Did you know that dogs can get corns on their feet? Maybe not! This condition is relatively rare in most breeds and types of dog, and is almost always unique to greyhounds, whippets and lurchers, where its prevalence rate is actually quite high. Because corns on the feet are fairly uncommon in other breeds of dog, often even veterinary surgeons are not particularly familiar with the condition, and misdiagnosis during the early stages of the problem developing is not uncommon for this reason. So if you own a greyhound, whippet or lurcher, it's important to learn about corns on the feet so that you can identify a potential problem developing and point your vet in the right direction.
A corn is a hard protrusion that forms inside of the paw's pad, which may not be visible from the outside during the initial stages of development. As the corn grows larger, you will begin to see it's presence as a small dot on the pad, which gets bigger and eventually breaks through the skin of the paw and protrudes visibly through the outer surface of the pad. Corns can grow quite large if left unchecked, although it is often hard to discern the actual size of the corn from its presentation on the surface of the foot. Corns can develop on any area of the pad that comes into contact with the ground, including the pads of the toes as well as the central pad of the foot.Corns are understandably very painful for the dog, both before they become visible and afterwards. If you have ever got a splinter or a piece of gravel stuck in your foot and tried to walk on it, you may have some idea of the kind of pain that can be caused by your dog trying to walk on a corn all of the time. Corns often turn out to be one of the main causes of unexplained lameness in greyhounds, whippets and lurchers, as they can cause significant pain and discomfort for your dog both before and after they become visible to the naked eye.
There are various different theories and opinions as to how and why corns develop in dogs, and why they are almost totally unique to greyhounds, whippets and lurchers. One working theory is that the lean build and low body fat percentage of greyhounds, whippets and lurchers means that dogs of these types do not have as much fat to cushion the pads of the feet as other dogs do, making them particularly susceptible to the problem. The presence of a foreign body in the pad, even something as small as a piece of grit, may cause scar tissue to build up around the foreign body, and form the hard callous that becomes the corn. Another theory is that corns are caused by a viral infection, like warts, and the frequent success of treatment with antiviral medications for corns would seem to bear out this theory, although it may not be the case in all circumstances.
If you own a greyhound, lurcher or whippet, be on the lookout for any or all of the following signs and symptoms that might indicate the presence of a corn developing.Lameness is one of the most obvious indicators of the presence of a corn on the foot, especially if there is no other obvious explanation for the lameness. If your dog appears to walk more comfortably on grass or soft surfaces than on the road or hard earth, this is particularly telling, as the pressure on the foot is greater on hard surfaces, and so, causes greater discomfort and pain.Check the pads of the foot, including all of the toes- Can you see any areas which appear inflamed, or look or feel as if there may be a hard mass under the skin? Remember that palpating the paw of a foot with corns may be painful for your dog, so try to make sure you don't exacerbate the problem- or get a nip for your trouble. Can you see any areas that look like a small dot or patch of darker pigment? This may indicate the presence of a corn just under the skin. Remember when trying to identify the root cause of lameness or discomfort of the foot in your dog that corns may not always be visible on the outside of the foot, so do not rule them out simply because you cannot see or feel their presence.
There are several different treatment options available for corns in dogs, all of which depend on the type of corn and its growth, and what your individual vet prefers and recommends. Some of the most commonly utilised treatment methods are listed below.
When seeking treatment for corns in your dog, don't forget that some vets may not have any experience of corns of the foot before, and may not easily recognise a corn when they are faced with one. Make sure that you inform your vet of your concerns when your dog is undergoing examination, and that your vet understands the condition and is confident in his ability to diagnose or rule it out accordingly.