Q:Octavian, my 8-year-old Jugg (Jack Russell/pug mix), licks his front paws so relentlessly that he doesn’t have much fur left there. Could he have a nervous tic or obsessive-compulsive disorder? Is it just a bad habit? How do I get him to stop?
A:Octavian’s licking could be behavioral, but it sounds more like he may have atopic dermatitis or a related type of allergic skin disease. Many breeds, including Jack Russell terriers, are predisposed to atopic dermatitis, which is caused by allergy to such environmental triggers as pollens, molds, grass and dust mites.
A dog with allergic skin disease has itchy paws, belly, armpits, anus and/or ears. Some have recurrent ear infections. Fortunately, new treatments are available that are effective and safe.
One is an anti-allergy tablet called Apoquel, given twice daily for the first two weeks and, thereafter, once daily. Another option is an injection called Cytopoint, administered at the animal hospital every four to eight weeks.
If Octavian’s paw licking worsens after he plays in the grass or leaves, wash his paws when he comes indoors to remove the debris that may be causing the itchiness.
Make an appointment to have your veterinarian evaluate Octavian. Your vet will do tests to rule out or identify other causes of itchy paws, including mites, bacterial infection, and overgrowth of yeast.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.