Aqueos - Itchy Paws in Dogs
Itchy Paws in Dogs
All dogs will clean their paws by licking them every now and then, and this is completely normal behaviour. However, if your dog is licking their paws excessively, then this indicates an underlying problem.
Itchy paws are surprisingly common in dogs, especially during summer and autumn. There are many possible reasons for dogs to constantly lick or chew their paws, so the first step is for your vet to diagnose the underlying issue.
Causes of itchy paws in dogs
There are many possible causes of itchy paws in dogs, some more common than others. You may notice your dog frequently licking or chewing their paws, or they may only do it when you aren’t around to distract them. In this case, you may notice a pink-brown-red discolouration on your pup’s paws. This is saliva staining from the excessive licking.
The most likely culprits for itchy paws in dogs include:
One of the most common causes of itchy paws in dogs is allergies. This can be to many things, such as food, pollen or dust mites. Sometimes the allergy is to something your dog’s paws touch, such as grasses or cleaning products, but often the allergy is not caused by direct contact.
è Bacterial or yeast infection
Infections are almost always secondary to something, but skin infections themselves are also itchy. So, even if the underlying cause is treated, the infection will need to be treated too, or it becomes a vicious cycle.
Certain types of mites, such as Demodex, can cause itchy paws. Harvest mites are also very itchy. These look like tiny orange/red specks and are common in late summer and autumn.
è A foreign body
If your dog has something stuck in their fur or skin, then they will lick and chew the area around it. This is often an attempt to remove the foreign body, and because it is sore. Common examples include thorns or grass seeds. If these are stuck for a while, they cause fluid-filled lumps to appear between the toes.
If your dog is licking one paw, you may well find a wound if you check the pads and between the toes.
è Joint pain
Joint pain, such as with arthritis, may cause a dog to excessively lick around the affected joints, in an attempt to soothe the pain.
Some dogs lick out of stress, anxiety or boredom. This licking can be focused on carpets, furniture or themselves, typically around the paws or lower legs.
If you suspect your dog is licking or chewing their paws more than they should, it’s important that you book an appointment with your vet, so they can diagnose the underlying cause.
How to treat itchy paws in dogs
The treatment for itchy paws in dogs will depend on the cause. This is why it’s so important to see your vet so that they can advise on the best treatment.
If your pet is diagnosed with allergies, your vet may suggest a diet trial, to see whether a food allergy is involved. There are many options for treating allergies, ranging from immunotherapy to steroids. Your vet will advise you of the best options for your dog’s unique needs. It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of rinsing or wiping your dog’s paws after every walk. This removes any potential allergens sitting in their fur, such as grass pollens. You can use water or disinfectant wipes; the latter will also help to keep secondary infections at bay.
If your pup has a secondary bacterial or yeast infection, the underlying cause will need to be treated as well as the infection. For example, yeast overgrowth is really common in dogs with allergies, so the underlying allergy will need to be addressed. Otherwise, the yeast infection will keep recurring. Topical treatment (rather than treatment by mouth) is usually enough to treat these types of skin infections, especially when the infection is localised to the paws. This usually involves using an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial wash or shampoo. Your vet will advise you how often you need to do this. Some of these shampoos can also be used regularly, to prevent future infections.
Your vet may be able to see an offending parasite, or they may need to take some skin scrapes. This involves gently scraping at the skin with a scalpel blade, and looking at the material collected under a microscope. That may sound scary, but with a few treats, most dogs barely notice! Parasites can easily be treated with a spray, a spot-on, or a tablet, depending on your dog and the parasite involved.
If your pet has a wound or a foreign body, they may need a general anaesthetic or sedation to remove the offending object and/or stitch up the wound.
If your vet suspects joint or bone pain, they may recommend an x-ray. Treatment could include anti-inflammatory pain relief, and/or surgery, depending on what they find.
There are lots of things you can do to prevent boredom in your pup, such as making sure they get enough walks and offering treat-dispensing puzzle toys for when you are out. Behavioural causes can be harder to treat, so your vet may advise referral to a clinical veterinary behaviourist.
The good news is, whatever the cause of your dog nibbling their paws, usually the earlier the treatment is started, the better the outcome.
This article was written by: Sarah-Jane Molier BSc BVM&S MRCVS