Eight Reasons For Itchy Paws

The possible reasons for dogs licking their paws include

1. Boredom

2. Stress

3. Pain

4. Pollen allergies

5. Food allergies

6. Flea allergy dermatitis

7. Mites

8. Bacterial and/or yeast infection

Bored, and stressed dogs find some relief in the licking of their own bodies, and even toys, and blankets. It’s a difficult habit to break because it’s self-rewarding behavior. Diverting the dog’s attention and doing something to alleviate stress can be helpful. Tug toy, food puzzle, going for a walk, teaching a new game, or trick to keep the dog’s mind busy usually works as the old habit becomes less of a problem.

Pain: The paws can become painful for many reasons. Nails that are too long, or torn; the skeleton being off kilter, so the paws are taking more pressure than they should have to; debris such as pine needles, sticky weeds, tiny bits of gravel between the toes, ticks buried between the toes, salt from winter roads, hot pavement, lawn chemicals that cause a burning feeling; growths/tumors, and even cancerous lesions. Inspecting the paws carefully, and seeing your veterinarian can bring results.

Pollen allergies are a very common reason for dogs licking paws in the spring, summer and fall. One of the easiest ways to help the dog is to rinse the paws (and coat if you can) daily, even twice a day. Some clients have used betadine, and while it may be great for abrasions, and even to treat yeast, it can also dry the skin, and that can often start a new reason for licking! We’ve had so many clients who provided relief for their dogs with other solutions, but it depends on what the paws look like. Examples:

Clean looking paws (or if they smell like corn chips): 50% witch hazel + 50% apple cider vinegar. Dab a cotton ball in the solution, then on the dog’s paws including between the toes. Keep the dog off the paws for a quick minute to allow them to air dry.

Bright pink paws: If there are no abrasions, and the dog doesn’t react painfully to the paws being touched, a simple solution of ½ cup Epsom salts to 2 cups warm water can be used as a foot soak.

Food allergies: Arguably the #1 reason we see dogs licking paws excessively, but not always because the food itself is the problem. Confused?

Several things to consider: The possible cross reactions between foods and pollen allergies, the fact that what you think is in your commercial diet may be something quite different, and finally, the very possible need to start an elimination diet. In fact, an elimination diet can work remarkably well for many dogs, and is actually the only proven thing to alleviate food allergies. So many of our consultations are for dogs with allergies, and itchy paws.

Fleas and mites are terribly irritating to dogs, and the allergies can be so severe that the dog scratches the skin until it bleeds. The sarcoptes scabiei mite burrows under the skin, so you won’t see it regardless of how carefully you look. This requires your vet’s attention.

Bacterial and yeast skin infections can be secondary to anything that causes the dog to scratch excessively in the first place. In fact, an untreated bacterial infection that is mistakenly thought to be yeast, can become quite serious. Bacterial infections can happen from swimming in contaminated water, and due to other diseases, but also because a dog with allergies scratches excessively, and can open the skin making it a welcoming host for bacteria.

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Disclaimer: Statements made or products sold have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.