My 10 year old Jack Russell has recently started licking his paws. A friend told me this can be caused by a reaction to yeast in foods and that I should switch him to something higher in protein and lower in carbs. However, I don’t feel like a high-protein food is appropriate for a “senior” dog like mine. If I’m concerned about allergies, wouldn’t a food with lamb be a better choice? – SM, New Jersey
Although dogs can lick their feet due to allergies, when they do it’s usually because of an inhalant allergy, not a food allergy as you suspect. Plus, if a dog is going to develop allergies he’s likely to show signs at a much younger age, so I doubt whether an ingredient in his food is suddenly causing your dog’s paws to itch. However, your veterinarian is your best resource to help you rule out if your dog is licking his feet due to medical reasons (allergies, injuries), topical reasons (did he walk in something that is irritating his skin?), or behavioral reasons (is he stressed, bored, or developing a senior compulsive disorder?)
Your vet can also help you break the cycle of your dog’s licking so he doesn’t create another problem. From special collars that prevent him from reaching his legs to anti-lick strips, and from sprays and ointments to pills and injections, there’s a wide selection of products to stop his habit before it becomes a serious problem.
To address your food question, as long as your dog does not have kidney disease, there’s nothing wrong with feeding him a high protein diet. In fact, many older dogs do better with more protein as it helps prevent the weight loss that can be associated with aging. Just remember to change food gradually and keep your veterinarian in the loop!