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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 14830
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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I have a German Shepard and nibbles her feet JA: I'll do all

Customer Question

I have a German Shepard and nibbles her feet
JA: I'll do all I can to help. What is the matter with the dog?
Customer: Nibbles her feet
JA: What is the dog's name and age?
Customer: Poppy age 6
JA: Anything else I can tell the Veterinarian before I connect you two?
Customer: No
JA: I'm sending you to a secure page on JustAnswer so you can place the $5 fully refundable deposit now. While you're filling out that form, I'll tell the Veterinarian about your situation and connect you two.
Submitted: 7 months ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 7 months ago.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I understand that you are concerned because Poppy nibbles on her feet. Do Poppy's feet look normal, but she licks and chews them anyway?Or do her feet have sores, blisters, or dry, cracking, splitting nails, or are they very red?Is this something she has always done or is this new?Does she do this all of the time, when she is resting comfortably or when she is stressed/nervous?Does this seem to happen more during certain seasons, or all year round? Dogs with normal looking feet often lick and chew their feet due to allergies (food or inhaled) or anxiety.Dogs that didn't lick their feet until the had obvious lesions such as sores, blisters, crusting or redness may lick due to an infection (parasites like demodex or sarcoptes mites, or bacterial or fungal infections), autoimmune diseases (like Pemphigus), or internal organ disease or endocrine disease (hypothyroidism). Dogs that have abnormal nails can have a nailbed infection or a tumor but if multiple nails are involved then specific types of autoimmune disease (body attacks itself) are more likely. It is best to start with a physical examination by her veterinarian to determine which came first, as it is often hard to tell. We may not notice them licking until they have lesions on their feet. Or we may not notice lesions until they start licking. If her feet look very normal now though and she is doing a lot of licking then we need to consider allergies as a cause.Allergies are the most common cause of itchy skin and can give her a skin crawling, all over itchy type effect which many dogs find irritating. I'll give you an allergy rundown of likely causes for allergies. She may have more than one allergy given how symptomatic she is now. Dogs that have one allergy often develop several with time. The effect of multiple allergies aren't additive, they actually compound one another.Even if you don't see fleas I do recommend using protection, if only during the months with no snow on the ground. Flea bite allergy is the most common allergen and it only takes one bite a month to make an allergic dog scratch so I recommend using flea prevention even if you never see one again. Frontline Plus, Advantage II or Advantix are excellent. Don't use over the counter products, especially Hartz or Sargents, as most are ineffective if not toxic. Unfortunately even after the fleas are gone the allergic reaction can continue for weeks and I will discuss controlling that reaction below. Other allergens can be inhaled (like grass pollen, dust mites or molds). Dogs with plant pollen allergens often have itchy feet because the allergens stick to the feet as they walk through them. It may help to rinse her feet or wipe them off with a damp rag or hypoallergenic baby wipe when she comes indoors. You can use a combination of antihistamines and high doses of omega-3 fatty acids to help with the symptoms of flea bite and inhaled allergies. In combination fatty acids and antihistamines work synergistically, much better than either one alone. If her symptoms worsen seasonally I would think that inhaled allergens are a part of her problem. You can try:1)Benadryl (diphenhydramine only don't use the combination products with acetaminophen or decongestants as they can be toxic for dogs) at a dose of 1mg to 2mg per pound of body weight or one 25mg capsule per 15 to 25 pounds of body weight orally every 8 hours. OR 2)Claritin (loratidine) at a dose of 5mg per 25 pounds of body weight once or twice daily. OR 3)Hydroxyzine at a dose of 1mg per pound of body weight orally every 8 hours. OR 4) Chlorpheniramine at a dose of 4mg to 8mg per dog once or twice daily.OR 5) Zyrtec (Cetirizine hydrochloride) at a dose of 1/2 mg per pound of body weight orally every 24 hours. That would be one 10mg tablet per 20 pounds of body weight. Make sure it is NOT the formulation with a decongestant (such as Zyrtec-D) because dogs cannot tolerate decongestants.Some dogs do better on one antihistamine rather than another. Give the one you pick a week trial and if it isn't working try another. Be aware antihistamines can cause sleepiness or hyperactivity in some dogs. These side effects do wear off with repeated use.Omega-3 fatty acids are fish oil products. 