First of all, go see your vet. She can easily eliminate the obvious triggers, which helps narrow down the problem. Itís very possible, your vet will find an immediate cause and solution to your dogís problem. There are a number of other causes for skin problems and paw chewing that have nothing to do with allergies. Thyroid activity plays a key role in skin and general dog health. Too much or not enough thyroid hormones can cause hair loss, skin discoloration, weight gain or loss, and skin problems.
A blood test and your vetís advice can narrow down your list of suspects quickly and easily. She may also want to do a tissue scraping to check for cell development, mites, fungus, yeast, etc. A microscopic look at your dogís skin can sometimes reveal the problem immediately, or at least rule some out. Genetic disorders may also be the culprit. Sheltie skin syndrome or dermatomyositis, which can occur in many of the collie breeds, affects the connective tissue and can cause a variety of symptoms.
Only your vet can determine if your dog might have a genetic disorder.
Once youíve seen a vet, here are other things to try.
Narrow down the possibilities. Try to eliminate unlikely triggers and identify the most obvious. If you can remove them from the dogís environment, great. If not, boost your dogís self-esteem, immune system, intellectual and physical stimulation and treat her symptoms with patience. Your dogís life will be easier, and so will yours.
Make sure your dog has plenty of fatty acids in her diet. When dogs were wolves, they ate birds and deer and rabbits and nuts. They got fatty acids in their diet because their prey ate grass, the primary source of Omega fatty acids. Today, most dogs donít get enough of these important nutrients and it can affect their mood, their blood chemistry and skin health.
Go to the grocery or drug store and get some fish oil gel caps, flaxseed oil capsules, and cod liver oil. Your dog will eat the gel caps like treats and you can put the cod liver in her food. Some drug stores sell cod liver capsules, which are more convenient.
Give your dog a different capsule every night with dinner, usually a dose of 200mg, or one small capsule is sufficient. Be careful with the cod liver oil. It can give your dog a case of the runs if you use too much. Donít use more than a quarter-tablespoon for each 20 pounds of dog. Reduce it if your dogís poop is soft. Dog poop should be firm, and the smaller the better. If itís big, soft and stinky, youíre probably giving him the wrong food.
Fish oil capsules Ė 200 to 500 mg, once a week for an average sized dog. A good source of Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, fish oil is good for your dogís nervous system, heart, skin and immune system.
Flaxseed oil capsules Ė 200 to 500 mg, once a week. Good for all of the above but has more Alpha-linolenic acid in the form of Omega-6 fatty acids, which are highly beneficial to your dogís skin. Safflower oil works too. Use about a quarter teaspoon added to his food once or twice a week.
Cod liver oil Ė Very high in vitamin A and D. Good for coat and skin, and a variety of other nutritional needs of your dog. If you want your dogís coat to shine. Cod liver oil is your best bet.
Change his food. Try a food specially formulated for allergenic dogs, or try a food based on a higher protein, simple carbohydrate diet, closer to a dog/wolfís natural diet.
Put some socks on your dog. Elizabethan plastic collars and muzzles only work when your dog is wearing them, and the collars usually donít work at all. Even if they did work, we consider them to be cruel and unusual torture devices that more likely add to the problem than help. Your dog certainly doesnít want to wear either.
Socks on the other hand, or paw, can be an excellent way to keep your dog from chewing his feet, help contain the infection, and are usually a comfortable, effective method to prevent chewing and licking.
The problem with most socks we have tried is that they come off within a few minutes.
There are some socks that donít come off, but they are made from plastic or rubber materials that are tough enough to prevent the dog from chewing through them. Dogs sweat through their noses and their paws. If they are wearing waterproof socks, their feet will get sweaty and damp, causing the dog equivalent to ďdishpan hands.Ē
This is not only the perfect environment for bacterial growth, itís probably not helping to relieve their itchy skin.
These products are not only expensive, we donít feel they treat the source of the itching or relieve the symptom. All they do is keep your dog from getting at his or her paws, and they may make things worse, both psychologically and by creating a nice, moist, warm environment for staph infections.
One solution seems to have been found by a small company called Dermapaw. They have taken cotton bobby socks and attached a comfortable elastic harness that act like suspenders to hold the socks on. The socks are cheap, washable, and allow oxygen to the area. Their theory is that by covering the dogís paw with as light-weight and least intrusive method possible, the dog doesnít mind it as much, and will not try so hard to chew through the covering. Dermapaw also sells a topical balm that contains ingredients to prevent itching as well as the spread of infection. The combination of the socks and topical skin treatment seems to relieve many components of dog paw chewing without creating additional problems.
Buy shampoos and conditioners high in fatty acids and donít bathe your dog too much. Sometimes a warm bath or shower is great for a dog, especially if they like water, but you donít always have to use soap. If you do use soap, always use a conditioner. If your dog smells really bad, and heís constantly licking at his skin or chewing or scratching, thereís a good chance he has a bacterial infection.
