Dogs that are licking their paws are itchy. An itchy paw is most commonly due to allergies, most notably atopy, and less commonly food allergies.
Atopy is an allergic reaction to one or more allergens in the environment such as pollen, grass, mould, dust mites and more which results in inflamed, itchy skin. Food allergies also describe an allergic reaction causing itchy skin, but usually due to a protein (e.g. beef) or less commonly a carbohydrate.
There are many other reasons your dog could be licking their paws. Among them are parasites such as mites, arthritis (licking secondary to pain), foreign matter in the paw such as a grass seed or thorn, nail bed infections, damaged nails, cysts and masses.
Because she is itchy, she licks, so her skin becomes wet with saliva, creating a lovely environment for normal flora in the skin to multiply, giving rise to a nasty bacterial or yeast infection, which only serves to make the itch worse.
What can I do for my dog with itchy paws?
Start by seeing your local veterinarian to get a diagnosis for the underlying cause of the itch, and treat that appropriately.
Atopy varies in severity, and can start as seasonal but progress to all year long. Medications that can be used with success include antihistamines, cortisone and cyclosporine; these are most effective when part of an overall management plan that includes bathing of the paws.
When food allergy is the cause, and the allergen has been identified through a food trial, treatment is easy as you just need to eliminate that from the diet.
How can I reduce the likelihood of infection secondary to the licking?
This tip is great for ongoing itchy paws secondary to allergy as part of an overall management plan. It will help reduce the incidence of infection, which is most usually yeast (mallasesia), that occurs secondary to the licking.
Bathe the paws with a medicated shampoo such as malaseb (active ingredients: chlorhexxidine and miconazole), lather with water like you would a regular shampoo and leave this on for 10 minutes (distract with treats, toys or attention in this time), then rinse off thoroughly and pat dry the paw. Repeat 2-3 times weekly.