Why do dogs lick and chew their paws? Many dogs lick or chew their paws either occasionally or routinely. Some will focus on one paw while others focus on
all four at any given time. There are many possible reasons for this behavior and knowing when, how often, and which paws can help your veterinarian to find the underlying cause for the behavior. Some owners never see their dog licking his paws, but will see the results, which include discoloration of the fur on the paw or paws or redness between the toes. If you notice any of these behaviors you may want to seek the help of your veterinarian to determine if there is a reason to be concerned. While this article cannot contain all of the reasons for a dog to lick his paws, a few of the more common reasons are discussed below.
Pain or Discomfort
One of the reasons for a dog to suddenly start paying attention to his paw is the pain. If a dog has a wound, injury or some foreign object, like a burr, lodged in his paw, he may chew or lick furiously to try to get the cause of pain to go away. If your dog will let you, inspect the affected paw thoroughly, including between the toes on both top and bottom of the paw. Look for redness or swelling. Look for cuts, scrapes, punctures or burns. Try to feel the webbing between the paw pads to see if anything is stuck in them such as a burr or even a splinter. Look for broken or bloody nails. Pay attention to how your dog reacts when you are touching different parts of his foot. This may tell you where the problem area is located.
Many dogs with environmental allergies will lick their paws often. This is one of the conditions that lead to discoloration of the hair on the paw or paws your dog likes to pay attention to the most. Many times these dogs will have redness or inflammation between the paw pads and discoloration of the nailbeds. Sometimes they may create a secondary infection of the paw pads because of the constant licking. These dogs are usually itchy either all over or in key spots such as the base of the tail, the chest or the ears.
Sometimes dogs lick their paws for the soothing effect because they are anxious or bored. Dogs with anxiety are often restless and may demand a lot of attention when you are around. Constant licking of the paws due to anxiety or boredom can lead to other complications such as infections of the skin on the paw or inflamed callous- type lesions are known as lick granulomas.
Constant licking of any area, but especially the tender skin between the toes can lead to painful, inflamed infections of the skin. Chewing of areas of haired skin just above the foot can lead to granulomas. Both of these conditions can cause your dog varying levels of discomfort. Sometimes a painful condition can cause your dog to inflict further trauma on his foot. It can be hard to differentiate between and underlying injury or self-trauma due to allergies or anxiety. Any time your dog is showing signs of infection or pain of the feet, you should have him examined by your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. Untreated dermatitis can become a much larger issue that requires expensive, long term treatment. Keeping your dog well-groomed on a routine basis will help you catch potential problems early before they become larger issues for your dog.
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