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Does your dog lick its paws?

Everything you need to know about why dogs lick their paws

For the purpose of this article and clarity of content it is important for the reader to acknowledge that the terms "dogs lick paws" and or "dogs licking paws" encompass, the phrases "dogs chewing paws" and "dogs licking and chewing leg/s".

Causes of why dogs lick paws

Dogs lick paws syndrome is a common condition with a wide variety of causes. If left untreated, it can lead to painful and often serious consequences including self harm/injury, e.g.

  • Bleeding sores
  • Granulomas
  • Hair loss
  • Hot spots
  • Infections
  • Permanent scarring

As with humans every dog is different, but usually the topic of "dogs lick paws" comes down to two simple questions:

  • Is the dog licking because it genuinely has itchy paws? or,
  • Is it licking because of psychological reasons? of which there are many causes to consider, and discussed in detail below.

Itchy Paws

If a dog is licking all 4 paws, the cause is either an atopic allergy and/or an environmental issue. Here is a list of triggers to watch out for:

Psychological reasons

Psychological reasons triggering dogs to lick paws are habit & boredom, stress, anxiety and depression. Here's a list of triggers to watch out for:

  • Separation anxiety.
  • Noise anxiety, eg fireworks or thunder.
  • Habit & boredom, depression and frustration - these symptom are particularly common in breeds that are being treated as lap dogs, whereas they have been selectively bred for 100's of years to be working dogs, e.g. herders (sheperds & collies, hunters (terriers), retrievers or guard dogs.
  • Stress - e.g. in multi-animal households - there is always one dog that wants to dominate. Dogs are pack animals and most times the pecking order is sorted amicably. However sometimes a dominate dog can cause stress to another pet/s. A few drops of spirit of essence " Bully Remedy" each day, can have a great calming effect on the dominate dog, and help to restore peace and harmony with the pet members of your family pack.

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Chronic or compulsive "dogs lick paws" syndrome usually follows a familiar cycle.

  • One or more stress factors triggers off the start of a cycle.
  • Dogs lick paws as a reaction to the trigger/s.
  • The owner, either on his/her own or in consultation with their veterinarian, treats the symptoms with a variety of medications including antibiotics, steroids, and anti-depressants, together with chewing prevention devices, e.g. bandages or Elizabethan collars.
  • The owner, either on his/her own or in consultation with their veterinarian, treats the symptoms with a variety of medications including antibiotics, steroids, and anti-depressants, together with chewing prevention devices, e.g. bandages or Elizabethan collars.
  • Some of these remedies work, some don't, causing frustration for the owner.
  • The dog usually senses its the owner's frustration and reacts by increases its licking.
  • Excessive licking and chewing eventually damages the dog's skin, which more often than not, leads to a secondary infection, and the cycle continues. In severe cases, chronic "dog licks paws" can lead to a granuloma. Granuloma is a ball-like collection of dead cells and tissue that form inside a seriously infected wound.
  • In some cases a dog may become chemically addicted to the act of licking. This theory comes from the concept that licking feels good, and raises endorphin levels. The dog then becomes addicted to these opiate-like chemicals produced by the brain in times of emotional or physical.
  • Eventually the problem becomes even more expensive and frustrating for tand of course more difficult to treat - the end result being an even more itchy, painful, and confused dog.

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Treatment for dogs licking paws

Fortunately, few dogs reach the most serious stages of compulsive licking, and treatment for "dogs lick paws" is pretty simple - the key is locating the cause and removing it.

In the case of allergies, please see our page on Dog Allergy Treatment.

And in case of fleas, mites, and some allergies, these can easily be accomplished with a visit to the vet or if you would care to go the natural way please visit our home flea remedy page, and Allergy Free Products page.

If you have a stressed dog which is showing signs of excessive grooming, pacing, chewing and/or self-harming as in licking its paws to the point self- mutilation, we can confidentially recommend a flower essence called "Obsession Remedy".

In the case of boredom, depression and frustration, exercise and massage are your best bets.

Dogs love to exercise and run, particularly dogs bred to work such as hunters, herders, guard dogs and so on. For larger breeds, try roller skating or cycling as you exercise them, and go swimming with your dog if it is a water breed. Exercise, exercise and more exercise usually does the trick.

And finally, dogs absolutely thrive on the touch of the human they love, so one of the best things you can do for a nervous strung out pet is to learn how to give it a proper massage. A massage not only makes a dog feel good, but it stimulates its brain to produce endorphins and other neurotransmitters which act as natural anti-depressants.

Massage every inch of your dog, from the tips of its ears to the tip of its tail. Dogs love to have their shoulders and the large muscles of their rump and legs massaged.

You will know you have hit the right spot when your pooch closes its eyes and sighs or smacks its lips.

Finish off by wiping your dog's legs and paws down with apple cider vinegar. Dogs really don't like the smell or taste! It's absolutely harmless if they do ingest it, and it has some excellent healing benefits to boot.

Good luck!

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