Dogs often have allergic reactions on their skin, even if the allergen is something your dog ate. Compulsive licking and chewing of the feet warrant an appointment with a veterinarian and often indicates an allergic reaction.
In addition to licking and chewing his paws, your dog might display other allergy symptoms. When dogs compulsively chew their skin they're liable to develop hot spots -- scabbed patches of skin that may be bloody or hardened. Allergies can cause rash, red spots and bald spots. If your dog suffers from intestinal problems such as diarrhea or vomiting, has runny, red eyes or sneezes frequently, he likely has allergies.
Dogs can become allergic to anything. Among the most common allergens are everyday substances such as grass, pollen and dust. Food is another source of allergy in dogs; fillers such as corn and gluten are especially likely to cause allergic reactions. Food allergies can cause skin problems, so it's worth looking into to determine if a certain ingredient is causing your dog to lick his feet. Some dogs develop allergic reactions to flea bites, and even dead fleas and flea excrement will cause a severe reaction.
If your dog develops symptoms after a move, a change in food or a new medication, the odds are good that the change is responsible for the allergic reaction. Eliminate the new food or medication, or try to narrow down differences between your old home and your new one. Your veterinarian can administer allergy tests and may be able to uncover the source of the allergies based upon your answers to a few questions. After the source is discovered, the simplest form of treatment is keeping your dog away from the allergen. Your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines or give your dog a cortisone injection to reduce skin problems and discomfort. If fleas are the cause of your dog's reaction, the first line of defense is removing the fleas. Your veterinarian may then give your dog medication for the allergic reaction.
Other Licking Causes
Licking and chewing do not necessarily indicate allergies. A simple flea infestation is sufficient to cause compulsive licking; you dog is not necessarily having an allergic reaction to the fleas. Injuries and splinters may also cause paw-licking. If your dog has recently been to the groomer, had his nails cut, had surgery or been injured, an infection could be causing him to lick his feet. Consult your veterinarian if the cause is not immediately clear or does not go away with home treatment.
- Dr. Pitcairn's New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats; Richard H. Pitcairn et al.
- Bulldogs World: Canine Allergies
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Fleas and Flea Allergy Dermatitis: Introduction
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.