An injury, not allergies is likely to blame
Does your dog lick his or her feet? Have you been told that it is allergies? Do you find that no matter what you do or what special diet you were recommended by your vet, the problem does not seem to go away?
You are not alone. I hear this story all the time. I also know that every year, thousands of veterinarians gather at conferences to solve the issues of allergies.
Abnormal sensation may be the cause
The big irony of all this is that many dogs do not respond because they are not allergic. What they are doing by licking their feet and paws is that they are tryin to alleviate or get rid of either pain or neurological sensation. The pain may be local due to a muscle sprain, foot pad bruising, nails that are too long or a foot or a joint injury that was missed.
Abnormal neurological sensation is familiar to most people who have an experience with a neck or back injury. It can present as a pins and needles sensation or as itching. Dogs are not any different, but most people don’t even think of such connections in dogs.
Collars are the most common culprit
Neck injuries are most commonly caused by collar injuries. Dogs that pull tend to cause damage to the neck. The neck supplies nerves to the extremities and if impinged, cause discomfort or pain. Dogs lick because they notice the abnormal sensation.
Choke, martingale and prong collars are all a serious problem. Even if your dog doesn’t pull all the time, he may pull or jump forward occasionally and that itself can cause lasting damage.
Avoid retractable leashes
Retractable leashes are another culprit because they enervate constant tension around your dog’s neck and when a dog reaches the end of the leash, it jerks back which again causes trauma to the neck.
There are many things that you can do to stop your dogs from licking his or her paws, however there is one thing that makes three out of four dogs stop paw licking.
Ideally get a harness that clips in the front (not the back of the neck) and stop attaching your leash to a collar. Four out of five dogs improve dramatically just taking this simple step. Remember that the leash has to be attached in the front, not on the back.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM