Paw licking can be frustrating for pet owners and often we don’t know the reason our pet is continually licking.
Here are the top 10 causes of paw licking and how we would treat each cause.
1) Foreign body (usually one paw) Sometimes grass seeds can penetrate the skin between the toes. This causes a red swelling and at times a small entry point is visible. If there is a secondary infection you may see a yellow discharge too. Your vet will need to sedate your pet and open the area to remove the foreign body.
2) Cut paw pad (usually one paw but can be more depending on the cause): Small cuts on the paw pads can take a long time to heal. They are usually painful to the touch and pets will often continually lick them. Your vet would normally bandage the paw to allow the cut to heal properly
3) Torn Toe nail (usually one paw): Check all the nails and nail beds. Torn toe nails are very painful and sensitive. Your vet will normally sedate your pet and remove the affected nail or trim it depending on where the damage is. Sometimes the quick of the nail is then exposed and your pet may need a bandage for a few days
4) Contact allergy (usually all four paws): Contact allergens can sometimes aggravate the sensitive skin between the paw pads. This may cause redness and irritation of the skin of the paws that touched the contact allergen. Good example of contact allergens are grasses and cleaning detergents. Try and rinse your pets paws with water after walks if you know they are allergic to grass. You can also cover their feet with boots or rubber socks
5) Food allergy dermatitis (usually all four paws): Certain proteins and carbohydrates can cause allergies in pets and we often see these manifest themselves as skin allergies. The paws are often affected. You will need to do 12 week exclusion diet with a novel protein and carbohydrate diet
6) Secondary yeast infections (can be one or more paws): Amy irritation to the skin between the paw pads can disrupt the natural microbes of the skin. When this happens we can sometimes get bacterial and yeast infections. These are extremely itchy and can exacerbate paw licking. These pets will need antibiotics and anti fungals.
7) Arthritis or Pain (can be one or more paws) Pain can cause pets to lick and arthritic pain can often be the culprit. Licking is said to stimulate the body to release endorphins which are feel good hormones and the bodies natural pain relievers. The pain could be from the joint itself or at times from other joints in the body. The paws are often the closest thing to lick and these arthritic pets can sometimes not get around to the affected joint e.g. hip. These pets usually respond very well to acupuncture as a natural way of managing their pain. In severe cases your vet may prescribe anti inflammatories and pain killers. Your vet may request X-rays to confirm the arthritis.
8) Neural pain (usually one paw): A pinched nerve in the neck or back could cause a shooting, burning sensation down the leg towards the paw. The pet will often lick the area including the paw to relive the awkward sensation. Acupuncture is very effective in treating referred neural pain. If you pet is not responding your vet may request X-rays or an MRI.
9) Flea allergy dermatitis (usually all four paws): Some pets can be allergic to a protein in the saliva of fleas. One flea bite can make them itchy all over. Make sure you treat your pet on a monthly basis for fleas.
10) Psychological (can be one or more paws) : Boredom and anxiety can cause pets to become excessive paw lickers. This could be due to the release of endorphins when they lick. They feel better when they lick. Make sure your pet gets adequate exercise, has toys and chews, try natural anti anxiety products and in severe cases one may need to consider doggy antidepressants.
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