My Dog Has Paw Fungus - Causes and Treatment
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Although a dog's paws are protected by a layer of keratinized tissue, it is still possible for them to develop a fungal infection. In fact, due to the greater contact a dog's feet have with various surfaces, they are one of the body parts which are most commonly exposed to fungus. Ringworm and yeast infections are the most common types of fungal infections which affect a dog's paws. These are commonly due to fungi found in the genera Microsporum, Malassezia and Trichophyton. Some of these infections can be passed on to humans.
At AnimalWised, we look at what happens when my dog has paw fungus. We look at the causes, symptoms and treatment of fungal infections on a dog's feet, as well as what we can do to prevent them in the future.
Causes of foot pad fungus in dogs
Although a fungal infection is caused by a fungus belonging to various fungal species, there are certain factors which can predispose a dog to such an infection. Certain parts of a dog's body may be affected differently, but there are certain determining factors in terms of fungal infection of a dog's paws:
Generally speaking, fungi need a warm temperature and humidity to grow and proliferate. A common risk factor which can predispose dog's to foot fungus is excessive moisture on the paws. Even if it is not actively raining, taking the dog for walk where there are puddles and other patches of water means they are often the body part which get the most wet.
One of the best ways to ensure your dog does not develop a paw fungus is protecting them after they get wet. For this reason, it is important to ensure you dry your dog's paws properly after they have a bath or when they walk in wet weather. This can be done simply with a towel, but you can learn more about this process with our guide to cleaning a dog's paws after walking.
Spreading from other fungal infections
Another factor that predisposes dogs to paw pad fungal infections is not treating them when they occur elsewhere on the body. Commonly known as ringworm in dogs, dermatophytoses are fungal infections that particularly affect keratinized tissues. These include skin, hair, nails and foot pads. Although they do not usually cause itching in the initial phases, they can become irritating as they progress.
When the dog scratches areas with other fungal infections, it can cause the fungal spores to spread. Since the skin on the paw pads is more visible than areas covered in fur, it is possible you will first notice the paw pad infection even though it started elsewhere on the body. You may also observe the dog chewing their paws due to the itching sensation.
The foot pads are structures especially prone to injury. Being in direct and continuous contact with the ground, it is common for cracks, wounds or ulcers to appear. These are often caused by foreign bodies such as broken glass, metal shavings or sharp sticks entering the flesh.
If these lesions are not properly disinfected and protected, they often become contaminated by being in direct contact with the environment. These secondary infections can be caused by various microorganisms, including fungi. Bacterial infections are also a common problem in a dog's paw pads.
Immunosuppression is a state of decreased defense against various pathogens due to a weakened immune system. When a fungus such as ringworm or a yeast infection comes in contact with the dog's paws, they are more likely to develop infection if their immune defenses are lowered. This occurs when the dog has an immune-mediated disease, as well as when they are very young or very old.
Find out more about how a dog's feet can be damaged with our article on dog paw pad anatomy.
Symptoms of dog paw fungus
When a dog has been exposed to foot fungus and developed an infection, their body's immune system will try to destroy it. In doing so, they will develop various symptoms. Some are a direct result of the infection and some are secondary behaviors which occur as a reaction. Once advanced, it is common to see the dog's paws become red and swollen. The most common symptoms of foot fungus in dogs include:
- Inflamed skin
- Thickening of the paw pad skin
- Rubbing or chewing on paws
- Skin flaking
- Broken skin
- Purulent discharge
- Musty odor
Many of the symptoms of a dog paw fungus are similar to bacterial infections. Although bacterial infections can smell after time, it is common for a fungal infection to cause a specific musty smell. In the latter cases, it is common for the dog's paws to smell like Fritos.
Not all dog paw fungus will lead to broken skin where the dog's paws become swollen. In many cases, the skin will become flaky and cracked, making the dog's paws look dry and rough. It is still possible the fungal infection will develop further, especially if the dog's immune system is weakened for whatever reason.
Diagnosis of foot pad fungus in dogs
Now we know the causes and predisposing factors of a fungal infection of a dog's paws, we should look at how this condition is diagnosed. In addition to observing the aforementioned symptoms, we can consider the following:
- Lesions: the appearance of lesions on the pads or in the interdigital spaces can make us suspect a fungal infection. Hair loss (alopecia) in dogs of the distal area of their leg may also be indicative.
- Wood's lamp: a wood's lamp is a UV light, also known as a blacklight. It is used to screen for certain species of fungi, including Microsporum canis which causes ringworm. Not all types of dog foot fungus will appear under fluoresce, so it does not rule out fungal infection altogether.
- Culture: to know for sure the microorganism causing the infection, it is necessary to take a sample of the tissue and perform a culture. Only in this way will we know which microorganism is involved in the process.
As you can see, the diagnosis of fungal infection of a dog's paws requires specialized equipment. This is one reason it is so important to go to a veterinarian. They will be able to differentiate it from other types of infection such as pododermatitis in dogs and provide the right course of treatment depending on the type of fungus present.
Treatment of foot fungus in dogs
Once the diagnosis is determined, it is the veterinarian who will determine the best course of treatment. Regardless of the exact cause of the fungal infection, the following treatment will be required:
- Establish an antifungal therapy (topical and/or systemic) that is effective against the specific fungus responsible for the infection. Systemic antifungals resolve the infection in less time than topical preparations, although the latter are useful for minimizing environmental contamination. This treatment should always be prescribed by a veterinary professional.
- Keep the area as clean and dry as possible to promote healing of the infection. We will need to be particularly careful when walking the dog, especially if they are experiencing pain.
In addition to controlling the infection in the animal, it is necessary to prevent the spread of the fungus to the environment. These animals can be a source of contagion for both other animals and people as paw fungus can be a zoonotic disease in dogs.
- If the infected dog lives with other animals, separate them from healthy individuals until it has been resolved.
- Routinely disinfect the environment with bleach (1:10 dilution), until the end of the animal's antifungal treatment. Similarly, all objects susceptible to these contaminations (brushes, toys, etc.) must be disinfected with bleach or suitable enzymatic cleaning products.
- Maintain good hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing or wearing disposable gloves when applying antifungal treatment to the animal.
It is possible the dog will need treatments to fight any secondary bacterial infections which occur. Since a dog's wellbeing is strongly linked to exercise and movement, it is vital we keep our dog's paws in good condition and treat any issues as soon as possible.
Learn more about specific treatment with our article on how to treat a dog's paw pad injury.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Has Paw Fungus - Causes and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Infectious diseases category.
- European Council for the Control of Parasitosis in Companion Animals. (2015). Control of superficial mycoses in dogs and cats . ESCCAP Guide nº2.