Obsessive Paw Licking
Excessive and frequent paw licking in dogs can be triggered by a number of different issues such as stress, an underlying medical illness or even boredom where the dog is using its own body as a toy to keep it occupied. Finding the cause is vital towards correcting this behaviour.
When your dog licks its paws continuously it breaks down the skin, causing the fur to fall out and the skin becoming raw. This leaves the dog susceptible to infection.
Stress – Dogs are known to lick their paws in times of stress, and can go at it almost obsessively, even creating small wounds in extreme cases. It may take some detective work to find, and remove, your dog from the source of its anxiety. For example, if a new pet has been introduced into the home, limit their interaction. Gradually expose the two animals to one another.
Medical Issues – If the soft tissue between the pads, on the top of the foot, or between the toes is swollen, then this can be due to a number of reasons. Your pet may have been bitten or stung by an insect, stood on a piece of glass and have an infection, or an abscess might be forming. Bee stings can produce a rapid swelling, but stings are not painful to your best friend. This allergic reaction, providing it is not infected, will subside in under a day, but if the swelling does not reduce and your pet is in pain, then you will need to see your veterinarian immediately. Spider bites can be painful (and venomous) so take your pet to the vet immediately when this occurs.
Constant licking/chewing of paws could also mean your dog has food allergies. Your veterinarian should be consulted to try and figure out what exactly the allergy is. Common food allergies include wheat, soy, corn, rice, chicken or beef. Often dogs with allergies will also have reddish-pink yeasty smelling ears and pinkish skin on the legs.
If the foot is red and swollen or has crusty flakes, the skin may be inflamed or infected from bacterial, fungal, or parasite issues. If the cause is no longer present, then the pet may still chew on its paw as a continued trauma cycle. This will result in continued inflammation. Arthritis or internal conditions can also cause pain, which you will not visibly see. If this is the case, take your pet to the veterinarian and have it checked out.
Checking for irritants – A magnifying glass and flashlight will help to examine those feet carefully. Gently press on the pads and between the pads on the skin to ensure that it does not have any grass seeds or splinters embedded in the fur or skin. Then gently pry each toe apart to check in between the toes for any twigs that might have stuck in the skin. If your pet has long fur, then it will usually attract many twigs, sticky leaves and burrs. These need to be removed immediately.
Boredom – Sometimes paw licking is a cry for attention. Take special time each day to spend with your dog. Teach it tricks or encourage it to play with its toys. Dogs aren’t always proactive on playing with toys by themselves. The moment that you see your pet chewing on its foot, you should start throwing a ball or a toy around so that it will chase after it. Your dog will then forget about its foot momentarily.
When you see your dog chewing on his foot, gently hold the wet foot and say No in a low firm voice. You may need to do this repeatedly before your pet understands the command. Continue to show it attention and praise the dog when it stops licking its paws.
Dogs loved to be touched. Don’t just pet your dog, but massage it by applying gentle pressure. Massaging releases endorphins in your dog’s brain. This produces natural antidepressants, which can reduce your dog’s stress levels.
Also note that the dogs sweat glands are in the feet, and are thought to be part of territorial marking. So good foot hygiene is imperative.
Paw licking can cause severe skin damage, but it can also be corrected.
Please Note: Many natural remedies for skin and irritation that soothe human skin can harm an animal’s skin. These remedies can further inflame your dog’s already irritated paws, causing them to lick them even more.