by ANDREW M. STREIBER, DVM

Q:  My dog is licking her front paws almost non-stop. Should I make a trip to the vet or try something else? Could this indicate an allergy?

A:  Non-stop (front) paw licking is almost certainly a sign of an allergic dermatitis (skin allergy), and this is just one of the many ways in which skin allergies can manifest in the dog. Other signs include a chronic, active ear infection, small, raised sores on the skin, hotspots, or even vomiting and diarrhea.  Additionally, incessant scratching / biting at other parts of the body may also be seen with the licking of the front paws.  Something else to consider is your pet’s history – where does she live?  Does she go for hikes in weeds and tall grasses?  Is a foreign body (grass awn or foxtail) a possibility?

In most cases, an allergic dermatitis is due to one of the following:  food (an allergic reaction to the main protein source, such as chicken), fleas (do you live in an area with a flea issue; is your dog appropriately protected from fleas?), atopy (an overreaction of the immune system to inhaled allergens) or hypothyroidism (decreased functional ability of the dog’s thyroid gland).

I would recommend consulting with your veterinarian regarding you dog’s condition, as dermatitis can prove to be difficult cases in making a correct diagnosis, outlining the correct treatment plan, and ultimately, owner compliance with that treatment plan.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.

(WEBVET  1.9.09)