Q. My terrier mix constantly chews his paws. I can’t see any cause, but of course the skin is reddened.
A. Almost certainly your dog is suffering from atopy, a common type of allergy in dogs. Atopy occurs when dogs become allergic to substances that they inhale, such as mold spores, pollen and cottonseed. The list of potential allergens is long, and realistically there is little you can do to prevent exposure. (Perhaps if your dog never went outside, or did not have to breathe, atopy could be totally prevented!)
The next step in solving your dog’s problem is to have your veterinarian take a cotton swab, roll it between the toes, and swab this onto a stained microscope slide. There is a good chance that there is either a yeast or bacterial infection going on. Either of these can be treated with a multipurpose topical ointment (by prescription only) that works with yeast infections, bacterial infections and itchy skin.
Of course, you will need to keep an Elizabethan collar on your dog for at least three weeks to give the medication a chance to work. Otherwise your dog will lick the medication right off.
In addition to the topical cream, your dog should be getting Benadryl at about 25 mg every six to eight hours for a 25-pound dog. This is available over the counter, or it would be considered malpractice for me to prescribe it without seeing your dog.
Finally, your veterinarian may want to suggest some other treatments for atopy, including fatty acid capsules, prescription diet, special shampoos and pulse therapy with steroids such as prednison. Pulse therapy consists of six-week courses of treatment that are given two to three times a year, as needed, depending on how itchy your dog is.
As you can see, atopy is a challenging problem in dogs. Hopefully, your dog only has a mild form that can be treated easily. Good luck!