There’s nothing unusual about a dog licking his paws. It’s a normal grooming behavior. But when paw licking becomes obsessive, there may be a problem. Constant paw licking may signal an underlying problem that may need to be addressed. Left untreated, constant paw licking can lead to other problems, such as hair loss, skin damage, and even bacterial infections that could affect your dog’s ability to walk.
It may come as a surprise, but dogs are susceptible to allergies, just as many people are. The difference, though, is that they can’t tell us when symptoms strike. And rather than stuffy or runny noses, dogs are more likely to display symptoms of allergy-related inflammation in the paws. Incessant licking of the paws, due to itchiness, may be the first sign of allergy.
Allergies are often related to seasonal pollen, perhaps from grasses or other plants. Allergies capable of triggering constant paw-licking behavior may only occur at certain times of the year, usually while the allergenic plant in question is pollinating. However, dust mite allergy is the most common allergy in dogs. These allergens remain more or less constant in the home throughout the year.
See your veterinarian for relief from allergies and paw licking. He or she can prescribe medications that will help rein in runaway immune system activity and relieve your dog’s itchy skin.
Infestations and Infections
Another possible cause of chronic itching in dogs is infestation with mange mites or a yeast infectionObviously, it’s important to manage the risk of fleas at all times. Prevent infestation, and re-infestation, through the use of a topical or oral flea/tick preventive available through your family veterinarian.
When fleas bite your dog’s skin (sometimes between the sensitive areas of the paws) they inject minute amounts of saliva, containing fragments of protein. These proteins may be allergenic to your dog, leading to even further misery. As the name implies, flea allergy dermatitis involves itchy, inflamed skin due to flea bites.
Anxiety, OCD & Boredom
Constant licking, biting and scratching can also signal a problem that is more psychological in nature. Dogs are intelligent, energetic creatures. They require mental stimulation to be healthy and well-adjusted. Consider your pet’s exercise needs. Many breeds are high-energy, and they require frequent exercise to be at their best. Like children, dogs thrive on routine. Dramatic changes resulting in the unexpected—such as bringing a new baby home—can provoke anxiety. Work with your dog to reassure him that he’s still an important, integral part of the household. Some dogs may develop an obsessive pattern of paw-licking behavior that is akin to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in humans. This level of obsessive behavior may require medication or other therapies.