My friend, Samantha, has a dog named Morris that constantly licks or bites his paws. She was worried about Morris, so I wanted to see what I could do to help her. Apparently, there are many dogs out there that lick or bite their paws for many different reasons. Below are some tips to help you decide how serious the condition is and what you can do to help your pup.
Allergies and itching are the most common cause of obsessive paw licking. One common cause of itching and paw licking is flea allergies on the foot. Food allergies are also common, as are environmental allergies. A skin infection or a healing wound could also cause licking.
If your dog is itching and licking his or her paws, the licking will provide only brief relief and will cause further itching in the long term. Therefore it is best to consult your vet to help you get to the bottom of the allergy issue.
Some dogs chew their paws out of boredom or a lack of exercise. This type of licking may progress to Canine Compulsive Disorder (yes, there is such a thing!), but in the beginning it is less severe than the behaviors associated with CCD. Dogs left home alone all day may lick their paws for this reason.
This can also happen when an owner stops walking his or her dog due to a schedule or life change. For example, if the owner switches jobs or brings another pet home, many dogs begin chewing their paws as a result of a sudden disruption in his or her exercise and socialization routines.
Treatment of obsessive foot chewing and paw licking should start with a physical evaluation. A veterinarian should identify any health problem that might be causing the paw chewing. The vet should also look for problems like skin infections caused by paw licking. If a health problem is found, it must be treated as soon as possible. Your vet will give you the proper medication.
If a health problem has been ruled out or if the licking continues after the underlying health problem has been treated, a professional animal behaviorist should be consulted. Behavior modification plans are designed based on each dog's individual personality. The behaviorist may recommend distracting the dog with increased exercise or treating the behavior with medication.
Prevention of paw chewing should be part of a complete approach to physical and behavioral health. To avoid allergies from the start, feed your dog a premium food and rotate protein sources with each bag. You should also make sure that your dogs get plenty of exercise and bonding time with you and your family. Try, if you can, to avoid frequent changes in the dog's daily routine. If a major change such as a move happens, try to make the event as stress-free for your dog as you can.
I hope these tips help. As always, first see your veterinarian if the chewing and/ or licking lasts for more than a few days.
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