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Does Your Pet Have Itchy Paws?

Itchy paws are one of the most common complaints a veterinarian is faced with. In general we see a spike in the number of these cases in the spring and autumn.

Sometimes an owner will bring their dog in because the dog will not stop chewing at the paws. Other times they will notice that the hair around the paws is turning a red/pink colour. This colour change is called saliva staining and is a good tip that your dog has a problem.

The most common reason for itchy paws in adult dogs is allergy. The allergic process inflames the skin, causing redness, irritation and sometimes a moist appearance.

Once the allergy causes the animal to start chewing at the paws, the chewing and saliva creates a nice environment for bacteria and yeast to start growing. These secondary invaders are responsible for the smell that can go along with the itchy paws.

It is often impossible to determine what is causing the allergy. If only the paws are affected, or the paws and the belly then a contact allergy is likely. However the problem can easily be a food allergy or anything other sort of environment allergen.

How do we treat animals with itchy paws?

The bulk of our efforts centre around dampening down the allergic reaction. This means the use of cortisone based drugs, either given orally or applied directly to the paws. There is a very nice spray which has been recently released which is non-greazy and used just once a day. I have been very impressed using this spray on my own dogs and have had good reports back from other dog owners.

Sometimes in addition to using cortisone we need to treat the secondary infections. This is more common in long-standing cases which have not been treated early. There is a lesson here. If you notice your pet has itchy paws take it to the vet early. It will cost you less in the end and your pet will thank you for it!

Dr Christopher Wearne BVSc MRCVS

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