As your family veterinarian, our staff at Volunteer Veterinary Hospital cares for your pet from head to toe… literally. We diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases and issues, but issues with the feet are not an uncommon reason that people bring their beloved animals to see us.
Thankfully, many paw problems in pets are very treatable and with our help we can get your furry friend putting their best paw forward in no time.
Types of Paw Problems in Pets
While you might know that something is going on with your pet’s paws, it is not always possible to diagnose the problem just by looking at it. Many times in addition to our examination, diagnostics such as bloodwork and cytology is needed to determine what is plaguing your pet’s paws.
Certain paw problems are more common than others, and they can range from benign to very serious. Some of the more common types of paw problems in pets that we see include:
Allergic skin disease – Perhaps one of the more common reasons we see paw problems, when allergic skin disease flares, the paws are often affected. Environmental and food allergies can cause inflammation and itching of the paws, which often leads to licking, chewing, and sometimes infection.
Arthritis – The paws contain tiny bones similar to those in our hands, and they are not exempt from developing arthritis. Senior pets and those with a history of injury or abnormal body structure may suffer from arthritis, which can be a painful condition.
Autoimmune issues – In some disease processes, a misguided immune system attacks the patient’s own body causing detrimental damage. Autoimmune skin diseases like lupoid onychodystrophy cause problems with the nails themselves while diseases like pemphigus foliaceus may affect the paw pads.
Fractures – Bones in the paws may suffer from fracture or dislocation just like any other bone, especially after trauma of some kind.
Interdigital cysts – Some pets suffer from cystic bumps that develop between their toes. While benign, these can be quite uncomfortable.
Paw pad problems – Dogs and cats don’t wear shoes (at least not regularly), so their paw pads often take the brunt of the world. Things like excess moisture, hot surfaces like asphalt, and rough surfaces like ice can lead to irritation, blistering, and even lacerations.
Skin infection – The skin of the paws itself is no different than any other skin and is subject to overgrowth and infection with things like bacteria, yeast, and skin mites.
Systemic conditions affecting the pads – Other conditions in the body such as liver disease or thyroid disease can cause changes to the paw pads.
Torn toenails and other trauma – Your pets nails can overgrow without proper grooming and can snag or break. These things can be quite painful.
Tumors – The paws are not exempt from growths. Everything from warts to cysts to cancers like squamous cell carcinoma can appear on the paws.
Protecting Those Feet
So what’s a pet owner to do?
When it comes to your pet’s paw care, you are their biggest advocate. While you can’t prevent all paw problems in pets, you can ward off some of them and be sure any others are diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
Be sure to:
- Trim your pet’s nails frequently
- Provide regular grooming to prevent hair on the paws from becoming overgrown or matted, which can lead to irritation from the trapping of things like moisture, allergens, or irritants
- Know what normal for your pet looks like and let us know right away if there are any changes such as texture or appearance of the pads, appearance of the nails, or broken nails
- Protect your pet’s paws from sharp or irritating surfaces such as rough ground, hot surfaces, and chemicals
- Make an appointment if you notice paw-related concerns such as limping, licking or chewing the paws, swelling or redness, or abnormal sensitivity to handling
- Maintain your pet’s wellness visits so that we can examine the paws regularly
Your pet’s paws are important, and we want to make sure they are well cared for. Our veterinary team is here to care for your pet, head to toe and everything in between. Never hesitate to bring us your concerns or questions. Your pet’s care is our priority.