Why Is My Dog Licking Its Paws Constantly?

Injured Dog Paw from Licking

  • Are you going demented by your dog licking his paws constantly?
  • Has it gotten to the point where your dog is licking his paw raw?
  • Are you tired asking yourself “why my dog won't stop licking his paws?”

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then the first thing you need to know about this condition is that you are not alone. Thousands of owners suffer the same fate.

The second thing you need to know is that the situation can be rectified.

It’s important to note that you do need to investigate skin licking. Left unchecked, it could possibly have serious consequences, like those in the adjacent image.

To get to the bottom of the issue, we first must try to understand the cause.

Possible Causes

Broadly, there are two avenues to explore : pathological and psychological.

Pathological Causes

Are those that have an underlying physical problem underpinning the itchiness or pain to which your dog responds to by licking of the affected area.

You might want to trot over to your veterinarian who is rather better equipped to diagnose this. He will first visually assess the affected area; then he is likely to palpate (press gently) in an attempt to narrow down the cause — for example, itchiness is less likely than pain to elicit a reaction from your dog. The next step could involve a radiograph and, possibly, blood tests. This will help distinguish between a lesion affecting the bone and one that is only within the surrounding tissue.

Alternatively, or following examination of the radiograph, your veterinarian may ask for your consent to proceed with a dermatological examination by an expert. This will require photographs (possibly), skin scrapings (don’t worry, this will not hurt very much) and skin biopsies (these will hurt, but your veterinarian will use a local anesthetic).

It is possible that your veterinarian fails to locate the cause during your first visit. He may request that you return in a few weeks — if the underlying cause is pathological, there is the distinct possibility that the lesion has grown by then to the extent that diagnosis is possible.

Watch Video of Shih Tzu Licking Paws Constantly

You can see from the owner's reaction there is concern… such behavior cannot be healthy, and whether a pathological or psychological it must be eliminated for the well-being of your pet.

Psychological Causes

If there is no pathological reason found, your veterinarian will suggest that the underlying cause could be psychological. You must keep in mind that an underlying psychological trigger can result in a pathological (physical) manifestation. That is, if the psychologically initiated behavior is left untreated for some length of time, your dog could have a lesion similar to the one at the top of the page.

This could confuse your veterinarian initially, but he should nail down the cause as psychological when treatment for the lesion resolves the physical but not the behavior.

Psychological causes have complex origins. Current thinking suggests that possible causes include boredom and anxiety. In addition, especially when the behavior is chronic, your veterinarian will consider an obsessive compulsive disorder.

Treatment – How to stop your dog from licking paws?

Earlier the better

One aspect that you must keep in mind is that the earlier you take action, the better the chances of success. A delay in treatment can result in the animal getting “conditioned” to licking.

In essence, it means that your dog could “get accustomed” to licking. Subsequently, even if the pathological cause is removed, your dog may remain motivated to continue licking its paws… which could result in another pathological lesion — a lick granuloma, for example.

This pattern would create a vicious circle from which it would be somewhat difficult to recover… “so nip it in the bud”.

Treatment for pathological causes

If the root cause of your dog licking its paw excessively is pathological, then treatment is usually relatively simple… with one glaring exception. Allergies!

A thorn, or even an awn is child’s play compared to the complexities of dealing with an allergic reaction.

The trouble with diagnosing allergies that cause itchiness is that your dog is reacting to the summation of itchiness caused independently by food, environmental, parasitic and contact effects. Random events, seasonality and dietary variations further complicate matters.

You and your dog along with your veterinarian can spend months trying to determine which allergens are triggering the reaction. Dietary trials alone take up to twelve weeks. And, since the process is one of elimination, it necessarily is slow and tedious.

But you can get to the bottom of the problem — just be prepared to carefully follow instructions and take it one day at a time.

Do you know one of these dog breeds? They are known to be susceptible to allergies or have sensitive skin:

Treatment for psychological causes

If your dog’s licking has been determined to be psychological in origin, the road ahead can also be difficult.

Your veterinarian will advise you to increase your dog’s level of activity through a regimen of daily exercise couple with training — this is aimed at reducing boredom and anxiety levels.

If your dog’s licking has been determined to be an obsessive compulsive disorder(OCD), you will probably need to see an animal behavioral specialist if possible. The key, with OCDs, is to identify and remove the source of conflict. You could also try to distract the animal from the behavior (although there is a school of thought that suggests your attempt at distraction may satisfy your dog’s need for attention).

And, avoid punishment, since that only increases your dog’s anxiety level.

Here are a few dog breeds whose excessive paw licking might be the result of obsessive compulsive disorder

Don't give up on your dog paw licking

This behavior is challenging for both you and your dog, and you may be a little intimidated at this point, but you need to understand that we have considered worst-case scenarios.

Because you are a loving owner (you are reading this article, after all) you will react early to your pet’s problems and, with some attention and a bit of luck, you will forever help rid your dog of the discomfort and pain caused by licking its paws constantly.