I have a little terrier mix named Cookie, who was constantly licking her paws until they were raw, red and hairless. We tried everything to alleviate my dog’s itchy paws.
When a dog is constantly biting or licking, it’s usually NOT a case of self-grooming, and could instead be a sign of an underlying condition, like allergies. The heartbreaking thing is that my poor dog was consumed with licking her paws. It seemed like she didn’t do anything else.
Here, I’m sharing an in-depth guide as to why your dog might be licking their paws, how to detect the symptoms, and a few tips and tricks to treat your dog’s itchy paws. Also, I’ll tell you what eventually just about solved Cookie’s itchy paw issue.
How To Help Your Dog’s Itchy Paws
We never want to see our pups in pain or discomfort. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to protect your dog’s paws from allergies and other irritants.
1. Wipe Your Dog’s Paws
Right after going on a walk with your dog, get into the habit of washing or wiping your dog’s paws thoroughly. This tip may prevent your dog from having seasonal allergies. I like these medicated paws that are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-microbial so you’re covering your basis.
2. Soak Your Dog’s Paws / Herbal Foot Bath
The ultimate soothing method, soaking your dog’s paws in a special paw bath, should relieve some of the paw itching and reduce inflammation.
I recommend the following types of baths for dog paws:
- Warm water bath: When in doubt, soak your dog’s paws in warm water to rid them of allergens or irritants. Combining warm water with certain properties, such as hydrogen peroxide, offers benefits for different types of infections as well. A fantastic, non-toxic DIY mix for a dog’s bath is a combination of warm water and iodine.
- Healing herbal tea bath: Putting herbal teas in a warm bath can heal your dog’s open wounds or inflammation. Just be sure to use all-natural teas for steeping. Take a couple tea bags, put them in a small bucket big enough for your dog can stand in but not be submerged in, and add piping hot water to extract all of the healing properties of the tea. Wait until the water is warm but not hot and then put your dog in. I realize that’s easier said than done. But try to keep your dog in there as long as possible. I recommend using chamomile or sage tea.
- Epsom salt bath: Dissolving Epsom salt in warm water can help remove any bacterial infection from your dog’s paws. Soak your dog’s paws in the mixture for about ten minutes for effective result.
- Baking soda bath: Pouring a tablespoon or two of baking soda in warm water should diminish itching and inflammation on your dog. Allow your dog’s paws to soak for a few minutes for maximum relief.
- Oatmeal bath: When a pup has sensitive skin, oatmeal is a great natural alternative to consider. Using unflavored oats, you can give your dog a warm water bath in oatmeal. Have your dog’s paws soak for ten minutes for ultimate moisturization and relief. Again we realize easier said than done but if you have a tolerant dog this will work wonders.
3. Trim Your Dog’s Nails Regularly
Maintaining your dog’s cleanliness is essential for health and hygiene, but it can also reduce pain and discomfort due to allergies or irritants. For instance, keep your dog’s grooming in check by trimming their nails to prevent toenail injuries in the future.
4. Use Protective Gear
While this suggestion is especially relevant toward dog owners who live in colder climates, ensure that your dog is wearing booties, paw wax, or other protective clothing before going for walks in the snow or on salt. Extreme cold weather, particularly snow, may make your dog’s paws red and itchy. Ensure that your dog’s paws have maximum protection this winter.
5. Replace the Leash, If Necessary
If your dog is licking their paws every time you go on a walk, it may be that retractable leash you’re using. Tight leashes on a collar can already cause blisters and itchy, red skin around a dog’s neck, but retractable leashes may contribute to inflammation and spasms. If you’re using a retractable leash and notice your dog is licking their paws incessantly, make the switch to a traditional leash immediately.
6. Moisturize Your Dog’s Paws
Environmental allergies or other skin irritants wreak havoc on a dog’s paws, causing dryness, flaking, and itching. Luckily, there are plenty of organic paw salves or balm moisturizers for dogs on the market. Moisturize your dog’s paws often with a specialized moisturizing cream that targets skin irritation. Just be sure the cream or lotion you select is specific to dogs.
