Dog foot pad diseases

Updated November 21, 2016

Every area of a dog's body is susceptible to disease. This includes the foot pad, or the thick, spongy skin that is located on the bottom of a dog's paws. The foot pad acts as a shock absorber for the dog as he walks. It also provides traction so that dogs can run, jump, and sprint effectively. Several diseases can affect the foot pad.

Digital Hyperkeratosis

Digital hyperkeratosis is a skin condition in which the foot pad becomes thickened. In digital hyperkeratosis, the keratin, or outer layer of the food pad, grows too quickly. This causes the foot pad to become extremely thick and hard. Over time, the foot pad will crack and become painful. Digital hyperkeratosis can be caused by trauma to the foot pad or by the canine distemper virus. A veterinarian can diagnose this condition by examining a section of foot pad tissue underneath a microscope. There is no cure for this disease, but it can be controlled by several measures. A veterinarian can periodically trim the excess keratin from the foot pad. He may also suggest that you soak the foot pads in a 50 per cent propylene-glycol solution once a day. This will keep the foot pads hydrated and slow the growth of keratin.


Pemphigus is an autoimmune disorder in which a malfunction in the immune system causes it to attack skin cells in the body. This disease most commonly affects the nose and foot pad. Pus filled sores will develop on the foot pad. As they fill and subsequently burst, they will form painful crusts. Pemphigus is diagnosed by examining the foot pad tissue under a microscope. Immune suppressing medications are prescribed to treat this condition.

Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis

Zinc-responsive dermatosis is a skin disease that is caused by a deficiency of zinc. Zinc is a trace mineral that is found in every cell in the body. It is responsible for many functions including skin health. Two forms of zinc deficiencies cause dermatosis. The first type of zinc deficiency is a breed-specific deficiency. Certain breeds such as Huskies and Malamutes are predisposed to a zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency can also be caused by excess calcium in the blood. This can occur in all breeds, but it is more common in fast growing breeds such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Dobermans. Zinc-responsive dermatosis causes scaling and crusting of the foot pads. A blood test is done to measure zinc levels to diagnose this condition. This condition is treated with zinc supplementation. Oral zinc sulphate is usually prescribed.

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