Perhaps she’s trying to tell you something…
Paw licking sometimes becomes a way to alleviate boredom so provided there’s no physical reason to avoid exercise, tiring a dog out will create better resting time and sleep. The mental stimulation of exercise combined with a more solid resting time fills a gap with more enjoyment than ‘pass time’ habits.
A dog’s paws, though lowly in position are of high importance. The rubbery pads are paramount for cushioning every step and providing traction. They also protect the delicate bones as well as insulating from hot and cold.
It is important to recognize that paw licking is an essential part of canine self-grooming along with any other body part. However, if you believe your dog is over licking her paws you need to look further.
A limp will alert you to a problem more obviously but sometimes there can be internal damage not visible from the outside. Bruising, a sprain or even (in some cases) a fracture, may be visible to the naked eye. The lack of a limp doesn’t mean the absence of pain.
Acclimating a dog to having his paws handled or gentled greatly makes investigation easier for you and less alarming for your dog. It will also highlight the presence of injury e.g. she usually lets you handle all four but now is recoiling one.
In the first instance look for visible damage such as blood, cuts, cracks, or a difference in structure appearance. Are there any foreign objects? Are there any grass seeds or splinters? Could it be an ant bite? Is there any swelling or discolouration in the pads? Any punctures or burns? Be vigilant in looking deep between the toes too as ticks love to hide out of sight. Do the nails look even in appearance and are any cracked or split? Nails that are too long can cause pain and cause the dog to lick. How does you dog respond whilst you are searching her paws?
Torn paw pads are very difficult to stitch and it’s important to minimize risk of infection. Deeply lodged debris should be removed by a veterinarian as attempting to remove it yourself could worsen the injury plus your dog may need sedation or pain killers.
Another cause for paw licking is allergies. Your vet will help you identify skin conditions. Pollens and grasses can be irritants. Weed treatments or contaminants on the ground can also cause annoyance. Mites and fungal infections can become the bane of a dog’s life. Dogs with diabetes can also suffer foot discomfort just as humans do.
If the medical issues are addressed but you still have a chronic ‘paw licker’, a qualified dog trainer can help you manage this behaviour. Even dogs with an active lifestyle and regular stimulation can be ‘paw lickers’. Licking is a method of self soothing and any repeated behaviours can become habit forming.
Leah & Angela OMeara
Hound Dog Day Care (Specialists in Dog Minding & Dog Boarding, Pet Sitting Brisbane & Doggy Day Care Brisbane)