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Known as pruritus in medical terms, itchiness is among the top reasons owners take their pets to veterinarians. Yeast and bacteria love the warmth and moisture afforded by the resulting inflammation and will grow happily in this milieu. Allergic skin disease is the most common reason why canines lick and chew their feet on a chronic basis.
Many dogs who lick and chew their feet over long periods of time will also do so because it apparently feels good to them.
Regardless of the cause, if you notice that your dog is licking or chewing his paws, seek veterinary advice, especially since most of these cases are treatable if addressed by a professional early.
Cats will lick excessively, sometimes biting out their fur in clumps or excoriating the skin about the head and face with their claws. In some cases, dogs will gently but insistently lick one or both paws, but other canines will go so far as to chew on their toes, which can be disconcerting for any pet owner. In these cases, the feet (especially of light-colored dogs) will often look stained a pink or rusty color, which is the result of chronic contact with porphyrin pigments found in saliva. In these cases, vets look for an underlying nonbehavioral disease that may have initially triggered the obsessive behavior.


Dogs will scratch repetitively with their paws or gnaw incessantly; target areas can include the whole body, or specific areas, like the backside, legs, and feet. Make sure you are using products that are approved for your pet (don't use dog products on cats, for example). There are shampoos available to help soothe irritation, fight infection, and relieve pruritus. Most veterinarians will start by asking a few questions to understand the history of the problem. Giving the whole body, not just the skin, a thorough look is a crucial part of the process.
Scraping the very surface of the skin with a metal scalpel blade and examining the cells under a microscope can help your veterinarian determine whether mites might be living just beneath the surface of the skin. Examining collections of cells and debris found on the surface of the skin (or within a lesion) is a common practice.
Once a bacterial organism has been identified (or is assumed based on the characteristics of the skin problem), culturing the skin (usually of a pustule or other lesion) is standard procedure. Regardless of the form of the symptoms, when they appear in excess, they point to one thing: itchiness.


By themselves flea bites are itchy enough, but when a pet is allergic to flea bites, even a tiny amount of flea saliva can send a pet into a squirming paroxysm of pruritus for weeks. When examining the skin itself, your veterinarian will check for the presence of lesions (bald areas, rashes, redness, pustules, scratches, etc.) and evidence of external parasites.
Still, it bears mentioning that once in a while pets who are not suffering allergies can get yeast infections.
Different species tend to infest dogs and cats, but the result is often the same: pruritus. Lice can also cause itchiness, but these are lower on the list when it comes to frequency of occurrence and itch potential.




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