Yeast organisms (fungi) are normally found on your dog’s paws, but an underlying condition can cause them to multiply and cause problems. Licking excessively is a tell-tale sign of a yeast infection, Levitzke says, along with red nail beds, a reaction to salivary enzymes. Other symptoms include itching, redness and discharge.
Yeast infections are often secondary to allergy, the doctors say, with the most likely culprit atopic dermatitis. However, environmental or food allergies also could be to blame. “The vast majority of dog paw problems are skin problems that are worse at the feet,” Marrinan says.
Your vet can test the area to determine if yeast is the culprit and treat the infection with topical products, antifungal wipes and shampoos. If these treatments don’t do the trick, the underlying allergy may need to be addressed with antihistamines, steroids or anti-itch medications, Levitzke says. If a food allergy is suspected, elimination diets—where ingredients are taken out and then added back in—can help identify the trigger.
Ringworm, a fungus found in soil or brought in from other animals, plants or from dog parks, also can infect your dog’s feet, and is not actually a worm or a ring. “It can look like a swollen toe or an abscess,” Marrinan says. Your vet will examine a sample of hair or skin under a microscope or send it to a lab for diagnosis. You can treat ringworm and prevent its spread with medicated bath products and a thorough cleaning of your dog’s environment. Ringworm is contagious and may spread to humans or other pets.