Why Are My Dog's Paws Turning Brown?
In the vast majority of case the colour change is due to the interaction of your dogs saliva with the fur coat. Therefore the better question is why is my dog licking his feet?
Usually there are several broad categories as to why they are licking including anything that causes itchiness or irritation, pain, anxiety or boredom.
In terms of what I see in my consult room, allergic skin disease and interdigital dermatitis(inflammation/infection between the toes and pads) are the biggest cause of a dog overgrooming their feet and therefore causing the hair to change colour. We are lucky to live in a beautiful, warm part of the world but living in a hot, humid climate results in the small folds and crevices between the toes and pads becoming an even more ideal environment for organisms such as yeast and bacteria to overpopulate (think of it being like a human developing athletes foot). Many types of skin allergy conditions such as food allergies will also result in itchiness, and therefore overgrooming of, the feet.
Lots of dogs will develop what is known as a stereotypical behaviour if they feel anxious or bored. This behaviour often takes the form of a repetitive, self comforting action, in the case licking the feet, resulting in the colour change from saliva staining.
If the feet or adjacent areas are painful, in cases such as when there is a wound present or, harder to see, arthritic joints dogs will frequently pay more attention to area and lick.
So what should you do? Usually the best thing to do is inspect the area for any obvious wounds, to see if there is anything stuck in the area or leading to obvious irritation (look for a wound, a parasite such as a tick, a skin growth etc). This is fairly simple for you to do at home and may give you an answer immediately. If there is an infection present the area may even smell (often seet or musty if yeast and quite nasty if bacteria!). The other conditions such as osteoarthritis, allergic skin disease and behavioural causes can be harder to determine and will require a more detailed examination and discussion with your veterinarian.
Once a diagnosis is made there are usually options to try to manage the behaviour, such as treating the infection or pain if present. Dietary trials can be easily and non invasively conducted (best under veterinary direction/supervision to be meaningful). In my experience the behavioural causes can be the hardest to deal with as there is seldom a complete ‘cure’ often more of a long term management plan to try to address the underlying anxiety or boredom.
Reasons Why My Dog's Paws Turn Brown
1. Dog's Lifestyle Dogs are always on the go - jumping, running, playing, walking, etc. They walk all over every kind of surface imaginable from hot pavement to paved driveways. All that pounding can wreak havoc on your dog's paws. Those paws get even more wear and tear. Summer's heat is additionally harsh on your their paws, making them lick between the paws which can cause the paws to turn brown. You may have noticed your dog paws turning brown and perhaps tried everything possible to get rid of them, but it still remains. Knowing the reason behind this new development might be more helpful than you think, understanding why the paws color is turning brown and what is responsible for it can help you get the right answer for the problem.
2. Dog's Food & Habits Certain foods or condition in your puppy's system can cause a chemical reaction which is present in dog saliva. It can be continuous or once in a while as some kind of food may contribute to this situation. What happens is that some foods can cause a reaction with your dog saliva that leads to these protein stains around the mouth and beard. Then, when the dogs lick themselves between the paws, some staining saliva can remain on the paws. This can build up and actually permeate the paws and cause it to turn brown, making the stain difficult if not impossible to remove. Licking feet and legs can be as a result of various things in dogs, including allergies, illnesses or even stress behaviors. Allergies are the most common in dogs, with yeast infections coming second. Allergies can make the area turn red and itchy, making the dog want to lick and chew on them. After some time, the area may be stained with saliva, particularly in lighter or white-coat dogs. This frequent licking of the paw can be a sign of infection. The subsequent tips can help protect your dog's paws. Foot soaks are an extraordinary way to sterilize the paws. I recommend it not only for dogs with brown paws, itchy, inflame irritated paws but also for dog's that are exposed to certain contaminants.
3. The Weathers During winter in other countries, the main contaminant is salt, which can be very irritating to dogs' paws. Washing your dog paws regularly is an awesome approach to keeping your dog's feet clean and maintaining his paws color. Also in the summer, it's essential to consider foot soaks since dogs are naked, they are not wearing socks and shoes, and the only part the sweat (besides the nose), is the bottom of their feet.
To treat this obsessive licking, we suggest Povidone-iodine or Beta dine solution because it's natural anti-fungal, antiviral, safe, non-stinging, non-toxic, non-abrasive natural product. It is an extremely compelling disinfectant for your dog's paws. You can either have your furry friend simply walk through the tube a couple of times, or stand him in it for 30 seconds. Then, pat the paws and dry with a towel.
Edited by: Dr. James Blanshard
BVM&S GPcertEM&S MRCVS
James graduated in 2003 from the University of Edinburgh, R(D)SVS. He has worked in a range of veterinary settings from 1st opinion clinics to specialist hospitals in the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore. He has completed an in-residence, postgraduate training position run jointly by The Calgary Zoo and the University of Calgary, Canada in zoological medicine (exotic/non domestic species) and is also the holder of an ISVPS certificate in Emergency Medicine and Surgery (GPcert EM&S). By working at Perrovet James hopes to provide our pets and pet parents with high quality 1st opinion veterinary services and the personable and caring service that you deserve.