My ten-year-old dog gnaws occasionally on his front legs, which end up red, inflamed and bare of hair. What might be causing this and how do I treat it?
– Mel Davenport, Longview, Texas
Dogs itch for a variety of reasons, ranging from boredom and anxiety to fleas, food allergies and environmental triggers, like grass and pollen that they may have contact with or inhale. Assuming you give your dog flea and tick preventatives every month, let’s talk about some of the other things that make your dog gnaw on his paws or legs.
Allergies are common this time of year for both people and pets. Every March, my dog chews his paws because of grass allergies. Between March and July, I have to give him allergy medicine, spray topical ointment on his paws, and give him baths with a vet-prescribed shampoo to provide itch relief and heal hot spots.
If you don’t think it’s seasonal allergies, food allergies also can make dogs itch and chew on their paws and legs. Switch to hypoallergenic foods or change the main protein, from chicken to salmon for example, to see if this reduces your dog’s symptoms.
Dogs also may chew on themselves because they are bored or anxious. Often, this can be addressed through increased activity every day. You may still need the topical spray mentioned above to heal hot spots.
Just last week, my vet told me there is a new, monthly shot that can control a dog’s excessive itching, regardless of the reason. It’s a bit pricey, but certainly something to consider to provide your dog some itch relief.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal