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Why do dogs lick their paws?

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Surely you have ever seen your dog lick his paws, for example, when he is getting ready to rest. There are several reasons that can lead you to do it and it can even be a sign of the existence of some pathology. Here’s why dogs lick their paws.

My dog licks his paws a lot. Is he sick?

It is one thing to see our dog lick one or more legs from time to time, which, in principle, would not be worrying, as it may just be due to an interesting smell. But quite another is a compulsive and insistent licking, whether focused on one or more than one leg. There are several causes behind why dogs continually lick their paws.

The first step in solving this situation is to carefully examine the area in search of any injury or foreign body, such as a spike, that may explain the dog’s reaction. Don’t forget to check the interdigital spaces. If we extract the object with tweezers or the wound is superficial, we can heal it ourselves at home.

But, sometimes, the resolution of the case is not so simple, since the licking is caused by an injury that can be a disease, which the veterinarian will have to diagnose and treat. This professional always has to rule out a physical cause, but if the dog is healthy, the paw licking may be due to a psychological problem.

Diseases in the paws of dogs

If you wonder why your dog licks its paws, when this behavior becomes insistent, there may be a disease behind it such as pododermatitis, atopic dermatitis, or even a cyst located in the interdigital space.

In addition, if the licking does not stop, the dog will end up causing wounds that can end up becoming infected, thus complicating the picture and its resolution. Therefore, if you see your dog licking its paws non-stop, go to the vet. We explain the most common causes of licking in more detail:

Pododermatitis: is the name given to the inflammation produced in the interdigital spaces. It can be triggered after a blow, an injury, an allergy, systemic or psychological illnesses, or even the presence of parasites. It will be the veterinarian who must reach the diagnosis of the cause.

Atopic dermatitis: this type of dermatitis is due to an allergic reaction, which can be to pollen, dust, etc. It causes an itch that leads the dog to scratch and lick, not just the paws. It is normal for the hairs on the feet to appear a reddish hue. The vet will prescribe drugs to relieve the itch.

Interdigital cysts: these are actually inflammatory reactions that appear between the fingers. They look like a lump that can break open and remove the pus. They are usually caused by a blow, a foreign body, or a string. The veterinarian will have to prescribe a treatment based on antibiotics.

Psychological causes why a dog licks its paws a lot

In addition to physical causes that the vet will have to rule out as a first step, why dogs lick their paws may also be due to a psychological problem. Specifically, some specimens even lick their paws as a way of channeling the stress and anxiety they feel.

When can a dog suffer stress? There are various causes. For example, a dog will be stressed that does not receive enough stimulation, is very nervous and does not have the possibility to release its energy or spend many hours alone. Also, dogs with cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which is like Alzheimer’s, can also lick their paws.

It is important to solve these problems as much as possible, since the licking to which the paws are subjected can end up triggering physical disorders, such as infections. Not to mention the suffering that stress causes the dog and that we must also solve by modifying their living conditions. Find an ethologist or canine behavior expert.

How to prevent my dog from licking his paws

Better than finding out why dogs lick their paws and having to start a treatment, which can be lengthy and complex, including an Elizabethan collar, is to prevent paw problems as much as possible. We review some basic tips that can help us in this goal. They are as follows:

  • Make sure that we offer our dog all the attention and care it needs, which includes education, socialization, exercise, company, etc. It is the way to prevent behavior problems. If any aspect fails, it will have to be modified.
  • Use specific hygiene products for dogs and appropriate to the characteristics of ours. In this way, we help prevent allergic reactions and irritations. If in doubt, consult your vet.
  • Maintain the deworming calendar that this professional advises you on according to the vital circumstances of your dog. Parasites are a year-round problem and can’t just cause leg problems.
  • When you get home after walking through the fields or difficult terrain, check the legs well, paying special attention to the interdigital spaces.
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