My dog peered up at me through his swollen eyes this morning as if to say, “Are you really leaving me? Can’t you see how sick I am?”
And he is.
I came home from the vet’s office yesterday feeling good about being on the right track to get him healthy again, but there was no denying I had one sick pup to take care of.
He’s got four prescriptions — an antihistamine, a steriod and two other pills to help his body combat the secondary infections he created through his persistent itching and licking. Plus, I picked up an anti-itch leave-in conditioner. Sensi needs to be bathed twice a week until his skin is healthy again and this time of the year, that’d dry him out for sure. With the conditioner to use, it will make sure his baths are the most beneficial they can be for him.
Well, let’s try to learn a thing or two from Sensi’s state. Here’s what you need to know about a dog who is licking excessively.
All dogs scratch and lick themselves periodically, just as we humans often scratch an itch. When the scratching and licking is not excessive, don’t worry about it.
However, an excessive licker or scratcher needs to be examined by a veterinarian.
Dogs who lick their paws for hours on end, day in and day out, can easily contract yeast infections. On the front of the paws, dogs have spaces in between each of their toes. On the back of the paw, there is another space between the large pad and the individual toe pads.
These spaces are havens for yeast infections. They are semi-closed environments lined with skin and fur that keep the spaces warm.
Add in the moisture from excessive licking and these spots become the perfect storm for nasty yeast infections. How can you tell if a yeast infection has developed? If the skin in these spaces is abnormally red and moist, there’s a good chance you have a problem. Dogs have a more difficult time licking their rear paws, so comparing the spaces in the front paws to the same spaces on the rear paws can often be a good indicator of what healthy vs. nonhealthy looks like.
If you find the rear paws to have white, dry skin but the front paws have moist, blaring red skin, you have a problem. If both sets of paws have blaring red skin, definitely make a vet appointment or at least call your vet to get some professional advice.
Most dog owners have combated yeast infections in a dog’s ear, but the paws are a whole different beast. Once yeast infections have taken root in the paws, a vicious cycle is created where the inflammation from the yeast infection intensifies the dog’s desire to lick.
Yeast infections can also spread easily and, worst of all, with the dog’s immune system working hard to stave off the yeast infection, the immune system becomes strained and leaves the dog open to contracting even worse infections.
There are medicated shampoos that can help a chronic paw licker, but these need to be ordered through your veterinarian.
It is important to have your veterinarian examine your paw licker because the licking is often just a symptom of an underlying problem, like food allergies, and oftentimes, prescription pills are needed to get rid of the yeast infection.
One last note: If you examine your dog’s paws this time of the year, remember to wait until he’s been inside for several hours. A dog coming in from the cold, wet snow will have red paws until they warm up and dry out!