Allergies? Why dogs lick their paws and how you can help.

by Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

and why you should beware of hypoallergenic diets and Metacam

I must have heard  this a million times: “My dog licks his paws and feet and he was put on a hypoallergenic diet.”  This brings me back more than 15 years, when I too thought that paw licking was one of the signs of allergies because this is what I was taught.

The problem is that when paw-lickers are treated as such, the issue usually doesn’t improve and many dogs start showing serious signs of deficiencies because they are put on hypoallergenic mono-diet of highly processed and denatured food.

For example here are the ingredients in Hill’s Hypoallergenic diet :

Starch, Hydrolyzed Chicken Liver, Soybean Oil (preserved with BHA, propyl gallate and citric acid), Hydrolyzed Chicken, Powdered Cellulose, Lactic Acid, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Glyceryl Monostearate, Potassium Chloride, Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), DL-Methionine, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Taurine, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols & Citric Acid, Rosemary Extract, Beta-Carotene.

Doesn’t it make you wonder, why starch is the first ingredient and hydrolyzed chicken liver is second?  Anyone with basic knowledge of nutrition knows that starch is one of the major factor in obesity, diabetes and research also shows  the connection of high carbohydrate diet with cancer occurrence.  When it comes to liver, it is common knowledge that chicken is fed large amounts of  antibiotics and hormones and chicken livers are the  last thing I would like to feed my dog because liver is a detox  organ that accumulates toxins in the highest concentration.

BHA is another ingredient that frightens me.   It is a known carcinogen that should have been banned from pet food a long time ago and when it comes to soybean oil 91% of all soybeans produced are  GMO. I could go through the ingredient list for a little longer but that would be too depressing.  Obviously, there is enough  wrong with the formula to stay away from it unless you would like to fall for the rosemary extract and beta-carotene at the end of the list which is obviously  supposed to make you  feel good about feeding this toxic  concoction called “hypoallergenic diet.”

The biggest paradox is that a majority of dogs that are put on this food do not even have allergies and this is what I  would like to share with you today.

There is a small percentage of dogs that would lick their paws  as a result  of obsessive nervous licking, long nails, contact with a chemical agent  and secondary bacterial infection because of the skin trauma caused by licking.

However, what I have found out over the years is that the majority of dogs lick their paws because they have an abnormal sensation in their feet.   If you have ever had a neck injury or pain in the neck ( the physical one) , you may have also experienced tingling or pin and needle  sensation in your hands.

Dogs suffer frequent neck injuries caused by collars because they pull on the leash and people use damaging choke chains, prong or shock collars. It may be a surprise to you but even the regular extension leash that winds up can cause serious neck injuries especially when a dog runs and hits the end of a leash.

Neck and back injuries cause muscle tightness which affects the  nerves supply a particular area of the body. Here are a few examples.

  • front feet licking is frequently caused by a neck injury

  • forearm licking is caused by tightness in between the shoulder blades ( often caused by a fall, neck trauma,  excessive digging  or swimming )

  • hind feet licking can be caused by tightness in the region of lumbar spine

Here are a few steps to follow if you dog licks his feet:

  1. If your dog licks front feet, attach your leash to  front attachment harnesses  such as Walk In Sync  and do not connect a leash to a collar especially when your dog pulls.

  2. If your dog  licks hind feet, stop him/her from  sprinting, jumping up, leaping in the water  or intense ball retrieving for at  least  a month and reduce this activity on an ongoing basis.

  3. Chiropractor,  physio or osteopathic examination is highly recommended to assess and treat your dog’s neck injury and muscle inflammation.

  4. Ideally do not play tug-of-war or if you do,  let the rope or leash gently slide through your hand and definitely do not lift your dog while tugging

  5. Feed species appropriate diet and nourish your dog with whole food all natural supplements for better cellular,muscle function and detox.

  6. If your dog  has suffered more serious neck injury, see your veterinarian for further evaluation, however, remember  that most vets have not been trained muscular skeletal assessment as  well as chiro’s, physio’s or osteopaths.

  7. Never use harmful anti-inflammatory drugs such as Metacam which causes serious side-effects unless you think that stomach ulceration, blood clotting disorders and kidney damage are a good idea. I recommend Zyflamend as a healthy alternative that I have used for three years in many dogs with great results and no evidence of side effects.

If you would like to learn more about holistic approach to other medical problem, sign up for my regular newsletter and check out our webinar schedule.

With gratitude,

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM



previous / next