What you need to know about paw licking in dogs
Just this past weekend, I had a great go at clearing up my e-mail inbox. Feeling relaxed and caught up with other tasks, I decided to tackle the endless stream of e-mails, which one could also call the endless stream of inspiration.
One email that caught my eye was from a veterinary specialist in dermatology, who was responding to my article on paw licking published in Animal Wellness Magazine. See a screenshot of the email below:
To summarize, Dr. Gimmler says I was making “a gigantic error in judgment” because I wrote that most dogs who lick their paws do not have allergies. She also suggested that I am leading people “down ridiculous rabbit holes” by saying most dogs that lick their paws do not have allergies. Dr. Gimmler was upset by our difference of opinion and suggested dog guardians with dogs who lick their paws excessively see a veterinary specialist.
While some may find my colleagues comments upsetting, I see them as an opportunity to break the ice and open up a conversation. Comments like these do not upset me because I am used to some of my conventionally-minded colleagues calling my treatment methods ridiculous. Ultimately, I am here for dogs and am not out to win a popularity or approval contest.
I even agree with a few of Dr. Gimmler’s points!
- I agree that steroids and antibiotics often do not work for paw licking.
- Many dogs suffer from heavy growth of Malassezia yeast on the affected paws.
The part that we seem to differ over is that Dr. Gimmler likes to treat yeast with antifungals and I believe that yeast overgrowth is always secondary to underlying causes. I also disagree that neuropathy is “a minute part of the problem” because I have seen many dogs responding very well by addressing this issue.
In my opinion, yeast grows in areas where the skin is compromised by licking and where there are blood and neurological flow restrictions. Dogs often lick their paws because of neck and collar injuries that cause abnormal nerve sensation in their paws. Licking causes skin trauma and traumatized skin is much more prone to Malassezia yeast overgrowth. Antifungals will help temporarily, but they are toxic and will not address the underlying causes. In other words, in most dogs, these conditions will reoccur as soon as antifungals are stopped.
How do I know? I have had the opportunity to observe and treat many dogs during my 28 years in clinical practice.
When I see a dog who licks his or her paws, I adjust their diet, take them off kibble, eliminate nutritional deficiencies, give them all-natural supplements and also work with an experienced chiropractor, physical therapist, rehabilitation expert and a massage therapist to correct cervical misalignment and injuries.
I also suggest using a shock-absorbing leash and a front clip harness to reduce the likelihood of injury.
I accept that Dr. Gimmler does not agree with me, however, it is not a good reason to call my opinion a giant mistake and accuse me of leading my clients down a ridiculous rabbit hole.
I understand that it is sometimes hard to look at problems from a different perspective, especially when one spends years studying to become an expert or specialist in dermatology. However, we all know that not all skin problems originate in the skin and that they can also be related to the rest of the body.
I am also concerned many dogs will suffer unnecessarily because of a dogmatic approach to medicine and lack of flexibility that makes us miss viable and effective solutions.
In the past, I followed the conventional approach to paw licking and it did not work for me. I had to search for another answer and found a solution that has helped many chronically ill dogs.
I hope that Dr. Gimmler will respond to my invitation for further respectful conversation. In many ways, I am grateful for her comments because they make me even more passionate and eager to share what I have learned. Ultimately, I am not here for the establishment – I am here for you and your dog!
P.S. If you have experience with paw licking and your dog, please share your experience. If your dog licks his or her paws, click here to read the article on paw licking.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM