Q: Our little 8-year-old schnauzer has developed some type of contact dermatitis on her feet. For the past several weeks, she is constantly chewing and licking her feet. This invariably happens at the height of summer every year.
My doctor said he thinks it is an allergy to the protein in her food. I doubt it is a food allergy because she has never had an allergic reaction to any of her food before. And, if the past is any indication, I expect the licking to slow down when the weather turns cooler.
She will do it again when ice and snow is on the ground, but I can usually stop that by washing her feet when she comes in. I suspect that is a reaction to the salt on the roads.
I’ve read where you can make a solution and put it in a tray they can step in when they walk into the house not only to wash their feet, but also to kill the urge to scratch. But I can’t find out what is in the solution. Is this true? What do you suggest?
A: The first thing to know is that itchy feet in a dog can be caused by different problems. The only way to get a definitive diagnosis for your pet is to see your veterinarian.
Food allergy happens after prolonged exposure to a certain protein. This is why an 8-year-old dog (who has always eaten the same dog food) can be diagnosed with a food allergy. It is important to realize that food allergy is a year-round problem and will not come and go with the seasons. This doesn’t mean that food allergy isn’t possibly a part of your dog’s problem. Allergies can have an additive effect. Multiple mild allergies that generally don’t affect your pet can overlap a certain time of the year. When this happens, they can cause symptoms like feet licking and scratching.
From what I have read, I believe the most likely diagnosis for your pet is a grass or pollen allergy. After the season changes and the allergens are gone, her feet licking decreases until the snow and road salt appear. The salt will dry out her footpads possibly causing them to itch once again. Another explanation is that she likes the taste of the salt and is not licking because she is itchy.
For whatever reason she is licking her feet, it is very important to prevent her from doing so. Every time she licks her feet she deposits yeast and bacteria from her mouth causing her feet to get even itchier.
It’s best to contact a veterinarian before spending money on over-the-counter products. The exact product used is dependent on specific symptoms. A foot bath could be prepared with these solutions for her to step in after being outside.
— Dr. Connie White Lawless,
Pet Vet Animal Clinic,
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