Dogs like to groom themselves and it is normal for them to lick their paws in this process. Dogs may lick their paws for self-grooming after meals or after a walk. However, if this dog paw licking is too much, the reason may be something else.
Why Dogs Lick Their Paws?
Licking paws come naturally to dogs. Dog paw licking is an instinctive behavior to clean themselves. However, dogs can quickly get habitual of licking their paws and ultimately suffer themselves. Light colored fur of dogs gets stained with this habit. Additionally, excessive dog paw licking results in swelling, granulomas, and some infections. This infection is worsened when dogs lick that area more.
Why do dogs excessively lick their paws?
A dog excessively licks its paws if they are in pain, are itchy, or just irritated. You will have to find a definite reason behind their sudden, excessive paw licking.
Following are the most common reasons that cause aggressive paw licking in dogs:
Something stuck or Localized Pain
If your dog’s focus of licking is one paw only, you will have to review that paw. The dog may be having some pain or irritation due to something stuck between his paw. However, if your dog is licking one paw excessively and there is nothing visibly stuck in his paw, it could mean injury to its leg muscles or inflammation. If the dog is also limping, visit a vet right away.
Allergies and Infections
Allergies are a common cause of itching and irritation in a dog’s paws. Dogs can be allergic to different foods or even environmental reasons like pollen and weeds. If you observe your dog licking paws after their stroll in a park having grass, then the dog might have irritation in his paws due to an allergic reaction of the pesticides in the grass.
Sometimes, dogs develop yeast infections in their paws, which can be a result of an allergic reaction itself. It is a never ending loop of dog licking paws, moisture getting trapped in the paws, causing infections, and dog feeling an urge to lick that area repeatedly.
Ticks and fleas biting on a dog can make him miserable. Any such external parasite, when hiding in the dog’s paws, can cause dog lick his paw in rather an unusual way. If your dog also has allergies to flea or ticks, you will need to ensure proper medication as well as treatment of home and surroundings to eliminate fleas around the dog.
Stress, Fear, Anxiety, or Boredom
Your dog may compulsively start chewing on or licking its paws when he is either bored, scared, feeling stressed or anxious. In some cases, dog paw licking begins as a boredom exercise and develops into an annoying habit. Some dogs that have been diagnosed with OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, shows various anxiety signs and excessive paw licking is one of them.
A hot dry weather is harsh for your skin. Did you know it was equally harsh for your dog’s skin too? On top of that, excessive baths and harsh chemical-based shampoos can also cause dryness. If you have a hairless dog breed, you must know that these dogs are more susceptible to several skin ailments because of the lack of a protective fur. However, even a well-coated dog, who lives in dry and cold climate, will need extra care for the skin because its skin will be left dry. Natural oil such as coconut oil can help in these conditions. Alternatively, you can also include essential vitamins and supplements in their diet.
Cushing’s Disease is a common problem found among the older and even middle-aged dogs. When their bodies produce the cortisol hormone in abundance, they show a lot of changes, such as higher urination and thirst, increased appetite, etc. On the other hand, when this hormone is produced too little in the body, it is called hypothyroidism. In both the cases, the dog becomes more prone to various other health problems including skin diseases. They may develop spot balding, hair thinning, and reddish spots on their skin. When a dog begins licking these spots, which are found abundantly near their paws, it again forms the infinity curve of licking, moisture, and infection.
What to Do when Dog Paw Licking gets Excessive?
Take a closer look at your dog’s paws. Check the nails, nail beds, and between the fingers for any foreign object, swelling, cut or wound, crusts, redness, etc. In the next step, you should consult a vet for proper diagnosis of the problem, even if you have given the first-aid to the dog’s paw. Though it can be a behavioral problem, you still need to make sure all the medical problems associated with dog paw licking have been ruled out.
What Precautions Can be Taken to Limit Dog Paw Licking Due to Allergy?
You will need some time and patience to find out the real reason behind the allergy making your dog licking paws excessively. Take the help of a vet to begin proper medication for the problem. Also, yeast infections are often a result of a diet lacking in nutrients. Ensure proper food rich in nutrients for your dog. You may like to read more about it here.
If the pesticides and other chemicals in the grass are causing the allergy, you may make a habit to clean your dog’s paws after their visit to a grassy lawn. You can also soak their paws in a cool solution of oatmeal shampoo and water. It will ease the itch and will also wash off the allergens stuck in its paws. You can use a humidifier in the home if the dryness in the weather is making your dog’s skin itchy.
A visit to the vet will be always advantageous. The vet will diagnose the underlying medical problem and prescribe appropriate allergy medications as well as the right kind of food needed by your dog. If it is a behavioral problem, you can help your dog in giving up the habit of paw licking and chewing by the golden idea of distraction. It means that whenever you see them overly grooming themselves, licking excessively on their paws, you start a little fun game with them. You may also offer them their favourite toy or treat, simply take them out for a walk.
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