What Is Pododermatitis in Dogs?

By: Orvis Staff

Pododermatitis is an inflammation that can be caused by many disorders including infections, allergies,
hormonal disorders, immune-mediated diseases, tumors or cancers and environmental contaminants.
Photo by Caroldermoid, used via  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license  

As awful as it sounds, canine pododermatitis is not a disease, but a condition caused by any one or more of a multitude of underlying problems—think of it as a catch-all term to describe an affected doggie’s inflamed paws. Inflammation leads to irritation, and your dog may begin to “worry” his toes, nails, and foot pads. This behavior in turn can lead to secondary infections, serving only to amplify the initial symptoms in a bothersome catch-22. If your dog has red and itchy paws—chronically licking or chewing his feet or foot pads—or can’t walk normally on hard surfaces, he may have pododermatitis.

Other symptoms of this common dog problem may include localized swelling of the nodules between his toes, and development of open and draining fistulas (abnormal openings in his skin) with a pus-like or bloody discharge and a foul odor. Symptoms may be limited to your dog’s feet, but more typically occur elsewhere on his skin, too.

Whether he’s a serious working canine, or chiefly enjoys barking at delivery trucks and treeing the neighborhood squirrels, pododermatitis can stop your dog in his tracks. Read on to learn how you can help make him more comfortable.

What Causes Canine Pododermatitis?

Various diseases and foot infections can cause canine pododermatitis, including bacterial or yeast infections, allergic dermatitis, trauma with a secondary bacterial or fungal infection, demodicosis (parasites), or neoplasia (the formation of new or abnormal tissue). Less common causes include autoimmune diseases, congenital (inherited) conditions, endocrine and metabolic disorders, and skin cancers. While your dog’s pododermatitis may not be life-threatening, it certainly affects his quality of life, and you owe it to him to get to the bottom of it.

Common Underlying Diseases That Cause Pododermatitis

If your dog shows signs of pododermatitis, the veterinarian is most likely to name one of these as the culprit:


Demodicosis is a skin disease caused by a parasitic mite called Demodex canis. This tiny critter occurs naturally in your dog’s skin and usually behaves itself, leading a quiet existence in the hair follicles—when the dog’s immune system is healthy. But when it’s compromised, the critter population goes haywire and the result is a severe inflammatory skin disease. Your dog’s paws can swell, the skin can scale, and the hair can fall out—but demodicosis rarely affects only the paws. It’s the first thing your vet will consider when a dog presents symptoms. While it’s a treatable disease, remission can take a long time, and some dogs will need follow-up therapy to prevent recurrences.

Foot Infections

These can be fungal (yeast) or bacterial, and are fairly common:

  • Yeast infections (yeast dermatitis) often affect the skin between a dog’s toes and other skin folds, as seen in itching, redness, a greasy discharge, and occasionally a brown discoloration of the dog’s toenails. You may notice excessive licking and red toenail beds in your dog’s feet, which comes from the licking. Yeast infections are most often themselves secondary to an underlying problem called atopic dermatitis (explained below). Symptoms may be worse on the paws and foot pads than on other parts of the dog’s body.
  • Ringworm (which is neither a worm, nor ring-shaped) is another fungus, found in the soil. Your dog may pick it up out and about—at a dog park, for example—and it may lead to pododermatitis in his paws.
  • Bacterial infections – Symptoms of bacterial infections include licking or biting the feet, itching, pain, redness, swelling, hair loss, crusting, draining sinuses, and possibly an abscess.

Atopic (Allergic) Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is an itchy, inflammatory skin disease associated with environmental allergens, much like hay fever in people. Skin allergies start in young dogs, who may scratch, rub, lick, or chew the paws. Other affected areas include the face, ears, limbs, flanks, and belly. Atopic dermatitis is the most common cause of paw licking and chewing. Skin or blood tests will reveal the specific airborne allergens that cause atopic dermatitis. Although it requires lifelong treatment, atopic dermatitis is fairly easy to manage, and a dog who has it should enjoy a good quality of life.

