Just like people, dogs can get corn on their feet and greyhounds and several other sighthound dog breeds are particularly prone to this problem. Greyhounds are dogs that are quite unique in the fact that they are particularly predisposed to developing corns on their feet when in other dog breeds this problem is almost unheard of. If you own a greyhound or some other type of sighthound such as a whippet or a lurcher, you may therefore want to learn more about the development of corn on a greyhound dog's feet and successful greyhound corn removal and treatment.
A Matter of Overgrowth
What exactly are corn on a dog's foot pads? As in humans, corns are overgrowths consisting of excess keratinized skin that is located on the tissue of the foot, explains veterinarian Dr. Gene. These growths can sometimes be painful, negatively affecting the dog's ability to bear weight.
Also known as foot pad keratosis, orthokeratotic hyperkeratosis or digital keratomas, corns may appear on the dog's front or back pads of the feet and are more commonly found in active racing greyhounds, but can often also be found on retired, older greyhounds.
Dog owners often casually stumble on the corn when they are inspecting their dog's foot pads.
What do corns on a dog's feet look like? The lesions appear similar in appearance to the hard corns often found on human feet. Corns are characterized by a typical circular appearance with a hard center. For sake of comparison, they are about the size of a matchstick.
Signs of Corn on Dog Feet
The most obvious sign of corn on a dog's feet is the presence of the corn itself. Greyhound owners should routinely inspect the paw pads of their dogs especially if their greyhound shows signs of having difficulty walking. Corns are more likely to be found by the toes which bear most of the dog's weight (third and fourth toes), but they can also be found on the center pads.
As mentioned, corn on dog feet may be sometimes painful and a pain response may be elicited when pressure is applied upon palpation. Expect this response if you are touching a corn and be cautious as dogs in pain may bite. Affected dogs may also be reluctant to walk on hard surfaces.
Because of the pain associated with placing pressure on the corn, a tell-tale sign of corn in dogs is the presence of longer nails on the toes that are closest to where the corn is located. With little weight placed on the affected toe, the nail gets to grow undisturbed compared to the other nails that naturally consume through walks on hard surfaces.
Causes of Corn on Dog Feet
There are currently no definitive causes known as to why certain dogs are more predisposed to corn than others, but there are several theories as to why dogs may get corn on their feet.
One theory is that corns are started by a foreign body causing a puncture in the dog's foot such as grain of sand stuck in a dog's food pad. Scar tissue soon starts accumulating in the area as the body tries to get rid of the foreign body. Soon, the layers of scar tissue in the area harden and develop into a corn.
Another theory is based on the belief that a corn on a dog's foot is simply caused by an infection with the papilloma virus, the same virus associated with warts.
Finally, the third theory is based on the assumption that the corn derives as result of repetitive pressure and trauma. This would explain why corns are more commonly found on greyhound feet, considering their history as runners; however, the only problem with this theory is that corns are also often found on the feet of whippets and lurchers that haven't been used on racing tracks.
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The fact that corn are often found on greyhound feet is something that has sparked the interest of many. What predisposes these dogs to develop corn more than others? A possibility may lie in their anatomical features.
Greyhounds are blessed with paws that are long and narrow with the pads located closely to one another which allows them to effectively run at a speed of up to 36 miles per hour.
Greyhounds unlike other non-sighthound dogs, are known for having a double-suspension gallop where the greyhound is airborne with all feet in the air and then lands with one front paw extended into the racing tracks' sand.
Being lean animals, there may be chances that distribution of fat on the paws pads of greyhounds may be minimal, depriving them from the much needed cushioning in this area.
It could also be that their weight might not be distributed properly causing more friction which results in the development of corns.
This latter assumption is something to consider, since according to research, the weight bearing toes are the most affected by the presence of corns (36 out of 40 according to a study).
Greyhound Corn Treatment
When it comes to treating corn on a greyhound's feet there are several options, but the most common involve surgery. When surgery takes place, the dog's pad is typically opened and the root of the corn is removed, which may help in preventing further regrowth.
According to a study, most dogs were corn-free for more than six months; however, there are chances that a dog's corn may recur if the underlying cause has not been removed. The use of laser in place of a scalpel blade appears to work better in preventing recurrence, explains veterinarian Dr. Gabby.
Hulling or shelling is one non-surgical option for corns on dog feet, and it entails digging the corn out and its main benefit is that it doesn't typically require anesthesia; however, the problem with this approach is that the corn tends to recur. Using Aldara or Abreva after the hulling procedure may help prevent the corn from growing back, suggests veterinarian Dr. Vicky Lamb. Of course, this is something that only a veterinarian should do as corn are very deep and you do not want to cause an infection!
Other non-surgical approaches include softening the corn, filing down the corn or shaving the corn using something like a Dr. Scholl stone, but again, recurrences are common and the dog only attains temporary pain relief.
Finally, a last option is amputation, albeit this remains a treatment of last resort for severe, desperate cases. Once a corn is removed, it is always a good idea to have it sent out to a pathologist so that a malignant tumor can be ruled out.
"I usually use a dental extractor and gently work the corn out. I then dremmel the area. They often come back and we do it again. I do not use sedation or local block...greys seem to tolerate it fine, although I feel they are still uncomfortable after due to bruising from the firm 'corn' that was present."~Dr. Laura Devlin
Cost of Removing Corns
How much will it cost to remove corns on a dogs's feet? The cost may logically vary widely based on location and the technique utilized to remove them. Between the office visit, the removal of the corn and then possibly, sending the corn out for a pathology report, and possible future bandage placements, the cost may easily amount anywhere between $300 and $1,000.
As seen, corns are annoying (and expensive too) and it would be best if they could be prevented rather than treated. Problem is, since an exact cause fr corns in dog feet hasn't bee identified, there are just a few preventive measures such as preventing your greyhound from walking on hard surfaces and perhaps using padded boots may be helpful.
- DVM360: Paw pad pain: A review of corns in dogs
- Guilliard MJ, Segboer I, Shearer DH. Corns in dogs: signalment, possible aetiology and response to surgical treatment. J Small Anim Pract 2010;51:162-168.