For example, if your dog licks their paws after walking, the itching could be caused by pesticides in the grass or by a particular weed. Clean your dog's feet with a wet wipe after each walk to prevent further irritation.
Finding the real cause of the itchiness can be a very frustrating ordeal. It may take some enormous investigative work to figure out what your dog is allergic to, and it is best to have your vet run a blood test so you can address the root cause of the problem rather than just giving your dog antihistamines.
3. Gastrointestinal Issues
Dogs who lick their paws excessively may be suffering from GI issues. According to a clinical study published by the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, gastrointestinal issues were present in a significant number of dogs who displayed abnormal licking.
Nineteen dogs that were showing signs of excessive licking were compared with 10 healthy dogs. On top of taking medical and behavioral histories and conducting a thorough physical and neurological examination, the dogs underwent abdominal ultrasounds, endoscopic examinations, and biopsies of the stomach and duodenum.
The research revealed that 14 out of the 19 licking dogs were found to have some sort of GI abnormality, such as a lymphocytic-plasmacytic infiltration, chronic pancreatitis, or a gastric foreign body.
Modern times have created an environment of boredom for dogs. Once used to walking, hunting, and scavenging, dogs today are often left at home in a small yard—or worse, a crate—for many hours a day. High-energy dogs may become frustrated and engage in destructive activities that may include excessive licking and chewing of their paws.
How to Prevent Boredom in Dogs
- Don't leave your dog at home alone for long periods of time.
- If you must leave your dog alone, give them a treat-filled Kong to keep them occupied.
- Give your dog frequent opportunities to play and exercise.
- Take your dog for a walk or play fetch at the park for at least 30 minutes each day.
- Allow your pup to socialize with other people and other dogs (if well-socialized).
- Don't keep your dog confined to a crate or tied up in the backyard.
Anxious dogs often seek relief by licking themselves excessively. Possible causes of anxiety vary and range from separation issues to obsessive-compulsive disorders. In this sense, paw-licking or chewing in dogs may be similar to human nail-biting.
Some dogs lick their paws before bed or lick themselves to sleep. This is just their way of relaxing and soothing themselves. If there is no redness or swelling, this type of paw-licking should not be a concern.
Possible Causes of Anxiety in Dogs
- Lack of proper exercise
- Separation from owner
If licking becomes compulsive and excessive, dogs may lick themselves raw and develop unsightly ulcers often referred to as ''lick granuloma." It is still not completely understood whether lick granulomas are triggered by anxiety or if they are the cause of anxiety. It's a "chicken or egg" scenario.
6. Hormonal Imbalance
When a dog has a hormonal imbalance, they either produce too much cortisol (which can cause Cushing's disease) or don't produce enough thyroid hormone (which can cause hypothyroidism). This can increase a dog's susceptibility to developing skin issues such as red spots, balding, and brittle hair. Licking these irritated red spots or bald patches can lead to a secondary infection.
7. Dry Skin
Dry skin is often a breed-specific issue, but it can also be caused by over-bathing or a cold, dry environment.
Breed Specific: Hairless breeds are often prone to a variety of skin conditions because they don't have the natural protection that hair provides. Breeds in this category include the Chinese Crested, the Xoloitzcuintli, and the American Hairless Terrier.
Dry Weather: Dry skin is also common among dogs living in cold and dry climates. If this is the case, ask your veterinarian to recommend a natural dog lotion or oil to relieve the dryness. If you are worried that oils will leave a mess around the house, you can try feeding your dog quality vitamins and oil supplements.
Bathing Habits: If your dog is experiencing dry skin unrelated to the climate or their breed, you should avoid excessive bathing and the use of harsh soaps.
8. Fleas or Ticks
Fleas and ticks cause severe itchiness that can lead to compulsive paw-licking and chewing. The condition can get even worse if your dog is allergic to fleas. In addition to using insecticides and flea medication, make sure to rid your house of fleas. If your pet is allergic to cleaning products or over-the-counter medications, there are non-toxic ways to get rid of fleas and prevent them from coming back.
9. Ice Balls
Ice balls can form between hairy toes when snow gets caught in your dog's fur. It can lead to cracking, bleeding, and hair pulling, all of which are quite painful.
Keep the hair between the pads and toes trimmed short during the winter.
If you have a really hairy dog, there are ways to prevent the formation of ice balls, including rubbing Crisco between the pads and into the fur.
10. Yeast Infection
If you suspect a yeast infection, a poor diet may be to blame.
Sometimes, the simplest treatment for hair loss and itching caused by a yeast infection is to switch out your dog's food based on your vet's advice.
Make sure to provide quality foods full of specific nutrients and vitamins that are beneficial for the gut and the skin.
How to Stop Your Dog From Licking Their Paws
The cause of your dog's irritation may have been something simple like a mosquito bite, but their chewing and licking may have worsened the problem and caused a secondary infection. To put a permanent stop to the issue, you must simultaneously stop your dog from licking their paws and find a way to relieve the pain, irritation, or itchiness. Treatment, of course, should be based on the underlying cause of the problem.
Ways to Stop Your Dog From Licking Their Paws
- Have your dog wear an Elizabethan collar or cone.
- Distract them with plenty of toys to chew.
- Provide stuffed Kongs to keep their mind occupied.
Home Remedies for Itchy Paws
- If your dog has allergies or is suffering from dry skin, use a steam vaporizer or a humidifier in your home. The steam helps brings moisture back into the dry air and can also reduce the chances of your dog's nasal passages clogging up with mucus. Make sure to clean the humidifier to prevent mold; otherwise, the irritation may get worse.
- Wipe your dog's paws any time you come in from outside in case the allergy is due to something your dog walks on. Use pet wipes or a damp washcloth.
- Give your dog a 10-minute foot soak made with cool water and a quality natural shampoo. The water helps rinse off any allergens, and the cool temperature helps soothe itchy skin.
- Give your dog a high-quality fish oil supplement rich in omega fatty acids. Fish oil helps strengthen dogs' immune systems and acts as an anti-inflammatory, but it may take 8 to 12 weeks to kick in.