Archive for July, 2009

Itchy Feet

July 7, 2009

Good day, this is Nova once again writing about all things DOG.

Today is about why dogs lick their feet and what you can do about it.

Dogs do not have sweat glands like humans.  (One exception is the American Hairless Terrier, which has sweat glands all over its body and cools itself by evaporation — just like people.) Dogs have glands between their pads on their feet that act a whole lot like human sweat glands.

In a dog suffering from an allergy, the sweat glands in the feet secrete histamines. The feet itch, and the dog will lick and chew its paws to try to relieve the itching. So if your dog is licking the bottoms of its feet, it probably has an allergy to something.

Something in the dog’s diet is most likely the culprit–usually corn, soy, or wheat. Putting your dog on a grain-free diet will usually stop the chewing. And of course, a diet free of grain is really better for the dog! Try changing the diet for a few weeks. Ask any of the good people at The Muttley Crew to recommend something for your dog. (They helped get me on a new food and it really helped me with some stomach problems I was having.)

Sometimes, though, it is something in the environment that the dog is allergic to. Grass, mold, pollen, or even fleas can cause the itching to start. If this is the case an antihistamine such as Benadryl or Claritin can be effective in relieving the itch. That’s right… just plain old human Benadryl. It’s best to try and get the dye-free type. Give the pet about 1/2 of a human dose (for a small dog–a large dog can take somewhat more). Just remember that, just like with people, it can have side effects such as making your pet sleepy or agitated.

A good oatmeal bath can also help. Remember to soak the feet in the tub for at least 5 minutes. Sometimes just running cool water on the feet can ease the itch by making the blood vessels constrict and making the swelling go down.

Sometimes a dog will lick so much that they cause bigger problems such as yeast infections of the skin. Symptoms of a skin infection include a yellow discharge from the pores of the skin and a darkening  pigmentation of the skin. Or the infection may show itself as a brown or reddish tinge to the color of the coat on the feet.  Yeast needs to be treated by special shampoos containing an anti-fungal. Soaking the feet in a Betadine solution can also help.

Some breeds, such as the English Bulldog or French Bulldog, have more problems than other breeds with yeasty feet. They can also have problems with yeast getting in the folds of their faces. Keep these areas dry and clean as much as possible. Always remember to bathe your dog in cool to tepid water so as not to exacerbate things. Hot water will only serve to irritate any skin problem further.

Chronic skin licking can cause long term problems as well. If your dog continues to lick a certain place over and over again they can get what is called a lick granuloma. The constant friction and moisture from licking make these deep sores very hard to heal and to deal with. An infection of the skin can result. If your dog is licking and licking a spot for hours on end, day after day, take them to the vet to help diagnose the problem. They will usually give you some sort of antibiotic cream and a E-collar. You’ve probably seen E-collars; they’re those things that look like a satellite dish around your dog’s head! They may make your dog look funny for a few days  or weeks, but they keep the dog from being able to irritate the spot. Using such substances as Bitter Apple or similar things do not work. They may keep your dog away from your new shoes, but no topical substance will stop the frantic licking that some dogs experience.

Licking can also be the result of anxiety. Some dogs lick to calm themselves and it turns into an obsessive behavior. This can also cause lick granulomas. If your pet shows signs of anxiety speak with your vet.

Older dogs lick to relieve pain such as aching from arthritis in the feet or wrists. They will lick any joint area that hurts–in the same way that humans rub their aches and pains, dogs lick. Your vet may prescribe an anti-inflammatory such as aspirin or Rimadyl.

If your dog is chewing at the base of its tail, it’s usually one of two things: fleas or an impacted anal gland. Your groomer will be able to help you with either one of these problems.

So, in closing, watch those feet. If your dog is chewing or licking, there is a reason for it.