3V by DVM or Derm Caps ES are good brand name products. Use the high end of the dosing schedule for your pup's weight, meaning if she is between doses work her up to the higher dose. I recommend a dose based upon the EPA portion (eicosapentanoic acid) of the supplement as if we do that the rest of the supplement will be properly balanced. Give her 20mg of EPA per pound of body weight per day. For example an 80 pound dog could take 1600mg of EPA per day. DO NOT give omega 3's to any dog with bleeding tendencies, as they act as mild anticoagulants. Cool water baths, especially spot baths of her paws, with an oatmeal shampoo or chlorhexiderm shampoo (which is antibacterial and antifungal) and a conditioner with an antihistamine may help. The water rinses off allergens and the cool temperature soothes itchy skin. Do not bathe your girl for 2 to 3 days before or after applying flea control products or the bath will interfere with the product's efficacy. Food allergy is very possible with her as well if he seems to be itchy all year round. Dogs can develop allergies to any protein or carbohydrate so even if she is only fed one thing that can be what she is allergic to. Dogs with food allergies tend to lick and scratch their paws, face and ears the most, but any of the "allergy reactive areas" can be affected. Make sure that the food that you put her on is a true hypoallergenic diet. The trouble with "limited ingredient" or "low allergy" pet store brands is that the same machinery is used on multiple lots of food without sterilization cleaning in between. So for example even if a food says it has salmon and rice if the previous batch had beef and corn then you will get traces of those ingredients in your bag of food. Not a big deal if your dog isn't allergic but a waste of money thinking that the food was hypoallergenic and not good for your dog if those happen to be allergens for your dog. The veterinary brand true hypoallergenic foods are more expensive because it isn't cheap to thoroughly remove all traces of a previous food mixture from the machines used to process food.Generally what I recommend is trying to clear the itch and then adding one food item (chicken, beef, corn wheat etc) every month to see what they react to. Then we can find a regular food to try that doesn't have the identified allergens in it. As far as permanent diets I do tend to stick with Purina Pro Plan brands or Nature's Recipe as I find those rarely if ever have cross contamination. Purina Pro Plan Turkey and Barley or Nature's Recipe Vegetarian or Venison are pretty good products. I know that this isn't easy from personal experience (my dog is allergic to wheat) and it is time consuming, but worth it. If you choose to try testing/treating her for a food allergy I recommend that you try a true hypoallergenic diet like Hills z/d or Purina Veterinary Diets HA. No treats, flavored medication or bones while on the diet and it must be used for a least 12 to 16 weeks to see the full effects. You should see some improvement in 6 to 8 weeks.Cortisone ointment applied to the very itchy places (as long as they aren't raw) twice daily may help as well if needed. Some sprays have alcohol which can be painful on raw skin and lead to more inflammation. I don't like oral steroids but topical directed at the problem areas can be very helpful and are less likely to cause side effects. Another option if the antihistamines and omega 3's aren't enough is a product called Atopica. It suppresses the immune system a bit so it decreases allergic symptoms but it doesn't have as many harmful side effects as systemic steroids.Another option is a newer drug called Apoquel (generic name oclacitinib) which interferes with the allergic pathway. It works very quickly to stop the symptoms of an inhaled allergy in most dogs. Most dogs are reported to be much more comfortable in a day or so. It does not seem as helpful for food allergic dogs. Unfortunately it is on limited supply due to overwhelming demand, but it is something to keep in mind for the future if she continues to have trouble.If you are interested discuss these medications with your veterinarian as they are prescription products. Another option if you are interested, is trying immunotherapy. Poppy would need to be tested to determine exactly what she is allergic to, and then she is given small amounts of the allergen to build up her tolerance to it, increasing the amount of allergen in the injection incrementally so that her immune system no longer responds to it. This isn't a quick fix, it takes time to slowly build up their tolerance and as she develops new allergens things may need to be added, but it is an option. If it's been a while since her last exam parasites like cheyletiella, demodex or sarcoptes mites should be looked for by your veterinarian as well if she isn't improving as they can lead to very itchy skin. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 7 months ago.
Hello, I wanted to make sure that you didn't have any further questions for me, and I'd like to know how things turned out for your pup. If you found my response helpful please don't forget to rate it so I may receive credit for it, thank you, ***** *****
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 7 months ago.
Hi,

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?

Dr. Kara