My dog is always licking his paws and has dark red patches on his belly. What is the cause and treatment?

Original Question: Why is my dog always licking his paws and have dark red patches on his belly? - Clifford

My dog is always licking his paws and has dark red patches on his belly. What is the cause and treatment? Jun 11, 2018

Hi Clifford,

Thanks for your question.

This is a really common complaint and there are only a few things that cause it. Itchy paws are typically caused by either an infection, trauma, foreign body, or allergies.

The first thing you want to do is have your veterinarian have a good look between the toes and under the paw. They will look for draining tracks or lesions that indicate that trauma has happened or something has punctured the skin. Quite frankly, these things are quite rare.

The really common possibilities are infection by either bacteria or yeast, or an allergic reaction. The first thing that needs to be performed is a test called a skin scraping, which an inexpensive quick test to determine if there are any bacteria or yeast on the skin. By collecting the sample from the skin and putting it on a glass slide your veterinarian can look under a microscope and see if one of these entities is present and if so a treatment can be started. This test should also be performed on the affected areas of his belly as well. Yeast is particularly common so if you wish you could drop by your local pharmacy and pick up either an anti-fungal cream or an anti-fungal shampoo and start treating it daily yourself to see if you achieve any success before visiting your veterinarian for testing. If this doesn’t improve the condition within a few days I would certainly recommend working with your veterinarian on a treatment plan.

If no yeast is found and only bacteria is present, you could consider performing a ‘culture and sensitivity test’ which will identify the type of bacteria and indicate the specific antibiotic that will resolve it. There are infections that can have multiple bacteria or resistant bacteria and knowing this will allow your veterinarian to formulate an ideal plan. You can consider antibacterial shampoos, avoiding swimming, drying your dog thoroughly after wet walks, using supplements to improve skin health like omega 3 fatty acids and potentially other topical agents known to reduce bacterial presence. Keep in mind that bacterial infections can be present in addition to other underlying conditions causing the lesions.

Allergies are a much more difficult situation. The first thing to know is that a yeast infection or bacterial infection could be secondary to an allergic reaction that may be underlying this issue. If allergies are at the root of this problem you may have observed that it is occurring seasonally or that it quickly recurs after a treatment for a simple bacterial or yeast infection. There are many treatments for allergies if that is the final diagnosis. It’s important to know that allergies are treated with multiple modalities. Treatment can include the use of omega-3 fatty acids, shampoos, elimination diet trials, daily topical therapies, medication to control secondary infections and medication to reduce the allergic response. I would strongly recommend that you read our article on allergies that is on our website. It goes over these treatments in detail.

I hope this advice is helpful and as always please consult your veterinarian.

Dr. Greenway

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