6 Reasons for Constant Paw Licking
There are a number of reasons why your pooch may be constantly licking his paws. The most common causes include:
If your dog has food allergies or atopy (an inflammatory reaction to air-borne pollens), her paws are often the first place where you'll notice her becoming itchy. Particularly if your dog is allergic to grass pollens, the allergens she picks up on her feet when she's outside will cause her discomfort.
Mange mites, fungal infections, and those nasty, pesky fleas can burrow into the areas between the toes and around the pads of your dog's feet and cause a terrible, burning itch. Additionally, dogs with diabetes and chronic arthritis can suffer from nerve damage and bone pain in their feet just like their human owners, and will lick and chew on their feet to alleviate the ache.
Our dogs require consistency in their daily routines to remain happy and healthy. When that routine is disturbed, an emotionally sensitive dog can become upset and anxious. A new baby or a new pet in the family, or something simple such as a change in diet or altering the time you normally come home from work, can easily push some dogs into fits of anxiety and they'll lick their paws as a way to comfort themselves.
If your dog has split, cracked pads, a broken nail, a fractured toe, or a foreign body stuck in the bottom of her foot she will tend lick at the injured area, This will ease the discomfort and begin the healing process. Or if your dog has walked on grass that's been treated with chemicals they may be cause for paw licking.
HABIT or boredom
As most dog owners know, a restless animal can get into all kinds of trouble attempting to relieve her boredom, and with some dogs, that includes obsessive paw licking. Particularly if your dog is a high-energy pooch who needs lots of exercise, paw licking can easily become a soothing habit.
Obsessive/compulsive disorder Some dogs can develop a psychological obsessive/compulsive disorder – similar to that found in their human counterparts – that compels them to constantly lick their feet. Some canine behaviorists feel that the licking releases opiate-like chemicals called endorphins from the dog's brain into the bloodstream producing a sense of calmness and well being during times of stress or anxiety. This endorphin-rush can become addictive, and while the disorder is fairly uncommon in the average dog, it is difficult to treat without the use of drugs and behavior modification.
It would be so much simpler if our dogs could talk and tell us what's going on. But until you turn into Doctor Dolittle you're probably going to need a veterinarian for help.
It can be difficult to manage these cases of apparent psychological scratching. If, after a thorough investigation, you feel that your dog's itch is in fact psychological, you will need to relieve anything that's bothering your dog while you redirect his self mutilating behavior. There are several things you can do to help him.
1. Every time he licks his paws, interrupt him and divert his attention. Watch him constantly so as soon as he does lick, you can give him an alternative behavior, such as chewing a peanut butter filled Kong.
2. Mental stimulation and some exercise has been shown to reduce the likelihood of these behaviors developing. Also, early obedience training will give him a good repertoire of acceptable behaviors, so he's less likely to develop compulsive behaviors.
4. If your vet feels your dog has an anxiety problem, she may prescribe a course of anti anxiety treatment. This can make it easier for him to learn new behaviors without the added burden of feeling stressed. However, we recommend a natural solution first. You can purchase an all-natural herbal product like Sleepytime Tonic without a prescription and it works wonders. Helps to calm your dog so you can both get some rest.
5. Treat any irritation in the skin that has developed from his constant scratching. Wash him in Comfy Dog Shampoo ; its colloidal oatmeal will ease his itch and reduce inflammation. You can, if you wish, follow it up with Fur Butter Deep Conditioning Treatment for an enhanced effect. If he has small patches where he constantly itches, a spray with will soothe his irritated skin.
Psychological scratching can be difficult to diagnose, and difficult to manage. It's important that it's diagnosed early; the sooner you start treatment, the better the chance for a happy outcome for you and your dog.
Why Constant Paw Licking is a Problem
ike most pet parents, we have been awakened in the middle of the night with the sounds of our itchy dog licking and chewing at her feet. Owner annoyance is just one of the problems that results from consistent paw licking.
A compulsive paw licker can cause loss of hair (alopecia), major skin damage, open sores called "hot spots," and even bacterial skin infections on her feet and toes with the constant licking. Since the damaged skin is painful and irritated, a vicious cycle of licking, chewing, and causing even more harm begins that can lead to compulsive, hard-to-treat behavior.
A little history
You should prepare a full history of the paw licking problem.
• When did it start?
• Was there a precipitating event that caused the initial licking to begin?
• Does your dog scratch or lick more after coming in from outside?
• Does she lick one or two paws in particular, or does she lick all four of them?
• Does she lick her paws when you're at home, or only when she's left alone?
The answers to these questions, can lead you and your vet to diagnosing if the paw licking is a physical or psychological problem, and can help determine a treatment plan.