Sure, some of us bite our nails all the time. But when your Morkie bites his nails or licks his paws obsessively, it’s not just a habit. It’s likely a form of allergy and can be a hard habit to stop.
The vicious cycle: Atopy or “Dog Hay Fever”
If your Morkie is suffering from a common canine allergy called Atopy, he probably has other signs like a running nose, skin problems, wet eyes and general wheeziness.
When it comes to his paws, they’re itchy, so he licks at them for relief.
Now his paws are wet with saliva – the perfect breeding ground for fungal and bacterial growth. The result is an allergy PLUS a secondary paw problem.
What causes Atopy in dogs?
Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory chronic skin disease brought on by allergies. Most experts agree there are a number of culprits including food, the environment, seasonal changes, grass, pollen, dust mites, mold, rugs, and even chemicals can all cause allergic reactions.
This little Maltese has stained feet from licking them.
Your Vet may treat your Morkie with any number of antihistamine products, perhaps even Benadryl. Cortisone medications and antihistamines can help reduce itching.
If the allergies are bad enough, your dog might benefit from a series of allergy shots like person does. These are injections of small amounts of the allergen so that over time, he builds up his own, natural immunity.
Another culprit: yeast overgrowth
Another reason dogs will lick their feet incessantly is a yeast infection. Other symptoms of yeast infection include overweight, stinky ears and sometimes skin. The is caused by a diet that has too many grains or carbs, the fillers in some popular dog foods. If your Morkie’s feet are turning pinkish brown, it’s very likely he has a yeast problem, which also changes the PH level in his body.
On Pinterest, saved by Noble Veterinary Clinic.
One clear sign that your Morkie has yeasty fungus problems: “Frito feet” or stinky feet that smell like that oddly popular snack, Fritos. While the most common place for a yeast infection is your dog’s ears, feet are another hot spot for these infections.
Although allergies and yeast overgrowth are the two most common reasons for obsessive paw licking and chewing, there are other causes. However once the problem behind it is solved, the biting and licking usually disappear too:
- a broken nail
- nails that are far too long
- something stuck in the paw in between the pads
- an insect bite on tender feet
And a (thankfully) rare disease
One more reason your dog might be biting at his paws is truly horrible: Symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy, known as SLO. This is an immune system issue, where the nails are attacked and will eventually lift from the bed and fall off. The good news? This is quite rare, and it can be quickly curbed thanks to medication.
Dermatitis is a skin condition that can strike your beloved Morkie. Unfortunately, Canine Atopic Dermatitis or CAD as it’s called, is a serious, chronic skin disease that can never be cured, only controlled by treatment and by avoiding the triggers that cause it.
What is it exactly? Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease associated with allergies. It’s really an overreaction or hypersensitivity to allergens in your dog’s environment.
The offending allergens are most often inhalants, but can also be foods. Typical triggers are dust mites in your home, mold spores, animal dander and pollen.
Causes of CAD
CAD is the unlucky ‘perfect storm’ of allergies plus a predisposition (usually genetic) to overreact to allergens.
Symptoms of atopic dermatitis
Canine Atopic Dermatitis can lodge between your dog’s toes. It’s itchy, and CAN be painful.
The most common symptom or sign that your Morkie has Canine Atopic Dermatitis or CAD, is excessive itching, especially around their face, muzzle and paws. CAD also attacks the armpit area and can spread quickly across the dog’s body if not managed.
Afflicted dogs will chew, bite, lick or scratch the itchy part of their skin, which results in red, inflamed skin, open sores, hair loss or all of the above. Obsessive licking is a clear sign of CAD.
Breeds most susceptible to severe allergies include the Boxer, Bulldog, Dalmatian, Golden Retriever, Lhasa Apso and most terriers. (The Yorkshire Terrier is on some lists, but not others, as likely to have allergies)
Atopic dermatitis on dog’s stomach.
Dogs with CAD have pronounced itching of the ears and stomach. (Does your Morkie have an itchy BACK? More likely to be fleas) The excessive scratching of CAD can lead to scabs and crusts, the results of secondary bacterial infection from so much scratching.
It can be hard to determine if your Morkie’s itching is caused by fleas or simple allergic dermatitis. Or maybe the excessive scratching associated with CAD is actually caused by a food allergy and is not Canine Atopic Dermatitis.
Your Vet will also check that the itching and licking is not caused by simple Pruritus – the medical term for the dog’s sensation to itch, or the sensation that provokes its desire to scratch, rub, chew, or lick its hair and skin. The results can be the same, inflamed skin, hair loss and secondary infections. However, simple Pruritus is easier to cure, once the source of the symptoms has been identified. They usually include fleas, scabies, lice, allergies and infection.
If the itching persists and you and your Vet have not been able to narrow down the trigger, then it’s time for more extensive tests to check for Atopic Dermatitis, along with other conditions.
Unfortunately a dog with CAD is much more likely to develop serious flea allergies too, if fleas are in his environment.
CAD is treatable but never cured. To keep it in remission, there are several strategies available including medications, shampooing and removing your dog from the allergens, or the allergens from your dog’s environment.
- Cleaning thoroughly to get rid of dust and pollen is a good start.
- Introducing air cleaners into your home.
- Cortisones, antihistamines, anti-fungals and antibiotics are the usual drugs prescribed by Veterinarians for dogs with Canine Atopic Dermatitis.
- Antihistamines control itching in approximately 20-40 % of atopic dogs. Sometimes a few different types may need to be tried.
- Antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections
- Antifungals to treat secondary fungal infections
- Steroids (oral or topical) are extremely effective at reducing itching in dogs and is used widely especially in acute flare ups. We generally try and avoid using them long term as they can have some side effects.
Evening Primrose Oil works well, especially in combination with piriton to help reduce the itch and improves the fatty lipid layer in the skin, helping protect against contact allergens.
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