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Why do dogs lick their paws?

Foot licking can simply be a normal grooming behavior or a habit-formed behavior that occurs when the dog is stressed, or bored. Determining the cause of the problem, and then deciding the best form of treatment for your furry baby will help to keep you and your four-legged friend happy and healthy.

Some of the most common causes for paws licking are:

Habit or boredom: restless, stressed dogs can get into all kinds of trouble attempting to let out their boredom, and for some dogs, it comes as obsessive paw licking. If your dog is a high-energy furry baby who needs lots of exercise and walks, paw licking can easily become a habit.

Allergies: if your canine buddy has food allergy or atopy (an inflammatory reaction to air-borne pollens), the paws are usually the first place to become itchy, especially if your dog is allergic to grass pollens. The allergens picked up on the paws will cause discomfort.

Anxiety: dogs are animals that require daily routine, with consistency, to stay happy and healthy. When their routine is disturbed, they can become upset and anxious, making them licking their paws as a way to comfort themselves.

Injury: if your dog has split, cracked pads, a broken nail, a fractured toe, or a foreign body stuck in the bottom of their foot they will tend to lick at the injured area. This will ease the discomfort and begin the healing process.

OCD: Some dogs can develop a psychological disorder known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Scientific studies have shown the possibility of an opiate-like chemical called endorphins to be released from the dog’s brain into the bloodstream to produce a sense of calmness and well being during times of stress and anxiety, when they constantly lick their paws.

Disease: fungal infections, mange mites, and nasty annoying fleas can burrow into the areas between the toes and around the pads of your dog’s feet causing abhorrent, burning itch. Diabetes and chronic arthritis cause nerve damage and bone pain in their paws and they will lick and chew on them to alleviate the pain.

Although some paw licking is considered a normal grooming behavior, excessive, consistent chewing and licking suggests an underlying issue. Observe how your dog behaves and contact your vet if you are suspicious of any change in they way he/she is behaving; keep their paws clean and always touch/play with their ‘hands’! If you needed any excuse to teach your dog on how to ‘high five’ you have just found yourself one!


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