Corns in Greyhounds
One of the more common causes of lameness in greyhounds and other sighthounds are corns. Corns are hard, painful lesions made of keratin that occur on the paw pads of greyhounds. Similar to corns in humans, they are almost always found on the third and fourth toes of the front paws.
The exact cause is unknown; however, several theories have been proposed including viral, foreign body and mechanical or trauma. To date, no viral particles have been isolated from corns and foreign material such as plant awns or sand are rarely found. Repetitive mechanical trauma seems to be the most likely cause and about 40% of dogs have some anatomical deformity (most commonly a tendon abnormality) causing change in gait and making corns more likely. Greyhounds are also thought to have less fatty tissue in their pads thus less protection against wear and trauma to the paws.
Regardless of the cause, a corn is a hard core of keratin that forms in the pad and causes pain when the dog walks due to focal pressure on the underlying sensitive tissues of the pad.
Many, many types of treatments have been tried to treat corns but, unfortunately, no one treatment has ultimately been successful. Topical therapies include chemicals or medications to break down, soften or destroy the keratin. Protective boots and pads have also been tried and there is anecdotal evidence that covering the corn with duct tape may help soften and destroy it!
Veterinarians may “pare down” or remove corns by shelling or hulling them out with a blade or sharp dental tool (do NOT try this at home—have a professional do it!), which reduces pain, but these corns almost always recur. Surgical techniques such as deep removal of the corn and surrounding tissue under anesthesia, cutting flexor tendons of the affected toe or toes and even amputation of an affected toe have been attempted with varying results. Toe amputation is usually left as a last resort. Surgical removal of corns has been shown in studies to reduce lameness for one year or more in about 50% of dogs. More studies are needed on both medical and surgical treatments. No one treatment method has emerged as a definitive fix for greyhound corns, so treating corns remains somewhat of a trial and error process. Cutting the flexor tendons seems like a promising treatment, but more data is needed.
Corns are a common cause of pain and lameness in greyhounds. The underlying cause of corns is poorly understood, and, no treatment plan is guaranteed to rid the dog of corns for good. Studies are underway so we may have better treatment options for this frustrating condition to keep these graceful hounds pain-free in the future.
This blog brought to you by the Patton Veterinary Hospital serving Red Lion, York and the surrounding communities.