Gemma is an experienced small animal vet who combines her love of writing alongside working in practice. Since her graduation from the University of Liverpool in 2014, she has worked in a wide variety of roles including first opinion practice, as a night vet, and as a locum vet.
Dog Itchy Paws By Gemma Cliffin
All dogs will occasionally lick or briefly chew at their feet, particularly if they have just been out for a walk and their feet are wet or dirty. But excessive licking or chewing isn’t normal, and there could be several different reasons for it. Determining the cause can be a real challenge, so it’s best to speak to your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.
If your dog is obsessively licking or chewing their feet, then it could be a sign that they are itchy or irritated, although this isn’t always the case. Let’s take a closer look at the causes of itchy paws in dogs and other reasons that they might be licking or chewing their feet.
Why does my dog lick their paws?
Allergies are by far the most common cause of itchy paws in dogs. Itchy paws can often be related to a food allergy, but they could also be due to an environmental allergy such as pollen or dust mites. If your dog has a food allergy, you are more likely to see him chewing or licking their paws after he’s eaten. Dogs can be allergic to almost any food ingredient, just as humans can. They can also develop new allergies throughout their lifetime, so a food allergy could still be to blame, even if you haven’t changed your dog’s diet.
There are allergy blood tests and skin tests that can help determine the cause of your dog’s allergies, whether they are food-related or due to something in the environment (or sometimes both!). Speak to your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has an allergy.
Although they don’t tend to be found in their feet, fleas are the most common parasitic cause of itching in dogs. If your dog has fleas, their whole body will likely be itchy, rather than just their paws. Be sure to speak to your veterinarian about the best type of flea treatment and preventatives for your dog.
Harvest mites are tiny mites that live in soil and most commonly cause problems in late summer and fall. They are bright orange and tend to congregate in between your dog’s toes or on their legs. They can also sometimes be found around their ears, on their stomachs, in their armpits, or around their genitals. They are extremely irritating to your dog and will likely cause him to chew or lick excessively at their paws or other infested areas on their body. Harvest mites are easily treated, and your veterinarian will be able to prescribe medication to kill them.
Secondary skin infections
Regardless of the cause, any excessive chewing or licking of your dog’s paws can cause a skin infection to develop. The moistness caused by your dog’s saliva creates an ideal environment for bacteria and yeast to grow and multiply, resulting in infection. Skin infections themselves can be irritating and cause your dog to lick or chew their feet more, making the problem worse. Skin infections need prompt veterinary treatment and usually a course of antibiotics, so speak to your veterinarian straight away if you think your dog’s paws could be infected.
Treatment of itchy paws
There are supplements available that can help protect the skin barrier and reduce itching and scratching. Omega oil for dogs can be added to your dog’s food as a tasty topper. It can usually be given alongside any prescription medication, but always check with your veterinarian to be sure.
The treatment of itchy paws will vary depending on the cause. Anti-parasite medication is needed to kill fleas or mites that might be plaguing your dog. You might also need to treat your household environment. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the best treatments for both your dog and your house.
The most effective treatment for dogs with allergies is avoidance of the allergen in the first place! This might be easy if it is a food ingredient; however, it might not be possible for some environmental allergies such as dust mites, which are everywhere.
For some dogs with mildly itchy paws, antihistamines can help. Never give your dog any medication without first consulting your veterinarian, as some can be harmful or even toxic to dogs. For dogs with more severe allergies, prescription medication might be needed to control their symptoms. There are lots of different types available, ranging from tablets to shampoos and even a long-lasting injection. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the best options.
Other reasons your dog might lick or chew their feet
Other than itchiness, there are other reasons your dog might lick or chew their feet. It can be difficult to distinguish itchiness from other causes, but your veterinarian can help.
If your dog has an injury or even a foreign body such as a grass seed stuck in their foot, they will likely repeatedly lick and chew at it. If this is the case, your dog will probably concentrate on a single paw rather than all four. Some dogs can develop arthritis in their lower legs and feet, and this is a very painful condition that might cause your dog to lick at their sore feet.
Some dogs will lick at their paws if they are feeling anxious. Licking is a self-soothing behavior for dogs, making them feel better. Anxious dogs can sometimes end up with sore or irritated paws due to licking. It is best to speak to a qualified behaviorist for more advice if you have a dog licking because of anxiety.
If you suspect your dog has itchy paws or their feet look sore, then the first thing to do is take them to your veterinarian to get him checked over. There are many reasons for itchy feet, and it can be tricky to determine the cause. Remember, your dog might not actually be itchy, and they could be licking because of pain or anxiety. Itchiness is a very unpleasant sensation, and your dog can develop a skin infection if the problem is left untreated. Once the cause has been found, your dog can be treated and will be much happier and more comfortable as a result.