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Sore, inflamed paws

Our customer wrote:-

My nine year old British Bulldog has very inflamed front paws. The flesh is continually red and painful between the digital pads and between the metacarpal pad and digital pads. He has had this problem continually for at least eighteen months and I have tried to find a cure without success. I have used salt and warm water, Epsom salts and warm water, iodine tincture, vinegar, red wine, antibiotics supplied by the vet, Vetmedin capsules, creams and powders of various descriptions, etc with no sign of improvement. He is fed on Arden Grange Adult Lamb and Rice but my wife always adds some roast chicken pieces.
Your advice on finding a ‘cure’ for this persistent problem would be appreciated.

Our reply:-

This will probably be a problem with several contributing factors. It is unlikely therefore to have a simple, single cure.

It is quite likely that there is an allergic underlying trigger to the problem. Allergies appear randomly at some point in an animal's (or person's) life. They tend to be permanent from then on, though can be treated. An allergy could be to almost anything. Sometimes dietary allergies show just as a localised skin problem, though often there are some signs in other key areas (under the tail, in the ears etc). Another common allergy is to inhaled dusts and things. This usually presents as a skin problem, in contrast to the situation in people.

Many allergies reduce the ability of the skin to resist infection, so skin allergies tend to be complicated by secondary skin infections. These often involve yeast-like fungal organisms and/or various bacteria. The most obvious result of skin allergies, as well as skin infections, is redness and itchiness.

Sometimes dogs develop a contact sensitivity to something as well (carpet cleaners/dyes etc). This results in a slight itchiness of the affected skin, which is usually all the 4 paws, plus the skin of the abdomen. A dog often responds to this itchiness by licking. The repeated licking will also tend to reduce the skin health and allow secondary infection to take hold. This licking might well be concentrated on the easiest areas for the dog to reach and lick at, ie the front paws. These then look worse than the other areas, even though the underlying problem might be more extensive.

Therefore treatment of your dog should involve attempting to identify the underlying trigger, as well as treating any possible secondary infection, which would also need identifying first, so that appropriate treatment could be provided. I am afraid that the chances of me being able to "cure" your dog's problem by email are seriously limited, much as I would like to help.

Ideally your vet should take samples to check for infection, treat those if they are present, and consider other triggers. An exclusion diet trial might be appropriate. I would talk to your vet about this and possibly ask to see a veterinary dermatologist, who would help you get to the bottom of things.

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Sunday 20th January 2013