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Licking Paws


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

Dear SM,
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!

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

Posted in Canine Ask the Vet

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One comment on “Licking Paws
  1. susie neumann says:

    I have a older boxer 13 she has lost weight 6pounds we have had blood work it was all normal, chest xray it was fine , no heart worms ,her heart is also fine .I love this animal she has been my buddy. is there something I couldfeed her or something that will help her be better ,it look like she is starting to lose her muscle in her back legs .please help

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