Causes of Lumps on Dog Paw Pads
After you've ruled out other possible causes of your dog limping, you will want to thoroughly inspect your dog's paw pads for lumps, bumps, and any other abnormalities.
Things get tricky down there, so you want to be in a room with very good light and you do not want to miss hidden areas, such as between toes or under the paw pad's hairs.
If you notice anything unusual, don't just assume it's caused by a local irritation and try to treat it on your own. Yes, soaking the foot in Epsom salts may help if the bump is caused by some sort of foreign body stuck in the paw pad such as a thorn.
However, just as in humans, no strange growths should go without veterinary attention. The causes for lumps can vary from minor conditions to some very serious ones which can be deadly.
A Lesson in Paw Pad Terminology
The paw pads connected to the dog's toe digits are referred to as "digital pads." The large central pad, when found in the front feet is known as "metacarpal pad" and when found in the rear feet is known as "metatarsal pad."
As mentioned, any limping and all strange lumps on a dog's paw pads need to be investigated by a vet. Here are some of the possible causes. Only your vet will be able to properly diagnose your pooch.
A common cause of lumps are foreign bodies in the paw pad. Common foreign bodies are seeds and grass awns. These create a local reaction and swelling.
Soaking the foot in a warm, Epson salt bath for 5-10 minutes twice daily can help draw the infection out and increase the speed of the healing process.
Drying the feet and then applying plain Neosporin can also help.
The foreign body will either work its way out or will form an abscess (a pus-filled growth) and require antibiotics. For more information on method of treatment, see Dr Bruce's answer on JustAnswer.com
Dogs, like humans, can get corns on their feet. These can often be painful, circular growths found on the keratinized tissue area on a dog's paw pads. As in humans, these often grow when there is an uneven bearing of the weight.
Most dogs affected by corns have more trouble walking on hard surfaces compared to soft grass. You see these often in greyhounds used for racing which may develop arthritis and bear their weight unevenly to get relief.
Corns are usually round and may have raised edges or a pale ring around them. In some cases, a foreign body may penetrate the foot pad and the tissue may overgrow on it, causing a callous growth that looks like a corn.
To see if it's actually a corn, have the dog stand up and pick up the affected foot. Grasp the toe from each side and give it a gentle squeeze. If the dog withdraws, it's likely a corn.
See a vet to discuss your best options for treatment. They might include hulling the corn, topical medications, or surgery. Corns are often a recurring problem, so watch for other growths and lesions.
Even when removed, the corn should be biopsied to rule out a tumor. Grassmere Animal Hospital has some helpful pictures of digital corns.
These are small, firm, pea-sized benign growths that may occasionally show up on a paw pad. They are often seen in young dogs and are frequently bright red and hairless. They tend to grow quickly though they are painless.
It often alarms dog owners as they seem to appear overnight, though they often disappear over the course of a few months.
When they continue to grow, they are sometimes surgically removed. A course of prednisone may help them shrink.
A dog's paw pads have several small glands. Most dog owners are not aware of these glands until they see the paw pads sweat like on a vet's office table.
These glands can commonly become cystic at times, or even cancerous. In the case of cysts, the lumps often contain fluids. These fluids can be aspirated with a syringe so they can be sent for a biopsy to rule out cancer. Most cysts are benign.
All strange bumps that you find on your dog should be investigated by a vet since there is always a chance it is cancer. Cancer may affect the toes, bones, paw pads and skin in the dog's feet.
These should be seen right away as time is of the essence. When caught early, the cancer can be removed, even though at times this might mean amputating paw pads, toes, or even legs in some cases.
Digital Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common type of malignant cancer of the toe according to Michigan Vet Specialists. Commonly it affects the skin around the nail, along with the bone and tissue around it.
It may present as a small nodule, a papule or a red, blister-like skin plaque. The toe is often swollen and the dog may limp and there may be a bleeding ulcer or a broken nail.
Large dogs that are black such as labs and poodles are commonly affected. It's often seen in older dogs around the age of 10, but can also be found in younger ones. Treatment involves surgery of the affected toe.
Staging (Non-Oral) Melanomas
The tumor is less than 2 cm and superficial
The tumor is 2-5 cm and hasn't spread below the skin
The tumor is greater than 5 cm or has affected the tissues below the skin
The tumor has invaded deeper into the tissues or bone
Digital Cutaneous Melanoma
This is the second most common form of cancer of the toe, according to Michigan Vet Specialists. Melanomas are found mostly in pigmented areas in dogs.These can arise in the dog's nail bed, toe or paw pad.
They're common in black dogs. Usually they present as a mass, an ulcerative tumor, or a swelling on the toe according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation. They are usually solitary, dark growths ranging in size between 1/4 inch to several inches in diameter.
Limping may be the first symptom and often the swelling is misdiagnosed as an infection. Yet, the lump doesn't go away with antibiotics.
If the lump is found on the weight-bearing metacarpal or metatarsal pads, amputation of the whole leg may be necessary.
Generally, this melanoma is quite aggressive with about 30 to 40 percent of malignant melanomas having spread already by the time of diagnosis according to Marvista Vet. Often, this melanoma spreads to the closest lymph nodes and then metastasizes to the lungs.
*Note: Melanocytomas are the benign version of melanoma and are fortunately seen more often than melanomas. These, however, are mostly found in hair-covered areas. Whereas malignant melanomas are most commonly found in the mouth and toes, explains veterinarian Mike Richards.
Paw pad lumps and bumps may also be caused by mast cell tumors, insect bites, constant licking of paws, digital hyperkeratosis and many more. As you've seen, the issues may range from minor to even life-threatening, so be sure to adhere to the "when in doubt, a vet seek out" protocol.
Causes of Swollen Paws
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
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© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli