One of the most common questions that come up from dog owners is, “Why do dogs lick their paws?” and “How can I stop my dog from licking his paws?” A lot of dog owners tend to worry that this might be a medical problem, but before you jump into any conclusion, you should first understand why do dogs lick their paws and if it is in fact related to a medical issue.
Why do dogs lick their paws?
The first thing you should identify is whether or not this is a “normal behavior” or is this something new? This is important because if it is indeed a new behavior, then it could be medical related, whereas if your dog loves to lick his paws all the time, then it could be just his nature.
There can be many reasons why dogs lick their paws, but let’s start off with the most common ones.
The most common one is an allergy related problem. This is common if it is a new behavior and it does relate to medical in some way.
A food allergy will cause your dog to itch and therefore lick their paws. If this is the case, then you should check if a change in diet might solve it.
Another reason could be because of an infection in the paws. Dogs tend to lick their paws when there is some sort of irritation in their paws. If this is the case, it is best to take your dog to the nearest vet. to see if your vet can prescribe some medication to help with this.
The last most common reason if there is nothing wrong is that it could be just a behavior issue. This can be habit related because some dogs tend to develop bad habits such as licking their paws over time as they age.
How to stop dogs from licking their paws?
As mentioned above, the first step is to diagnose the problem and see what’s causing it. Usually, a local vet will do a basic examination that consists of the following to determine the issue.
Tape preparation cytology – This is to get some samples from the paws to see if there’s any type of infection related to it.
Skin biopsy – This is a less common way to diagnose the problem, but a vet might perform this in order to get to the bottom of the issue.
Depending on the results, your vet might recommend one of the following to stop your dog from licking their paw.
- Change in diet, usually by swapping out your dog’s current protein intake with another brand.
- Provide your dog with some flea and tick medication to see if the irritation is caused by flees.
If none of the above works, a vet would usually do a more in-depth blood test to see what’s causing the problem within the system. This will take an in-depth look at your dog’s diet.
Certain breeds seem to suffer from paw problems a bit more than others. Among those breeds are Labrador retrievers, terriers of all kinds, poodles, Chihuahuas and Maltese. These breeds are more prone to licking their paws as a habit. Compulsiveness is often linked to your pet’s individual genetics.
If your dog has been licking his paws for a while and you don’t notice any type of new rashes or bumps, then it’s nothing to worry about. Keeping your dog busy with other methods could be a solution for this. This could be taking it out for a walk more often or playing fetch with it.
They cannot be entirely cured, but many things can be done to make the behavior less of a problem usually by distracting them with some other activity.
Another thing you should take note of is whether or not your dog is only licking one of his paws or all of them? If it’s only one single paw, then the problem could lie within just that specific paw. This is usually tied to a medical related problem.
Other solutions include keeping a diary of when your dog tends to lick their paws. Does this usually occur when you are grooming them? Or does this happen when you walk them in a park filled with a lot of grass? This can help you build a better understanding of what’s causing your dog to lick their paws.
Once you’ve identified the reason behind it, you can test multiple solutions to see which one works best.
Has its general activity level changed? Does it limp or appear stiff? If the problem occurs during your absence, does destructive or bizarre behavior also occur during those times? All these are questions that you should keep in mind when writing a journal or diary on when your dog licks his paws.
One of the things that you might need to worry about is if it is a fungal related issue. Dogs in good general health almost never get bacterial or fungal foot infections out of nowhere. Usually, if your dog develops any type of fungal infection it is because it was passed down by their parents or transmitted from other dogs.
Most of the time, the cure for this is quite simple and it would just require simple antibiotics.
To conclude, it is important to keep track of when your dog tends to lick their paws. This will help you boil down to a better solution for him.