Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about their pets’ paws, but the truth is a pet’s paws can give good insight into their overall health. Here are some of the more common problems you may encounter with your pet’s paw pads:
Like humans, pets can suffer all sorts of allergies. Pets suffering from allergies will be itchy, especially in the paws, and typically will bite, lick, or chew on them to attempt to relieve the itching. In extreme cases, excessive licking can cause irritation or injury, and may make the paw more susceptible to certain types of infections.
Pets who excessively lick their paws should be evaluated for allergies. Depending on the nature of the allergies, your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines or a specific diet to relieve the symptoms.
Pets that spend any time outside are at a risk of getting foreign objects impaled in the paws or between the toes. This can be anything from burrs, small rocks, sticks, broken glass, etc. Pets with foreign objects in the paws may lick or chew on them and will likely be in pain and/or limping.
It’s best to take a pet with a foreign object injury to the vet, where the offending object can be completely removed. Pets may also be prescribed antibiotics or pain medications depending on the severity of the injury.
Cuts/abrasions: Pets run and play on a variety of terrains, so cuts, abrasions, and tears aren’t uncommon. It’s important that injured paws be cleaned with an antibacterial solution and protected from further injury. If cuts are particularly deep or severe, a trip to the vet is advised – deeper cuts can often hide foreign objects like dirt, grass, pebbles, etc. that can cause infections or abscess. Your vet might not stitch a torn or cut paw as paw pads don’t hold stitches very well. Pets with injured pads should wear protective socks or booties to prevent direct pressure that can reopen an injury.
Dry/cracked paw pads:
Pets’ paw pads are supposed to be rough so they can get traction on smooth surfaces. However, a variety of factors including extreme weather, dry air, exposure to rough surfaces, and excessive licking can cause dry, cracked paw pads. Dry and cracked paws can be painful and put your pet at a risk for infection. Cracked paw pads can be treated with over-the-counter paw balms and protective clothing (socks, booties, etc.).
With proper trimming and the normal wearing down of nails from walking, most pets will never have any issue with their nails. However, if nails are neglected, they can become painful and ingrown and cause serious infections. Paws with dewclaws are especially susceptible to ingrown nails as the dewclaws typically don’t touch the ground and are therefore not worn down by walking.
Ingrown nails are often treated with antibiotics and regular nail trimmings. In extreme cases, ingrown nails may need surgery to completely resolve. Keeping your pet’s nails trimmed short is the best way to prevent ingrown nails.
Many different species of bacteria and fungi normally live on your pet’s paw pads, but occasionally these organisms can grow out of control and cause infection. Signs and symptoms of a bacterial infection in the paws include redness, swelling, pain, itching, and drainage. Your veterinarian can prescribe oral or topical antibiotics to treat an infected paw.
If your pet lives in an area that is hot and humid and/or your pet has a compromised immune system, your pet may be susceptible to fungal infections. Yeast frequently causes infections in the paw pads. A pet suffering from a yeast infection in the paws may lick the paws excessively (due to itching) and may have swollen, red nail beds from excessive licking.
Ringworm is another common fungus that may infect your pet’s paws and can cause itching and swelling, and can even spread to humans or other pets if left untreated. Your veterinarian is the best person to diagnose a fungal infection in your pets, and can prescribe a variety of treatments, including topical creams, wipes, and washes to treat them.
A good rule of thumb is: if it’s too hot to walk outside barefoot, it’s too hot for your pets! Unfortunately, pets can and do suffer burns on their paw pads from walking on surfaces that are too hot. Burned paw pads may look swollen, red, or blistered. Burns to the paws are a serious medical issue and require prompt attention from a veterinarian.
Ticks are notorious for hiding out between a pet’s toes where they can cause all sorts of problems, including pain and infection. It’s best to let a veterinary medical professional remove the tick, as ticks that are partially removed may leave behind body parts in your pet’s skin that can cause infection and abscess.
Pets may also suffer from mite infestations in the paws, which can cause scaling, hair loss, and swelling. Your veterinarian will need to take a scraping of the skin to diagnose a mite infestation and can prescribe topical treatments and washes to treat the mites.
By: Kelsey H.