It is a site every dog owner has seen: a dog licking his paws. If a dog licks and chews at its paws often, there might not be anything directly wrong with his feet. A dog that is licking and chewing at its paws could be experiencing a food allergy, and it needs to be addressed.
Dogs can be allergic to a variety of foods, including chicken, fish, beef, grains, soy and potatoes. Food allergies can occur in any breed of dog, and they can develop at any age. A dog usually can eat the same food for two years without any trouble before allergies will develop, according to the Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook.
Food allergies are the third most common cause of itching in dogs. The itching is usually cause by a rash that spreads over the dog's ears, feet and underside of his body. The rash is characterized by red bumps and raised patches of skin. A dog will scratch at the rash. Because a dog cannot scratch its paws, it will lick them to soothe the itch. It might also chew in its paws, according to the ASPCA.
A veterinarian can diagnose a food allergy through an elimination diet. A hypoallergenic diet contains a limited number of ingredients that are unlikely to be allergens. The dog will stay on the diet until the symptoms of allergic reaction, such as foot licking, disappear. Then old food can be gradually added back to the dog's diet until the symptoms of allergies return. This will signal what is causing the allergy.
The best treatment for a dog with food allergies is to not allow the dog to eat whatever it is that it is allergic to. If the dog is allergic to chicken, then it should not be allowed to eat food that contains chicken or chicken products. If it does, the rash and the foot licking will return. A veterinarian can recommend a dog food that does not contain the allergen. Some dogs with severe food allergies will need food prepared by hand at home.
Some dogs have a food intolerance. This means they are not able to easily digest certain foods. If a dog with a food intolerance eats one of these foods, it will experience vomiting and diarrhea. It could look like a food allergy, but the dog will not have the itching rash or symptoms such as paw chewing and licking associated with a true food allergy.