Obsessive Paw Licking

dog nose and pawIt’s normal for a dog to lick or chew its paws from time to time, but when the behavior grows obsessive, it can indicate an underlying problem. And, when left untreated, obsessive paw licking can lead to bald patches, raw skin, swollen or inflamed wounds, and secondary infections.

Obsessive licking or paw chewing can occur for several reasons, and it can be challenging to identify the source. Working closely with your veterinarian and following the clues your dog provides can help provide solutions.

Pain

Paw licking associated with pain is usually sudden and affects a single paw. Even if there is no visual indication of injury, you should contact your vet as soon as possible in case there is a fracture or sprain.

Allergies

Just like humans, dogs can have allergies. A wide variety of substances can cause allergic reactions, including foods, metals, lawn chemicals, cleaning products, pollen, dust mites, and even rubber or plastic.

Boredom

Boredom is a common cause of negative behaviors like obsessive paw licking and chewing – especially with high energy dogs. If you suspect boredom, doggy daycare “Playday” sessions can help your dog burn off excess energy and provide them with an opportunity to socialize with other dogs.

Anxiety

For some dogs, paw licking is a soothing activity similar to a human’s nail-biting. This type of paw licking is usually of little concern, but if it becomes excessive or compulsive, you should notify your veterinarian.

Cold Weather

If you notice paw licking during the winter months, your dog’s issue is likely related to the weather. Deicing salts can lead to chemical burns on your dog’s paws, and snow can cause painful ice balls to form in paw fur. Follow best practices for winter weather safety to avoid these issues.

Obsessive paw licking and chewing can have additional causes, including hormonal deficiencies, or simply develop out of habit. Once your veterinarian determines the source of your dog’s behavior, they can provide strategies to increase your dog’s comfort and reduce their obsessive licking.