Dogs love licking. They lick their owners, their food bowls, and fellow dogs – basically everything. I’m pretty sure you’ve been licked by your pet dog more times than you can count.
One of the things that is commonly observed is that they particularly enjoy licking their own paws. As adorable as they are during those times, you should be aware that there could be more serious causes to that than just their naturally inborne cuteness.
Top Causes why dog Keeps licking their paws
Be attentive to the moments when your dog starts licking their paw, especially if it always seems to be one particular paw. That could indicate that your pup is experiencing pain in that area. Since paw-licking is one of the most neglected signs of pain in dogs, it is highly recommended that you do not ignore this habit.
The pain could be coming from a wound, an insect bite or sting, a thorn, a protruding nail, a piece of glass, or anything that may inflict pain in general. If you can’t see anything, try to feel the paw, and if you still can’t find any difference, make sure to take your pet to a veterinarian to get checked.
Just like humans, dogs are also susceptible to allergies. An allergy occurs when the body is exposed to a harmful substance and, driven by responses from the immune system, reacts excessively to it. When your dog licks their paw, this may be the symptom of an allergic reaction, because the licking provides temporary relief.
There could be various factors for your dog’s allergy. The environment, the food, drugs, or cleaning products could be playing a part in this problem.
• Environment – Dogs may inhale pollen, dust or mold; they may also have freshly cut weeds stuck onto their furs. All of these have the potential of causing itchiness. Of course, your pet loves walking around, so it’s best to wipe their feet after they do so in order to prevent irritations. Environmental factors can also be eliminated easily by vacuuming or using cleaning products on a regular basis.
• Food – When it comes to dogs, several ingredients are allergic-reaction triggers for them. Chicken, potato, starch, pork, peas, turkey, corn, wheat, soy… the list goes on and on. A common approach to this issue is what we call the “Elimination Diet”. If you want to identify the ingredients that may be causing problems, feed your dog specific meals for a while. If you’re still anxious, take your dog to a vet and have them tested for allergies.
• Drugs – If you think your dog may be getting itchy, irritated, or allergic to a medicine that has been prescribed by the vet, you can go back and ask for a brand replacement.
• Cleaning Products – A lot of dogs are allergic to perfume so it’s best to avoid using it. Also, if you suspect that the insecticidal shampoo, flea-control products, or any cleaning products you use are causing the reaction, stop using them.
3. Hormonal imbalance
Dogs, especially those older than five, are commonly diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance called ‘Hypothyroidism’, wherein they don’t produce enough thyroid hormone. It has been said that this can happen to any dog, but Doberman pinschers and Golden retrievers are at a higher risk of suffering from this imbalance by comparison to other breeds. The reason why these breeds in particular are prone to the condition is still unclear, but it could be related to their genes.
Conditions brought upon by hormonal imbalance cause red spots, balding, and brittle hair, which then make dogs lick their paws in order to sooth their pain.
4. Lack of activity
If you’re a dog owner, you, of all people, should know how active they are. As soon as these high-energy furballs are left with nothing to do, they tend to get frustrated, upset, irritated and unsatisfied; this in turn leads to destructive actions, which include the chewing and licking of paws.
From mere boredom, the issue could escalate to anxiety, in which case excessive paw-licking becomes the dog’s form of relief or escape. To address this problem, make sure that you are spending enough time with your dog, provide them with enough toys to play with when you’re not around, play fetch or go on walks as a form exercise, and last, but not least, allow your pet to socialize.
5. Ticks or fleas
They are the most frequent concern, so most dog owners would eventually have to deal with fleas or ticks. These two are parasites that feed on the blood of our poor lovely dogs. They often stay or attach close to the head, neck, ears, and feet, where they produce saliva and cause itchiness, which explains the paw-licking habit that the dog-hosts engage in. Paw-licking is also a common symptom when fleas or ticks are inhabiting a dog’s body.