How to Treat Pododermatitis in Dogs

Treatment options for pododermatitis are wide-ranging because of the multitude of underlying causes. Identifying the precise cause, and focusing the treatment on that, promise the best prognosis. And the sooner the better—waiting until there is scarring or a flare-up of symptoms is not advised.

Demodicosis – Localized demodicosis does not typically require treating, but for generalized demodicosis, where much of a dog’s body and his paws are affected, your vet may prescribe one of the following three medications:

  • Amitraz dip, an FDA-approved medication applied weekly or bi-weekly, typically by a technician at a veterinary hospital
  • Ivermectin, a liquid deworming agent for cows, which may be given orally to treat demodicosis in dogs
  • Milbemycin oxime, a heartworm preventive tablet that can also be given daily to treat demodicosis

Treatments should continue until scrapings of the dog’s skin performed two to four weeks apart reveal no evidence of mites.

Yeast Infections – After a test reveals that yeast is the problem, your vet will prescribe topical products, antifungal wipes, and shampoos to treat the infection. Failing these treatments, antihistamines, steroids, and anti-itch meds may help.

Ringworm – Depending on the severity of your dog’s infection, the vet may prescribe a medicated shampoo or ointment, or a lime or sulfur dip to kill the ringworm fungus, along with an oral medication in severe cases. Look for signs of improvement in one to three weeks. Note: Ringworm is contagious—your dog can spread it to other pets, and even to you, but using medicated bath products on him and thoroughly cleaning your home and your dog’s living environment can stop its spread.

Bacterial Infections – As is true of the Demodex canis parasite that causes demodicosis, bacteria and yeast are normal inhabitants of a healthy dog, kept in check by his immune system—an imbalance that leads to an infection often betrays an underlying problem, most often atopic (or allergic) dermatitis. After your vet confirms this diagnosis, treatment options can vary from antibacterial shampoos, soaks, sprays, and wipes, to a course of antibiotics in more severe cases.

Atopic Dermatitis – Your vet may prescribe antifungals (if there is yeast), antihistamines, steroids, and anti-itch meds, but may also want to rule out food allergies or flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) as the cause of his itchy, red paws. For food allergies, a trial to introduce a new protein, or an elimination diet—removing ingredients and then reintroducing them one at a time—may reveal the specific allergen. And preventive flea and tick meds will take care of FAD fairly quickly. When all else fails, the veterinarian may refer you to a dermatologist for advanced testing.

For most forms of pododermatitis, the National Institute of Health recommends covering your dog’s feet with a bootie or shoe while they’re recovering.

Your dog’s feet have important work to do, to say nothing of play. If you catch him chewing on his feet, take a closer look. Red and itchy dog paws could be early signs of canine pododermatitis. The sooner you get your pal to the vet and start treatments for whatever ails him, the sooner you can get back to the important business of tracking down quarry with your dog—whether it’s a pheasant or a frisbee.

30 thoughts on “What Is Pododermatitis in Dogs?”

  1. My dog has what looks like a blister in between his toes and he keeps licking them any ideas how to treat

    1. My dog had something like that and it turned out to be MRSA. Didn’t cost much for the medicine, you should take the dog to the vet and get a prescription if it is an ongoing issue.

      1. I’ve managed to control my Great Danes red, inflamed skin, especially in his outer toes by soaking his feet on a daily basis with betadine and water.

    1. My dog get the same thing and I was told it is a yeast infection. She is also allergic to grass and pollens . We have had to put her on a limited ingredient food–only one protein, she is allergic to chicken, salmon, tuna, and absolutely no breads of any kind-even check your treats. She can tolerate pork, turkey, beef and lamb in very small quantities. Cheese is yeast unfortunately. Don’t buy food from the grocery store-you’ll have to find a pet food store that can help with the trial and error diet. Our fur babies can tolerate children’s benadryl. Mine is always stressed-anxiety from being alone-so we give her cbd oil. Good luck.

