Excessive Licking and Biting? An Allergy?

It Ain't Easy Being a DogThough this entry isn't as provocative as the title might lead some to believe, for those of us with dogs, you may notice your dog licking and biting their paws from time to time. There are a few reasons why they do this, and as a recent piece posted at NorthJersey.com suggests, it may be due to allergies.

_I notice my dog, Cotton, licks his paws from time to time, but then I've also noticed that he's very particular about his feet. Specifically, he doesn't care much for you touching them or getting them wet. I really don't pay that much attention to my own, but since he is much shorter and has four of them, I assume that he likely takes many more steps throughout the course of the day. Thus, I reason he's ‘on his feet’ more than I(not to mention barefoot). Regardless, what can cause your dog to lick his/her paws can sometimes be allergies.

_There are three main types of allergies that can be the culprit, flea, food and environmental. Flea allergies seem fairly obvious. When your dog comes in contact with fleas or flea saliva, they will dig and itch at the point of contact. Vets will always recommend sometime of monthly flea control, and while I've never been a fan of applying topical insecticides or pesticides directly to Cotton's skin, I do use the pet shampoo by Ecology Works, and that keeps him flea-free throughout the year. So whether you go with a shampoo or medication, keeps tick and flea repellents in mind.

_The next two causes may be somewhat less obvious. Of the two, environmental allergies are a bit easier to spot since this culprit will likely be seasonal in nature – noticeable during the warmer months with the licking and biting tapering off during the winter. Since most dogs are 99% hair factories, the paws are places where allergens can most directly affect exposed skin. I can imagine that if I never wore shoes, from time to time, my feet would likely come in contact with a few unsavory things that would make me want to scratch them too!

_The last culprit is food allergies. This may be the case if your dog is licking and biting his paws all year round. While the ingredient list is most dog foods is as long as a monthly grocery list, it can be difficult to pin down what's causing it, but in working with your vet, you can try a few different types of protein bases to begin eliminating what ingredients may be causing the reaction. As the article suggests, you may try a dog food with a protein base of venison or rabbit. Test a few different types and see if you begin to notice a difference. In more severe cases your vet can run your dog through a variety of allergy tests to help you narrow down the list of culprits.

_In the case of seasonal allergies your vet can prescribe antihistamines and you can also try avoidance. Though, the latter can be difficult if your dog typically spends a fair amount of time outdoors.

_I'm not sure if Cotton has allergies. I tend to think he is a bit like a feline since he usually starts the licking and cleaning right after bath time or if he has had the unfortunate luck of going outside when it was raining. I had never given thought to an allergic reaction being the cause for this, but if nothing else, it gives me something to keep an eye on and directly discuss with the vet on his next visit.


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