Dog: Pododermatitis

General information

Other common/scientific names: interdigital dermatitis

Pododermatitis is defined as inflammation of the skin on the paws, the skin between the toes and/or the foot pads. This inflammation triggers licking or chewing of the paws which further inflames and damages the skin. Secondary bacterial or yeast infections compound the inflammation leading to a vicious circle of chronic inflammation. More of a symptom than a specific condition, there is always an underlying disease causing pododermatitis. It is crucial that this primary cause be identified.

Dogs with a flatter foot and wider interdigital space such as Labrador Retrievers, English bulldogs, Dachshunds and German Shepherds are more prone to pododermatitis. Front feet are more commonly affected.


Pododermatitis can be caused by many different conditions. These include:

Cardinal symptom

Itching paws


Dogs with pododermatitis are seen licking and chewing at their feet and the skin between their toes. Light colored hair may become reddish-brown tinged. The skin between the toes is moist, red, swollen and painful. Ulcerations, scabs and crusts may be present. Lameness may be evident. Chronic cases may lead to hyperpigmentation, scar formation and disfigured feet.

((IMAGE)) Pododermatitis. This is a photograph of a pup with pododermatitis caused by the Demodex mite. Notice the red, swollen toes.


Pododermatitis can be diagnosed from a physical examination. However, the key to successful treatment is identifying the cause. When only one foot is involved, trauma, a foreign object, cancer or a psychogenic disorder is most likely. If multiple feet are affected, a skin scraping and skin cytology should be performed to check for ectoparasites, bacteria and yeast.

A test to rule out ringworm or dermatophytosis called a DTM culture should be performed. Allergy testing is indicated in some cases. For cases of chronic, recurring pododermatitis, a skin biopsy and culture and sensitivity to identify cells and isolate the specific bacterial infection may be necessary. Dogs showing signs of systemic disease may need laboratory tests including a complete blood count (CBC), a serum biochemistry panel, a urinalysis, endocrine and immunologic testing to diagnose an underlying disease.


Treatment will depend on the cause and may include a combination of topical and systemic therapies to control infection, pain and reduce the itch. Listed below are some of the common treatments used:


If the primary cause can be identified and the dog responds well to treatment, pododermatitis is curable. However, if the underlying disease is difficult to diagnose and treat, this condition can become a chronic, debilitating disease.


Some forms of pododermatitis can be prevented by keeping your dog parasite free and healthy. Attention should be paid to the paws after walking. Prompt cleaning or removal of foreign objects can prevent some forms of pododermatitis.


Dogs which are prone to pododermatitis when walking may benefit from the use of specially designed feet coverings or booties.

Update version: 4/24/2014, © Copyright by
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10/5/2015: kez
What antibiotics to give for pododermatitis?

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