    2. Hi mine has the same redness around his mouth and on one paw the hair is red have you found out what it is yet as it costs so much to go to the vet but do not want my boy to be in pain

      1. This is a yeast infection. If it is strictly on the paws try soaking his paws in betadine and water solution couple times a day or a mix of brags apple cider vinegar and water (check online for solution ratio). And DRY them well! Yeast loves warm moist skin. Also remove any sources of sugar from their diet. Yeast thrives on sugar…remember even some vegetables have high sugar content (carrots, butternut squash etc)

    3. I don’t know but I am noticing the same thing on my dog. Took her to my vet last week. She’s taking an antibiotic and Apoquel, and she seems to be doing better. The vet also gave me some medicated wipes to use on her paws. They seem awfully hesitant to give an official diagnosis or to put any sort of defining name on her symptoms.
      I forgot to ask my vet about the redness around her mouth,but when I think about it, when you look at how a dog interacts with the world around her, she’s always digging and then mouthing something! I have to get on her all the time about eating and chewing things she finds in the yard.

  2. My dog has sore paws which are also red. She has been diagnosed with an allergy. She has been on antibiotics and steroids, along with sprays to spray her paws. She has issues when she walks on cement, not in the grass. This has been going on for two months, with two different vets and doesn’t seen to be improving. I feel sorry for her b/c she has difficulty walking outside. I
    ‘m at my w its end, been doing everything I was told and her paws are still red. HELP

    1. Maybe it’s an environmental toxin. Have you tried booties to protect her feet? I am also reading that apple cider vinegar/water solution is helpful with fungal infection and to bath the pet often. I have 3 dogs, 1 is developing allergies and immune issues so I have been researching this issue.

    2. Cut of all grains and Chicken. Try him on a limited single protein dog food. Natural Balance Venison and Sweet potato is a excellent Dog food. Another is Pacific Stream Salmon and Sweet potato. Make sure you cut out wheat and gluten in dog treats also. I buy grain Free dog treats like Wet Noses grain free dog treat in all their flavors. Our Dogs love those foods. Hope this helps you.

    1. This is probably an interdigital cyst, dunk the paw in a water and Betadine solution (make it ice tea color) two to three times daily for around a week or till it’s better. I applied FUICIDIN H or Isaderm gel on the spot twice to three times daily too for around five days to one week. Also listen to Dr Karen Becker on YouTube she may help you

  3. same! but its not ‘my’ dog so im not allpwed to treat him, opr take him anywhere- this is a serious- SERIOUS problem!!!!- can i put lotion on his paws or something to help until his jerk dad takes him to the vet>>>>??????

    1. I put sudocrem on my dogs paws when inflamed and then put small socks on tied with a bit of string so he cant get them off. Works a treat. He is mostly allergic to grass, winter or summer. Hope you see this answer and that the dog has been to the vet with his dopey dad.

  4. Has anyone had paw yeast infections from playing in a damp hayfield? My cocker spaniel never had this issue before. I’m wondering if that’s the cause?

  5. My dog has all paws red and chews them. The vet does not know what the cause is. Can not advise a treatment.

    1. My dog the same. My vet said my dog had a bacterial infection so he’s on an antibiotic and I wash him with warm water and coconut oil and rub him. He’s now growing fur again and getting better in the past 2 weeks.

    2. Cut of all grains and Chicken. Try him on a limited single protein dog food. Natural Balance Venison and Sweet potato is a excellent Dog food. Another is Pacific Stream Salmon and Sweet potato. Make sure you cut out wheat and gluten in dog treats also. I buy grain Free dog treats like Wet Noses grain free dog treat in all their flavors. Our Dogs love those foods. Hope this helps you.

  6. My dog has redness on on back leg has been scaracing and licking not on paws on leg and is very red and sore looking

  7. My dog gets red skin and sores between his toes. I put Aloe Vera gel straight off my plant on it and it fixes it. You must drain the yellow sap out of the leaf in cup before using, so your only using the clear Aloe Vera gel. A change in diet often helps too if it’s food related.

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