Scratchy ears and feet: Dew poisoning and how to fight it

By editor, Mar 1, 2015 | |
  1. editor
    We've talked about this from time to time on the forum, the scratching, itchy problems experienced by our pups after a morning chasing flop ears in the wet dew. This old school problem, called dew fever or dew poisoning, has a simple cause and a simple fix.

    What causes it?

    Odds are through your encounters either in high school field houses, dorm rooms, and military service or at your local gym or campgrounds; you have had dire warnings to wear your shower shoes when walking around in the wet nastiness. The reason for this is that old bugaboo that is athlete's foot. What causes "the foot" is not sweat as many commonly think, but simply just moisture. You see moisture is the perfect incubator for microbes to grow out of control and make friends. You have moisture, add microbes, let em simmer, and bam-- you have the foot.


    Dogs are the same way. When they are out in the field in high grass and weeds on a dewy morning hunt, their feet and ears get soaked. This moisture, if left unchecked, can trap microbes that can consist of anything from mushroom spores to ragweed pollen and rabbit waste. Let this go for a while and this groovy colony of gross can work into broken skin and missing hair follicles to really cause irritation.


    Called pododermatitis by vets, a dog with dew fever or dew poisoning in the paws will have swollen pads and redness between the webbing of the toes. Spread it apart and look if you notice your dog licking, biting, or chewing on their feet for more than a few seconds. I had a dog who soaked his front paws in his water bowl several times a day and I thought it was just being goofy-- but on closer look found redness and swelling.


    The tips of the ears that come in contact with the grass can also get this inflammation. Like the feet, you will find redness and itching. You will want to check for a smell or discharge down the ear canal into the inner ear. If you see a discharge or smell a foul odor, you likely have an ear infection that is bigger than just some microbe irritation and need to consult a vet to get steroids and eardrops.

    How to treat it

    First off, clean the affected area with soap and water, which will provide a decent starting point. (Protip, wear gloves to make sure you do not get any fungal issues on your own skin).

    After this, there are a number of over the counter anti-fungal sprays and creams out there. Most products advertised to be effective on athletes foot (Lotrimin, Desitin, Blue Star etc.) will work as will horse products meant for the treatment of "scratches" or "mud fever" (Fungasol, Nitrofurazone, etc) that are found in your local co-op or feed store. Some have recommended Vetericyn and it is designed for dogs. Antiseptics such as mouthwash and first aid sprays can help as well but may burn.

    These will kill fungal infections. However, if you have a bacterial infection, your dog has allergic, or immune system issues, you need to consult a vet, as they will have to do a DTM culture, biopsy, or allergy testing to figure out what the deal is.

    To prevent this in the first place, when returning from a hunt it may be a good idea to give your hounds or beagles a 30-45 second foot soak (just put them in an area where they have to stand in a pan of water for that time like an old tub, outdoor sink or kiddie pool). The soak should be clean water and an anti-bacterial/antifungal soap. Other soak alterative besides the soap are vinegar (1 cup to one gallon), hydrogen peroxide (same ratio) or iodine (enough to turn it colors). Antifungal wipes of the ear tips can do the same for dew poisoning there.

    And in the end, just be vigilant to those scratchy ears and paws before it turns into a big problem.

    *Disclaimer: Nothing contained in this site is or should be considered, or used as a substitute for, veterinary medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. These articles are designed to educate members on veterinary health care and medical issues that may affect their pet's daily lives. This site and its services do not constitute the practice of any veterinary medical or other professional veterinary health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider with any questions regarding a pet's health or medical conditions. Never disregard, avoid, or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider because of something you have read on this site. If you have or suspect that your pet has a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified veterinary health care professional immediately.

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