7. CBD and Anti Anxiety Elixirs
CBD oils for dogs are on the rise and proving to be helpful for dogs with allergies and flare-ups. The other benefit is they help calm your dog if they’re in a licking frenzy and you’re trying to calm them. I have personally used Innovative Extract’s beef flavored CBD (pictured above) for my dogs and have had very good results. I love that they grow on a farm in Pennsylvania and are Veteran owned. In my experience not all CBD oils are created equally. It’s definitely a buyer beware product.
8. Try Cytopoint
My dog finally found relief with Cytopoint. It’s perfect for dogs that are inherently itchy dogs, like terriers. It’s specifically designed to target and neutralize one of the main proteins that send itch signals to your dog’s brain that triggers scratching, licking, and chewing. It’s not a chemical, rather a protein.
This solution is certainly not appropriate for all dogs and requires vet visits and injections every 2-3 months. After the initial consultation usually a vet tech can handle the follow up appointments.
After visiting a few vets with no solutions I finally found one who thought Cookie would be good candidate for Cytopoint. It was like a miracle for my dog’s itchy paws. Her paw licking was reduced immediately ( the same day). Overtime the shots become a little less effective than they were initially were, so in between time I use CBD and paw wipes on a regular basis.
Why Might a Dog Have Itchy Paws?
There could be several reasons why your dog has itchy paws, including:
Some dog breeds are itchier than others. Terriers are known for being the itchiest, including Westies, Scottish Terriers, Cairin Terriers among others.
Not sure what breed your dog is? Get a DNA test for your dog. It’s painless and sort of fun to find out the results. Embark is one of the best known DNA test for dogs.
Inflammation, or hot spots, appear when your dog has patches of red, itchy skin. If your pup is licking the same area repeatedly, it is likely a case of extreme itchiness due to hot spots.
Yeast gives a greasy appearance to a dog’s skin and hair. It is also a form of infection that can cause extra itchiness and odor.
Yes, dandruff can appear in a dog’s fur, too. Depending on the dryness of a dog’s skin, dandruff may form, causing a dog to itch the dry patches incessantly.
As a fungal infection, ringworm is contagious among many animals, including dogs. Ringworm can also appear on a dog’s paws.
Ticks or Fleas
When certain parasites lodge themselves in dog paws, your dog may start to lick the affected area repeatedly. Dogs may take flea and tick medication to prevent discomfort.
Demodex mites and scabies mites invade the skin’s surface. If your dog has scabs, hair loss, inflammation, and constant itchiness, there may be mites on the skin.
If you’re a dog owner who lives in a cold climate, snow and de-icers may be the causes of your dog’s skin irritation. If your dog is walking on snow without booties or paw wax, their paws may become red, irritated, and itchy.
A dog that is suffering from a toenail injury may explain the itchy paws. Partially torn-off nails and overgrown nails cause extreme discomfort in dogs, hence the swollen paws and excessive licking.
When small objects, such as pebbles, become wedged inside a dog’s paw, it can cause pain and discomfort. Note that your dog may continue to lick their paw for a while, even after you remove the object.
Burns or Blisters
If you notice red or cracked skin on your dog’s paws, they may suffer from burns or blisters. Try to avoid walking your dog on hot pavement or using certain household cleaning items to prevent burns.
Following a surgical procedure, your dog may try to lick their paws because the area will be swollen and bothersome. And if your dog is struggling with joint pain, torn ligaments, or otherwise, they will experience some discomfort, which can lead to paw licking.
Your dog may be licking their paws frequently because they are experiencing general anxiety or boredom. Paw licking is a common coping mechanism for dogs, but can certainly lead to inflammation over time.
General Bacterial Infection
When a dog suffers from any kind of bacterial infection, it can lead to scabbing, redness, and itchy paws. To ensure that your dog recovers from any bacteria on the skin, prioritize wiping their paws daily or using a medicated dog shampoo.
General Dog Paw Allergies
Be aware of common allergies that many dogs encounter, such as environmental allergies, food allergies, or other skin irritants. Redness or dark staining on your dog’s paws may be signs of excessive licking and an allergic reaction.
Ultimately, most dogs that constantly lick or chew their paws have certain allergies that make them itchy.
Not every dog will respond to the same solution… but if you are diligent and work through this list I’m confident your dog will find relief.