If the pet licks its paws a lot, often, the hair on its legs has changed color (turned red), has become rarer, or it seems to you that the dog is in pain or itching, then the situation requires close attention.
Examine the animal, pay attention – it licks one paw or several. If nothing worries you, take a closer look at his limbs: are there any dirt adhering to them, cuts, signs of injury or inflammation, is the hair tangled, are the claws too branched.
You can trim nails and hair, remove excess items yourself or with the help of a groomer. All other problems require the intervention of a veterinarian.
Reasons why dogs lick their paws
There are many reasons why a dog licks its paws. They can be related to hygiene, pain, itching, or have a psychological background. None of them should be underestimated, because the situation in itself, when a dog licks its paws constantly, can cause quite serious consequences. In addition, this persistent behavior can indicate various problems.
Let’s divide the physical pathologies in which the dog licks its paws into three conditional groups and analyze each separately. All of them are closely interconnected with each other, one category can move into another.
If a dog licks its paws for this reason, then most of the trouble will be associated with orthopedic disorders and injuries.
No wonder the people there is the expression “lick your wounds.” Indeed, any injection, cut, abrasion, burn and other violation of the integrity of the tissue the dog tries to lick. Animal saliva contains lysozyme. This substance has an antibacterial effect. In some situations, licking small wounds can actually help them heal. Getting under the skin of small foreign objects (splinters) also causes pain.
An orthopedic problem – sprain, dislocation, arthritis, or any other nuisance associated with dysfunction of the musculoskeletal system and pain in the legs – also makes the animal want to lick the damaged area. After all, such self-massage gives, albeit temporary, but relief.
Unfortunately, dogs tolerate itching even worse than pain. Considering that most pets are almost constantly in a situation of idleness and left to their own devices, a small itchy area (for example, from an insect bite) during the day, while the owners are at work, the animal can lick up to a fairly extensive lesion. So what causes itchy feet?
First of all, in urban dogs in winter, this can be a contact allergy or a chemical burn – a reaction to anti-icing agents used in yards and on the roadway. In addition, itching can be accompanied by parasitosis – diseases caused by parasites. For example, flea dermatitis, (infection with intradermal mites), food allergies, inflammatory skin diseases (pododermatitis), as well as abscesses on the fingers, in which the dog constantly licks the pads of its paws.
One of the most significant is the problem of nail care. When they are too long, it completely changes the placement of the paw and the biomechanics of movement, making it difficult to walk. The depreciation mechanism is completely broken, the pet can injure itself, hence the pain and orthopedic disorders. The dog even has back problems due to long claws, because often they are forced to walk on their heels for a long time.
We must not forget that foreign objects often fall between the pads – chewing gum, linden buds, bitumen, candy and so on. All these are frequent finds of groomers. Small misunderstandings like this can cause a dog to lick its paws incessantly.
Hair that is too long causes snow and debris to stick to it regularly, and incorrectly cut hair leads to itching and post-grooming dermatitis.
It is not uncommon for owners to notice that a dog licks its paws when it is nervous. This behavior may be a manifestation of oral stereotypy.
The easiest way to make a comparison with people – a person, when nervous, bites a pencil or nails, and a dog licks its paws. You can’t put equal signs between these actions, but they have the same origin – chronic stress, an attempt to relieve anxiety with habitual monotonous actions. Prohibitions will not help, you need to remove the cause of such behavior. In animals, oral stereotypy most often appears due to separation anxiety (when the owner leaves for a long time) and constant stay in the everyday environment (boredom).
First of all, when the owner notices that the pet is licking its paws non-stop, he should examine the animal himself. It is likely that a foreign object stuck or entangled in the wool or a tangle formed that can be removed independently will be found. If, for example, it is difficult to remove sticky chewing gum, then this problem is easier to solve for the groomer.
All other violations will have to be diagnosed with the help of a veterinarian.
There is a group of problems, with the definition of which, as a rule, there is no difficulty. These are skin injuries. Such a nuisance is noticeable immediately and there are no questions about which doctor to contact.
If we are talking about a fracture or dislocation, then most often the pain is acute, the function of the limb is significantly impaired, and the animal is quickly delivered to the right specialist – an orthopedist or traumatologist. The doctor treats the underlying disease, and the licking gradually disappears on its own.
Difficulties with diagnosis arise when it comes to chronic itching or pain. Here, even a veterinarian, in order to determine the reason why a dog licks its paws, will need not only an examination, but also additional tests.
Tweezers and scrapings from the skin of the paws to exclude dermatitis (bacterial, fungal or allergic inflammation)
X-ray studies in several projections; in order to examine the structures of bones and cartilage.
Sometimes exercise tests are required – you need to see how the dog walks after exercise and after rest, how it reacts to forced flexion of the limbs.
What to do if the dog constantly licks its paws?
When a dog often licks its paws, it should be carefully examined. If you find problems with hair or claws, or see that something is stuck to the paw, then it makes sense to eliminate the mess yourself or with the help of a groomer. Observe if the dog no longer licks its paws after these actions, then a solution has been found.
If you find inflammation on your pet’s skin, contact your veterinarian-dermatologist. He will examine the animal, most likely, take tests and suggest the best treatment and measures to stop (relieve) itching. If there are signs of injury or pain, visit an orthopedic traumatologist. After the examination, this doctor will prescribe an x-ray or a consultation with related specialists, for example, a neurologist.
When you absolutely do not understand what is happening with the dog, make an appointment with a therapist. It will help you decide on a plan for further examination.
If the patient is recognized by all experts as healthy, and undesirable behavior continues, then contact a zoopsychologist.
How to wean a dog to lick paws often?
You don’t have to teach your dog to lick its paws. It is necessary to eliminate the cause of such a phenomenon, and then it will gradually fade away. If these actions did not bring results, then it makes sense to work with a cynologist or zoopsychologist – switch the dog, teach it to relax in a different way.
If the pet licks its paws sometimes, then this is quite normal. When such behavior is very persistent and constant, then you need to figure out why it arose.
The most common reasons why a dog constantly licks its paw are itching, pain and mental anxiety.
Often the problem is solved by trimming the nails and proper grooming – do not ignore hygiene issues.