Why is my dog obsessed with licking his paws?!
Chewing and licking paws is something we commonly see in veterinary medicine. Although occasional paw licking can be a normal behavior for dogs, excessive licking and chewing should never be considered normal and is often a sign of something more serious going on with your pet. There may be many different reasons why your pet is licking and chewing his feet including wounds, allergies, pain, and masses. In any of these cases, your dog may develop a focal spot of infection (called a “hot spot”) from constantly licking an area.
If your pet suddenly begins chewing or licking one of his paws, you should take him to get checked out by your veterinarian. Often, the cause is due to a cut or puncture wound on the paw and may even be caused by a foreign body, such as a grass awn, penetrating and lodging itself in the skin of the paw. Most of the time, these injuries are not serious and with proper wound care, antibiotics, and pain medications, your dog will recover just fine.
A more complicated reason your dog may be licking his paws is allergies. Dogs with environmental and especially, food allergies, often lick and chew all of their feet to the point of creating sores and secondary bacterial or yeast infections. These dogs are often chronic feet chewers and have pink staining (if they have light colored fur) due to a pigment in their slobber called porphyrin. Dogs with allergic skin disease require life long care and commitment to getting their allergies under control. They often require antibiotics for secondary infections and anti-itch medications to keep them comfortable. Some dogs even need special food if they have a true food allergy. Allergies can be frustrating to manage, but luckily many new products are being introduced to help stop the cycle of itching. If your dog is a chronic foot-chewer, talk with your veterinarian about different options to help alleviate this behavior.
Other reasons your dog may be licking his paws, especially a specific paw, include pain and masses. Arthritis and nerve pain may cause your dog to constantly lick the area to help soothe the pain. Arthritis can often be diagnosed with x-rays and your veterinarian can prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication to help ease arthritis pain. Masses on top of paws or even growing between toes can also cause irritation and make your dog want to lick or chew that paw. If you notice a mass anywhere on your pet, have your veterinarian check it out.
If your fur baby has taken paw licking to the extreme, bring him in for a visit with your veterinarian so you both can get some relief.