A common problem of all dog owners is their dogs licking their paws. Why do some dogs lick or chew their paws? There are several reasons so let's list them first and see what is your dog's reason. Paw licking and chewing is a serious condition that should be stopped or prevented and not allowed to persist. Such behavior can become a habit even after the dog has been treated for the condition. If you allow it to become a habit, then you will have a harder time breaking this bad habit.
Reasons for your dog licking his paw include:
Physical Injury to the Paw - cuts, sprains, strains, bruises
To identify a physical injury, check your dog's paws carefully for any cuts, embedded objected between the toes/pads, redness between the toes/pads, swelling or sores. If the paw that the dog is licking is much warmer than the other paws or exhibits redness or swelling, in most cases this means there is an infection that can be treated with different antiseptic and antibacterial solutions. If it is a bacterial infection, do not use any creams. Creams will only trap the bacteria inside and prevent air to get through to the infected area to dry and heal it causing even more discomfort. Sometimes a broken nail or a nail that is too long and is pushing back against the paw can cause a lot of discomfort. Make sure that you regularly trim your dog's nails.
The symptoms of an allergy include redness, itchiness, and swelling of the paws. Have you changed your dog's food recently or his diet? If you did and your dog started to lick or chew his paws, he could be allergic to the new food. Change your dog's diet until the allergic reactions disappear. Other allergens could be insect bites, like bites from ticks, mites, flies and mosquitoes. Your dog could even be allergic to pollen (inhaled allergy or canine atopy) and certain types of grass which can be confirmed if your dog licks his paws or chews them every time he goes outside and plays in the grass. Your dog can also be allergic to the soap you are using to clean his toys, bowls or your carpets. The shampoo you use when giving him a bath could also be an allergen. Try to use only shampoos or soaps that are approved for dogs. Check also the fertilizer that you use for your grass. Make sure that it has a label stating that it is safe for pets. Even then, you should not let your dog play in the grass right after you applied the fertilizer and watered your lawn. Allow at least 24 hours before you let the dog play in the grass. When treating allergies, some dogs respond well to antihistamines such as Benadryl, other allergy medication and medicated shampoos. Before using any medications such as Benadryl, please consult with your veterinarian first.
Cracked, Dry and Itchy Winter Paws
When your dog goes outside for a walk and his paws get in contact with the wet snow, ice and chemicals such as deicers and road salt, it can cause irritation to the paw pads. Road salt is known to dry the paw pads leading to cracking and infections. This can be prevented by having the dog wear boots, but as we all know, how many dogs want to wear boots? A very popular and effective product made especially for dogs who do not like to wear boots is Musher's Secret - The Invisible Shield - 200 gm. It will prevent burns caused by ice, salt, chemicals, sand, and hot pavement. It is absolutely safe for your dog since it is made from 100% natural waxes that are non-toxic, non-allergenic and will not leave any stains. It is perfect for mushing, ski-jorring, hunting, walking, or before any outdoor activity. An alternative way to solve the problem is to apply Vaseline
Petroleum Jelly to the paw pads and between the toes before going for a
walk and this will keep his paws moisturized and protected from
irritants like salt and deicers. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly can also be used when your dog's paw pads are dry and cracked. Remember to wash and thoroughly dry your dog's feet after coming from a walk to wash off the salt and dirt and prevent bacteria from developing. However, Vaseline Petroleum Jelly will not protect your dog's paws from frostbite. To prevent frostbite, only take the dog for a walk when it is warmer outside or limit the amount of time the dog spends outside. You could also try to put boots on the dog's feet to prevent frostbite.
If your dog licks his paws constantly, this can lead to a fungal infection which can be treated with an anti-fungal solution. The reason is that constant moisture and wetness of the paws encourages fungal growth, especially between the toes. Proper grooming such as the trimming of the hair between the toes can prevent moisture from collecting and increase the airflow between the toes keeping the paws dry.
Stress and Boredom
When dogs are stressed, they will chew or lick their paws to relax themselves. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety or any form of anxiety, you need to use behavioral therapy to solve this problem. Also, when dogs are bored, they may resort to chewing their own paws just to release that excess energy and frustration that is built inside them. This is why it is very important to walk your dog regularly and provide plenty of exercise and mind stimulation.