it looks blood red. what is going on with nails. is she digging into the ground? her behavior at almost 1 year is still bad she is not vicious but real ruff biting all the time jumping in the house jumping on the back door to come in. what can I do - she is like a big baby but bad and bull headed.

Posted on September 30, 2008

Judy Norton says: My daughters darling chihuahua (my grandbaby) has a problem always licking paws. We have looked for sores, any redness, and can't see anything. What could it be?, and what can we do?

Posted on November 24, 2008

Candy says: Please i need help. My dog toe nail got into your paw. And it looks really deep. what can i do to take it out? I might need to go to a vet but what is going to happen to the paw? :[

Posted on February 14, 2009

Brooke says: I have a pit bull and he is 6 months old. I notice that he has been licking his one paw a lot and when I looked at it, where the nail comes out of the skin is bloody red, swollen and raw. Everything I go to check it out he moves it away. What is this? Is it something I can take care of without going to the vet??

Posted on February 25, 2009

Tony says: My 1 year Jack Russell will get a blister between her toe on one paw or the other, sometimes both. This happens approx. once every 5-6 weeks or so and is painful. There isn't anything that is harming her that we can see. They just appear for no apparent reason for 1-2 days, then they disappear. One time a incident with one blister had grown bad and was bleeding but the next day it was almost gone. Do you know what might cause this.

Posted on March 28, 2009

cora says: My dogs tow is red and swollen. the inside of his toe is white it looks infected and puss or some liquid is coming out of his nail itself. There are no cuts anywhere on his feet or toe. What caused this and how can i fix it. I no it hurts him, cuz he licks it and crys if i touch it. Help me please. ASAP

Posted on April 18, 2009

Nancy Kulp says: Why has my 13 year old tan Lhasa Apso hair started turning brown in color? She's been on a joint med for 8 years, no side effects. For 5 months now she's started to be on 2x a day - for thyroid problems - Soloxine. We keep her groomed short, but this winter we let her hair get longer, since she shivers outside in the cold. This winter was extremely cold, longer than most. I was washing her ever 3 weeks. It was during this time that her coat started turning brown. First around her eyes & mouth, then her 4 paws, and underneath all 4 legs, near armpits. This has never happened before. The vet said it's not a reaction to this new medicine. But gave me no answer. If you have one, please let me know. Usually when dogs are older they turn grey. She's always been completely tan, except for some black in her ears when they grew longer. So, this is weird. Her breath is starting to get bad again, too. Thank you for taking your time to listen, please get back to me with an answer. I'd appreciate that very much. Nancy

Posted on April 26, 2009

Amanda says: My Olde English Bulldogge Ollie has a red bump that looks like a blister inbetween her toes on one of her paws. It doesn't seem to be bothering her, she is not liking or itching it, but it's not going away, even with a prescription from the vet. It looks like there are little bumps in it too, any idea what this might be from???

Posted on April 27, 2009

Bridget says: my dog has this hole or gash on the top side of her paw. it looks like a nail was ripped out and is real swollen I have used epson salt put anti botic cremes on it and kept if rapped. This doesn't seem to do anything what should I do?

Posted on May 23, 2009

Connie Baker says: Zoey just got back from the groomer last week and yesterday we noticed 3 aspirin size red hard wart type bumps under her front side. She licks them but not in any pain. She is a 2 year old bischon-poodle female.

Posted on July 11, 2009

alan jones says: i have a shepard mix and when she went for a run she came back with a soar paw and found out both her front paw pads came off ..what do we do to fix this ..and how do we prevent this from happening again.??

Posted on July 23, 2009

Wanda Edwards says: My white three-year old Lhaso has licked her paws and now they are reddish brown. Also some reddish brown is on underneath in armpits. What is causing this problem?

Posted on July 24, 2009

Sam says: i have a 8month old jack russell x shitzu he has a swollen bit just above his last nail on his left paw. we have checked it thoroughly and can not see anything there. could you please assist by telling me wot might be wrong and how to cure it?

Posted on August 3, 2009

steven rone says: my chiuahua is 5 or 6 years old. i have noticed these red dime sized bister things above her nails. shes not bothered by them apparently( we still go on walks no limping or obvious stress) . shes got 3 of them now. could you please give some info?

Posted on September 5, 2009

zero says: it looks lik my dog has bee injured please help i dont no what to do

Posted on September 11, 2009

Martha Level says: I found what looked liked a toenail sticking in my toy yorkies tail, we were on the way to the vet, and without thinking I pulled it out, thinking one of my dogs must have got into a schuffle, it looked like a toenail except it had a huge white tip on it, and she starting bleeding. The vet told me these were corns and some dogs get these and they have to be removed. What causes these, this makes 2, my dog is 9 years old.

Posted on September 29, 2009

p. b. says: what medicine should I apply to heal an infected nail and paw? where do I purchase without going to vet?

Posted on October 28, 2009

Tammy says: I have a chihuahua-shitzu(however)mix and she gets alot of sore's like blister's inbetween her toes and I was just wondering if any one can tell me what to do about it. Sometimes it gets bad enough to where she can't walk but they burst and she is fine????I just Love her so much I want her to be okay. Please help. PLEASE.

Posted on January 27, 2010

Barbara says: Our chihuaha Rita has blood blisters between her toes. She has had one removed by the vet, but since then they have appeared again. She also has lipoma on the top of her legs, but one is on the bottom of her foot which also has a blood blister. I am giving her chinese herbs and a grain free diet. I prepare her food from scratch. Also she had a hard mass at the base of her tail and the vet removed her tail. What else can I do?

Posted on March 10, 2010

claire says: my dogs fur is turning red around the eyes mouth and paws what could be causing this

Posted on June 26, 2010

madason says: why would my dogs pads be truning into hair? and what can i do for this is doesnt hurt and it doesnt bother her but it does me

Posted on July 9, 2010

cheri says: my dog had a piece of paw pad ripped off..its hanging on by 1 corner ...what can i do for her? i gave her antibiotic and anti-inflammatory that i had left over from previous injury.i keep bandaging it and she rips it off.. what to do??what can a vet do for her? do they stitch it up? im soooo upset please help

Posted on September 16, 2010

nedalie norris says: why would my german sheperd dogs pads are her feet have hair growing from them? please let me know? thanks

Posted on January 14, 2011

carla says: My dogs first front right nail is growing to the side. This just started a month ago, she is a 12 year old chow mix. Is this related to how she carries her weight? Is this a dangerous condition? I saw that nail issues could be a sign of cancer? She is happy, gets plenty of exercise, eats well, plays, smiles, gets acupressure and seems healthy.

Posted on April 7, 2012

Guadalupe says: i have a 4 yyear old pitbull ans she has a pain in her foot it just started today. She stays in one place for a while then keeps changing her seating. I'm worried i don't know what to use to get ride of her pain?

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