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by John Burns MBE BVMS MRCVS

Yesterday, WalesOnline advised dog owners that if their dog is licking his feet more than usual, they should check for paw burn. This could be due to excessively hot pavements.

It is important for pet owners to be observant and vigilant when considering taking a dog for a walk in the hot weather. You can read more about our advice for dogs in hot weather here.

However, I want to shed light on the phrasing used within the article:

“If they are licking their paws more than usual you should check for paw burn”.

For me, a dog shouldn’t be licking or chewing at their feet in the first place. Outside of paw burn, which is very easily avoided, frequent paw licking can be an early sign of a health problem.

In my Veterinary Guide to Health and Nutrition, I list some early warning signs that suggest a breakdown of the system:

DEVELOPMENT OF DISEASE – STAGE 1

When intake exceeds elimination, this creates an excess in the body. This excess can lead to one or all of the following as the body attempts to maintain the balance between intake and output:

  1. Decreased intake by loss of appetite or development of a fussy appetite.
  2. Increased output as the body endeavours to eliminate the excess from the system.
  3. Storage of excess in the system.

Short-lived or minor imbalance will be dealt with unnoticed, but a prolonged excess will lead to the following signs of disease:

Storage of excess leads to weight gain. This is more commonly seen in the less active pet.

Elimination of excess gives rise to one or more of the following signs:

  • Increased physical activity i.e. hyperactive, excitable, or overly boisterous behaviour
  • Persistent moulting/shedding of hair
  • Appearance of wax in the ears
  • Scurfy, flaky, dry coat
  • Itchy skin and ears
  • Biting or licking the feet
  • Occasional vomiting
  • Occasional diarrhoea
  • Discharge from orifices – runny eyes, waxy ears, mucous/pus from genital system
  • Overfull anal glands
  • Concentrated, strong smelling urine
  • Unpleasant body odours
  • Bad breath
  • Tooth tartar
  • Excessive grooming (cats)

These signs, which indicate discharge of excess, while unpleasant and uncomfortable are NOT symptoms of true illness. They are signs that the body is trying to cleanse itself in order to maintain health, and that changes in lifestyle – especially diet – are needed.

If we should attempt to “cure” these problems, with medication for example, without dealing with the cause this would be like switching off the fire alarm without putting the fire out.

As a vet, I discovered the positive impact a natural diet can have on our pets. That’s why I push prevention as a form of treatment for long lasting results.

by John Burns MBE BVMS MRCVS
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