Have you ever noticed your dog licking their paws and wondered if that’s something to be concerned about? In short, the answer would be yes. Definitely. In fact, you should be immediately consulting your vet regarding this behavior, specifically if it appears suddenly and persists for a long period of time. Matters could be getting even worse if their constant chewing results in swelling, bleeding, limping or any other signs of pain and infection.
We’ve listed some more reasons for why you should be worried about your pupper chewing or licking their paws too much:
In arid climates or during the winter season, dogs are likely to experience dry skin, just like us humans. But since they cannot pick up some lotion from the pharmacy, they just lick their paws to relieve that itchy sensation coming from the dry skin on their paw pads. However, this may also be a sign that your dog is not receiving enough fatty acids in their diet. Fatty acids help to keep their skin and coat healthy and flexible. What you can do is, add a dash of olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil or fish oil to your dog’s food for a few times in a week to address this deficiency. Otherwise, you could also consider a paw wax that is particularly formulated for animals.
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One thing about dogs is that they can easily develop seasonal allergies or become allergic to certain cleaning products or chemicals that you use around the house. However, food allergies develop more frequently in dogs and as a result, it leads to skin irritation that affects various parts of their body, including the paws. It may also be a reaction to a particular protein that is in their food (lamb, dairy, beef, wheat, chicken, eggs, soy or corn), but it’s a little difficult to identify that damaging ingredient on your own. You’ll need to keep an eye on the food that you’re serving your dog and figure out what’s causing them the problem. Talk it out with your vet about what you’ve been feeding your pet and explore how you can make nutritional changes to prevent their skin from irritating.
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If you notice your dog licking their paws a little too much, they could probably be nursing an injury. Meaning, they might have a wound, punctured toe pads or even a fractured toe. If your dog is a runner or particularly an active doggo, this could explain it all. If you’re in any doubt, be sure to check their paw (or the area that is overly groomed) to look for any signs of injury or discomfort. Keep a close eye for cracks or cuts or any tears to their paw pads.
Fleas nibbling on your pet’s tender skin causes their toes to itch just the way we, humans experience a mild rash following mosquito bites. If your dog is roaming around the lawn or garden almost all day, chances are that your four-legged furry friend may have an allergic reaction to the atmosphere outside. Dogs that dwell inside the house don’t really get affected by such problems because of the floor cleaning agents that we use in our homes. However, regularly washing your dog’s feet could relieve them from this problem. You’ll notice effective results soon and your dog will chew on their paws no more!
Ticks, mites, and fleas are certainly major causes of itchy sensations that might get your dog to chew on their paws for hours. They might try to address the issue by licking it away or chewing out the little buggers. Ticks are the easiest to find, but if it’s mites, they are hardly visible. Even fleas are difficult to pinpoint it out unless it has run rampant on your canine. If you can’t find any ticks or mites with your naked eye try talking to your vet. He/she will be able to enlighten you about the possible parasites and how you can treat them.
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Dogs – or even us, humans – will try to keep ourselves busy doing something when we feel lonely, anxious, depressed or even bored. Dogs licking their paws is a sign that they are trying to soothe themselves, trying to make themselves feel better. It’s simply a means to temporarily ease their nervous system when they are not receiving enough affection, exercise or attention. Of course, some canines are a little bit too anxious by born, especially when their owners leave the house for long hours of time. Stray dogs are more likely to have experienced negligence or abusive behavior that turned to amplify their anxiety and fear. Observe when your dog engages in the paw licking behavior, what other activities are going on at that time in your home. If your dog is alone most of their time, we would suggest you hire a dog walker or a loving dog sitter. Why? That’s because they can wonderfully alleviate their stress levels and anxiety.
Hormonal imbalances can also be one of the causes making your dog gnaw on their paws. You must be wondering how hormonal imbalances relate to their dogs licking their paws. Well, if they either produce too much cortisol (also known as Cushing’s disease) or if they don’t produce enough thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), it may cause red spots, balding and brittle hair. Licking those irritated red spots or bald patches may lead to a secondary infection.
How to Prevent Your Dog from Licking His Paws
- If they are licking their paws just to relieve themselves from boredom, use a bitter apple spray and your dog will stop doing it because of its taste. Don’t spray it if the wound or cut is still broken or hasn’t healed properly.
- Another way could be to make them wear an E-collar (Elizabethan collar) or dog cone that will prevent them from licking any part of their body.
- Every time you take your pooch outside for a walk, wipe his/her paws accordingly. Try to keep their feet as clean as possible after each walk because there are potential allergens and irritant like lawn chemicals and pollens that cause their paws to itch.
- While cold, chilly winter weather can cause dogs skin to crack, similarly, hot, moist weather can be difficult for dogs suffering from dermatitis to cope with. In that case, it’s important for you to keep the weather in your home soothing for their bodily conditions. During summertime, keep the air conditioner switched on most of the time and use a heater to reduce their irritation in cold, dry weather conditions.
- You have no idea how important it is for you to maintain your pup’s healthy diet. The more wholesome their diet is, the better they can fight off allergens and external irritants. If your dog has got food sensitivities, check on the labels carefully to make sure that you’re feeding an allergen-free diet to your canine. If you’re in any confusion, consult your vet about the grain-free diet that is right for your furry friend.
- Distract their mind with a lot of toys and affection.
Vet Treatment for Dogs that Lick their Paws
If your dog is anxious, find out what’s the reason behind it. As you already know, prevention is better than cure. If you cannot eradicate your dog from what’s causing them to become anxious, then sedatives may be prescribed by your local vet.
Allergies that cause non-stop licking of their paws may require anti-histamines or in some extreme cases, steroid shots. Keep it in mind that steroids have gotten nasty side-effects and should only be used as a last resort and for short-term basis only. Try to use natural remedies instead of those allergy stimulants that cause irritation.
Normally, dogs often chew on their paws if they are not getting enough exercise, but if your canine is getting ample amounts of outdoor time, then the problem could be more complicated than it seems to be. Have you already neutered or spayed your canine? If not, then you may consider doing that now. Generally, spaying and neutering solve hormonal issues.
Your dog will always keep licking himself/herself quite a lot of times in a day, but that’s a normal behavior since they are only grooming themselves. But look out if they are licking the same area over and over again for several days or weeks. That’s when it’s time for you to give your vet a call. Something that starts off as an injury leads to licking that area and slowly your dog starts liking that feeling. So, it’s always best to act upon something immediately, rather than waiting for the wounds to heal itself.
- Amy M. Armstrong, Why Do Dogs Chew on Their Paws?, The Nest
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.