Antibiotics. If you think your dog has a severe skin infection, take him to the vet. Antibiotics can clear up skin infections within days, and the longer you let an infection go, the worse it can get. If you canít catch it early, get antibiotics. If it keeps recurring, try some of the natural dog skin remedies. Many contain ingredients such as olive oil, chamomile tea, or other antiseptics that in many cases will stop an infection and heal the skin.
Chamomile and Sage tea bags are effective alternative treatments you should try. Chamomile has been shown to be a very effective antiseptic, some studies have even found it more effective than antibiotics when applied topically. It has also been shown to speed wound healing. Get some at the grocery store and apply wet tea bags to your dogís feet. Chamomile can also help calm your dog, and donít worry if your dog finds it tasty. Itís perfectly harmless.
Sage tea has been used for years to prevent swelling of mucous membranes and relieves skin irritation. Europeans have been using sage tea for hundreds of years as a mouthwash to relieve gum irritations. One interesting property of sage tea is that is it used as an antiperspirant all over the world. Since a large number of a dogís sweat glands are in his feet, sage tea may help reduce wetness, bacteria, swelling and possibly itching, all at the same time. Be careful not to allow your dog to eat or swallow the tea bags. It could cause an upset stomach.
Epsom salt baths can help in several ways. Not only has salt and salt water been used as an extremely effective anti-bacterial agent for thousands of years, as evidenced by salted foods, many breeds, such as Labrador retrievers were bred to spend their days standing in salt water, helping to bring in fishing nets. Epsom salts contain not only sodium chloride, but potassium and nitrates that can aid in restoring the natural balance of bacteria on a dogís skin. Salt can also raise the pH level of your dogís skin, which may help regulate normal bacterial ratios. Regardless of the reason, a warm saltwater bath soothes the itch, helps disinfect the area and is a fun experience for dog and owner alike. Donít rinse your dogís feet after her bath. Let her lick the salt off or gently pat dry her paws. And donít get any in her eyes.
Never use tea tree oil directly on your dog. Many shampoos contain tea tree oil in such small quantities, it may help and pose no threat to your dog. Use caution, however, and make sure your dog doesnít ingest any or get it in his eyes.Although it has a well-deserved reputation for excellent anti-microbial, anti-fungal and flea killing properties, it is dangerous and possibly deadly for dogs and cats. According to National Animal Poison Control Center, the use of tea tree oil in dogs has been associated with hypothermia, muscle weakness, ataxia, tremors, altered behavior, and paralysis.According to the American Cancer Society: "Tea tree oil is toxic when swallowed. It has been reported to cause drowsiness, confusion, hallucinations, coma, unsteadiness, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach upset, blood cell abnormalities, and severe rashes. It should be kept away from pets and children."
Be very careful with eucalyptus or any products that contain it. Although it has proven anti-microbial, anti-fungal and even flea killing properties, it can be toxic to dogs if ingested. Additionally, eucalyptus can irritate your dogís eyes and nose. Shelties and other collie breeds are especially sensitive to it and large ingested amounts are toxic. Eucalyptus is an excellent antiseptic and natural insect repellant, it also tastes terrible and is very aromatic. Often used in herbal remedies, eucalyptus is meant to serve the purpose of killing bacteria and, because it tastes so bitter, prevent your dog from licking the area. The problem is that your dog will probably lick the area despite the bitter taste, ingest the eucalyptus and possibly poison itself.
Never use Tabasco or pepper sauce to discourage paw licking. Imagine someone sprinkling pepper sauce on a cut or sore on your arm. We think this is a ridiculous, yet often recommended licking deterrent. The fact is, you are merely torturing your dog.
Never use cortisone itch cream or ointment. If ingested, cortisone can cause intestinal bleeding, rash, difficulty breathing, depression, severe nausea, stomach pain, swelling of feet or legs, rapid weight gain, agressiveness, and vomiting to name a few. If steroids of any type are used, make sure your vet prescribes them.
Never use shock collars to prevent dog paw chewing. We feel this is so obvious, we shouldnít have to mention it, but just in case the idea crossed your mind...
Copyright 2009 Dogpawlicking.com. We want to be clear that we do not endorse any advertising, products, services, or opinions that appear on this site. We feel this subject needs a central source of information and knowledge, and that is our mission. Dog paw licking can lead to serious consequences. The more information you have, the better able you will be to make decisions concerning your dogís health. We remind you to check your sources, including information from this site. We are not trying to provide medical advice. The opinions expressed are not meant to be used without the collaboration and advice of your veterinarian. Always check with your veterinarian before doing anything that could possibly adversely affect your dogís health.