Your dog's foot pads are made of tough, fibrous material called keratin. This material is tough for a reason; your dog runs through potentially damaging terrain every day of her life. Her paws need to be tough to prevent damage. Sometimes the terrain is too rough, and sometimes there are diseases that cause damage to her feet. Either way, damaged foot pads are very painful for your dog and require immediate attention before they develop infection.
Dry and Cracked Foot Pads
This is the most common canine foot pad ailment. Dry and cracked pads can be caused by several things: excessive chewing and licking of the paws, walking in or on irritating chemicals like rug shampoo or garden sprays, chronic yeast infection, zinc deficiency or autoimmune disease. Dry and cracked pads are painful and lead to infection if left untreated. Visually inspect the paw for deep, painful cracks to determine if your dog is suffering from this ailment. If your dog is licking or biting at her paws, or appears to be in pain while walking, take her to your veterinarian.
Cuts and Sores
Cuts or sores, like dry and cracked pads, are painful for your dog and lead to infection if left untreated. Cuts and sores are caused by the terrain your dog travels on. Broken glass, hot pavement in the summer, ice and road salt in the winter, and sharp, jagged rocks may cause injury to your dog's foot pads. Check her feet regularly, particularly if you notice any of these obstacles on your walks, or if you notice your dog limping, or biting and licking at her paws.
Auto-immune disease causes the immune system to mistake skin cells for foreign bodies and attack them. This causes pus-filled sores on the pads of your dog's feet, which break and form crusts on the foot pads, bridge of the nose and on the ears. This disease requires the use of autoimmune suppressing drugs.
Snagged toenails are very painful and easily infected. Young dogs usually break their toenails off with regular activity, but older or inactive dogs need frequent trimming.
A chronic yeast infection is treated with anti-fungal medications. Yeast infections must be treated immediately as they can be transferred to your dog's ears if she scratches around, or inside them with her hind paws. Nosodigital hyperkeratasis is an overgrowth of keratin; the tough fibrous outer covering of the foot pads. This condition produces hard, dry and cracked tissue on the nose or foot pads. The surface of the affected area is subject to deep and painful fissures and cracks. There is no cure for this condition, but it can be controlled by softening the affected tissue, and trimming the excessive growth. Zinc deficiency causes dry and cracked foot pads. A diet high in cereal or calcium may help with this problem. A few breeds are more susceptible to zinc deficiencies, including Great Danes, Dobermans, beagles, shepherds, German short haired pointers and poodles. Consult with your veterinarian before treating any condition.