6. Dry skin
If you notice some flakey, red or bumpy parts in your dog’s coat, this could be a sign of dry skin or ‘dermatitis’. There are different reasons why a dog ends up having dry skin. These include:
• Grooming – Remember, too much of anything is bad. This rule also applies to bathing or grooming. As much as we all want our dogs to be clean and smell nicely, excessive washing schedules may strip their furs of natural oils (not different from us, humans) and cause dry skin. I recommend you start reading the content and labels on the shampoos that you use just to be sure that they do not contain any harsh chemicals that may dry your dog’s skin.
• Breeds – The dogs’ hair or fur serves as a natural protection; therefore, hairless breeds are more prone to having dry skin than furry ones. The American hairless terrier, the Mexican hairless dog or Xoloitzcuintli, the Chinese crested, the Peruvian hairless dog or Peruvian inca orchid, and the Argentine pila dog are good examples of hairless breeds.
• Weather – Extreme temperatures (whether hot or cold) may affect your dog’s skin condition. If confronted with such an issue, make a quick stop to the veterinarian and ask for suggestions regarding dog lotions or oils that can ease the dryness. You can also ask for recommendations regarding vitamins and supplements.
Treatments to Stop Dogs from Licking their Paws
Before proceeding to any kind of remedy or treatment, establish the cause of your dog’s paw-licking behavior. Decide whether the issue needs to be taken care of by an expert, such as the veterinarian or the animal behaviorist, or if you can solve it on your own.
There are a few remedies for itchy paws that you can try at home:
1. Varied Food
Make an effort to provide your dog with varied food, especially if you’re suspecting food allergies. You can try the elimination diet, which consists of reducing your dog’s meal to a very simple one for a few weeks (until it gets used to it and the symptoms disappear), and then adding one ingredient at a time. If the symptoms start again, you’ll know which ingredient triggered the allergic reaction. But if you’re looking for something that requires less time and effort, simply diversify your dog’s food.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
The all-around apple cider vinegar is always a remedy, mainly for itch-related problems. Create your own apple cider spray, then apply it on your dog’s feet. You may also try adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s food. Keep in mind that this should not be done if there’s a wound on your dog’s paw, or if the dog has a yeast infection or flea allergy.
3. Epsom Salt
A mixture of Epsom salt and warm water may be the answer to the inflammation which is causing your dog to lick their paw all the time. Let the paw soak in the mixture for about thirty minutes. That’s enough time for the natural pH level of the skin to neutralize and be restored.
4. Switch Shampoo
Ask yourself, is the shampoo you’re using a good-quality one? Is it safe? Is it approved? If you’re having doubts about the shampoo that you use on your dog, switch it up and see if the symptoms alleviate. You can also choose shampoos that are particularly aimed at addressing itchy skin. Again, don’t over-bathe your dog!
5. Chew Toy
A chew toy may help the dog focus on something other than their paw. If your pup is very attached to you and you know they’re going to behave when you’re not around, leave a chew toy nearby which they can play with. Still, remember that your time, care, and presence are far greater than a chew toy, so make sure to play with your dog and organize common activities that you will keep them from becoming bored.
6. Tend to Injuries
If the injury is fairly noticeable and present, tend to it as soon as possible. Grab your first aid kit and treat that poor fellow’s paw. Analyze the severity of the wound, and if you’re still feeling restless about it, better let the vet take a look at it.
Get Some Advice from Experts
If your dog’s problems are due to anxiety, allergies, severe wounds, or hormonal imbalance, the most suitable thing to do is to take your dog to a specialist (may it be a behaviorist or veterinarian) to seek professional help.
Now that you’re aware that paw-licking isn’t all that normal, use this newly-acquired knowledge and keep a more careful eye on your dogs. Dogs like licking, but this habit may also point to something more serious. Be alert and ready to take the appropriate course of action. Observe your dog, assess their actions, and learn their normal behavior; at the end of the day, only you can decide whether or not the situation is still normal.
As a dog owner, this is the type of knowledge you need to be storing in your mind in order to have a healthy pet. After all, your dog’s happiness is your happiness, too, right?