Pet Talk: Paw Licking Could Mean Many Things

Q: Our dog Abby licks her feet a lot. It is annoying when she wakes us up in the middle of the night doing it. Is there a reason why she does this and any ideas on how to make her stop?

A: Paw licking is part of a dog’s normal grooming behavior. It only becomes a problem when your pet carries it to an extreme. If you think Abby is licking her paws excessively there can be various reasons why and it is up to you to determine what is causing the behavior so you can properly deal with it.

Below are a few reasons that may be triggering this behavior in Abby.

First, examine her feet for signs of injury. There may be a wound that has gotten infected or a thorn, burr or a piece of glass embedded in her foot. She may have a fractured toe. Her nails may be too long or one may even be broken. If the foot is injured Abby will chew on it to relieve the pain or remove the foreign object. It could be she has arthritis and her response is to lick the area that hurts.

Allergies could be another cause. She could be allergic to just about anything. It could be the food she is eating, chemicals in your yard, walking in weeds, carpet cleaning products and so much more. Her paws are often the first place where you’ll notice her becoming itchy.

Anxious dogs often try and find relief by licking themselves excessively. If Abby seems obsessed with licking her paws, a compulsive disorder might be the blame. Treatment might include drug therapy and behavior modification.

Excessive licking could be an indication Abby isn’t getting enough exercise. Boredom and pent-up energy can take a toll. She may lick her feet because it has a calming effect and keeps her occupied. Taking her for long walks, playing games and practicing obedience training can help burn energy.

When she’s home alone, provide chew toys and food-stuffed dog toys to keep her entertained in your absence.

Chronic licking can lead to secondary infections from yeast and bacteria, which can exacerbate the behavior.

Your veterinarian can examine her to rule out medical conditions, and, if needed, suggest a proper treatment.

Hope this helps you to determine if Abby’s paw licking is normal or something more.

Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].

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