Why dogs lick their paws is one of the very many questions that pet owners ask. Licking paws is a part of dog’s grooming habits but when it becomes excessive and maybe obsessive, you need to be concerned. When the licking gets excessive, it could be its way of dealing with stress, boredom, or the paws could be irritated.
In some cases, the dog could be suffering from both. Some licking cases can be dealt with easily while some others might need to be referred to a vet. Therefore, it is important to study how your furry friend is behaving so that you can know how to deal with the licking.
Factors that make dogs lick their paws
1. The dog’s breed and temperament
Some dogs lick their paws because of their breed; this means that some breeds are more prone to lickings compared to others. Some of the breeds that are prone to licking are all kinds of terriers, labrador retrievers, Maltese, Chihuahuas, and poodles.
Blonde and white haired breeds might not be prone to paw licking; in the event they do have this problem, their paw fur becomes discolored thus making it more apparent. Highly alert breeds like cattle dogs, Dalmatians and greyhounds are more prone to paw licking when they are idle; this means their paw licking is a way of releasing stress or dealing with boredom.
Paw licking is more rampant in purebred dogs and two-way crosses as compared to the general mutt population dogs. Paw licking could be a family thing such that dogs whose parents used to lick paws also start licking theirs when they turn two years.
Paw licking in such dogs cannot be completely cured but there are ways of reducing the problem like keeping the dog engaged most of the times. Mobility issues like obesity, arthritis or metabolism levels are also possible causes of paw licking since the dog is just idle.
Allergies top the list of why dogs lick their paws. One of the most common triggers of these allergies is dogs inhaling things that are also likely to cause allergies in humans. Some of these things that might trigger an allergy are; weed spores and tree pollen.
Some other insects that are dangerous to humans can also cause allergies; some of them are dust mites and cockroaches. When allergies are the ones causing paw licking, they might also spread to other parts of the body.
For example, the dog’s flanks become itchy and other problems like hair loss, ear infections, excessive shedding and a musty odor follow. The problem might be seasonal while others usually progress to a full year thus there is a need to keep the allergies at bay.
3. Irritation and allergies
If you suspect that your dog only licks its paws and the itch doesn’t progress to other body parts, then your dog is allergic to a certain substance where its paws step.
Is the irritant at home or out there in the field? You can only answer this question by studying how your dog licks its paws.
Is it after coming from the field or it is present even when the dog is in the house? Did the licking start after you changed your cleaning agent? Did it start when you changed the foot rinse product?
Toy breeds are prone to this problem and you need to be very careful. Wet paws resulting from excessive sweating or from a damp environment can lead to paw infections and later paw inflammations.
This is the second most cause of allergies in dogs. Some veterinarians might put it in the top of the list of why dogs lick their paws. The generalized itchiness also finds its way to the dogs’ paws although it is hard to find fleas on paws.
However, you should not downplay the paw licking in dogs even if they (fleas) don’t reside in its paws. The dog might be allergic to the flea’s saliva which stimulates itching thus leading to paw licking.
5. Psychological causes
Dogs just like humans suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Some of the things that might tell you that your dog is suffering from OCD are idiosyncrasies, quirky behavior and other vices like paw licking. Even if your dog has OCD; it doesn’t mean that he might not be suffering from allergies, stress or boredom issues.
If your dog is suffering from allergies, is stressed or it’s bored, it is bound to suffer more if it also has OCD. New family members, new neighborhood or new pets in the hood might stress your dog thus aggravating the paw licking problem. In such a case, paw liking can be minimized by getting your furry friend involved in other activities.
6. Bone joint and toenail issues
Dogs that have problems with their toenails and joints spend their days licking their paws because they are immobile. Also, dogs that are overweight also tend to have paw licking problems because they can’t move around much.
Dogs whose toenails overgrow and start pricking the skin around it are also a cause of why dogs lick their paws because the paw is irritated.
How to manage paw licking in dogs
- Make your dog exercise its paw more
- Adjust your dog’s lifestyle based on what causes the paw licking
- Change your dog’s diet if it’s the major cause
- Try behavior modification by involving dog trainers in extreme cases
- Use dog socks and dog muzzles when your dog is left alone so that it doesn’t over-lick the paws
- See a vet if your dog has paw infections to get the right antibiotics
- Use of medicated shampoos might reduce the problem if your dog licks its paws because of itching