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10 causes of paw licking and how to treat it

As a pet owner, you may notice your dog continually licking their paws and more often than not, not know the reason behind this. In the video below, owner of Vondi’s Holistic Pet Nutrition – Paul Jacobson, touches briefly on the main points of this topic and sheds some light on what can be done about it.

For a more detailed overview, the causes and treatments are listed in point form below.

  • A foreign body (this is usually only in one paw) Sometimes grass seeds can penetrate the skin between the dog’s toes, causing a red swelling and at times a small entry point can be visible. You may see a yellow discharge too if there is a secondary infection. Your local vet will need to sedate your pet and open the area to remove the foreign body from their paw.
  • Torn toenail (also generally in one paw): Torn toenails are very painful and sensitive. Your vet will need to remove the affected nail or trim it depending on where the damage is, which is usually done while your pet is sedated.
  • Paw pad cuts (depending on the cause, can be one or more paws): Small cuts on the paw pads can take a long time to heal and are usually painful to the touch, causing your dog to often lick them continually. Your vet will normally bandage the paw to allow the cut to heal adequately.
  • Contact allergy (usually all four paws): Grasses and cleaning detergents can be the cause, which may result in redness and irritation of the skin to the paws that touched the contact allergen. Try to rinse your pet’s paws with clean water after taking them for a walk, especially if you know of grass allergies they have.
  • Food allergy dermatitis (also generally all four paws): Some types of proteins and carbohydrates can cause allergies in pets, which we often see manifest themselves into skin allergies that affect their paws. A 12 week exclusion diet with a novel protein and carbohydrate diet.
  • Flea allergy dermatitis (usually all four paws as well): There are some pets that are allergic to a protein in the saliva of the flea and just one flea bite can make them itchy all over. Another main cause of itchy skin and paws is the flea poison that’s been digested or applied topically. The solution is to use vondis khakibos spray regularly if not daily. Natural remedies are effective as long as they are used frequently.  
  • 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.
  • Neural pain (usually one paw): Just like in humans a pinched nerve in the neck or back could cause a shooting, burning sensation, in dogs this is usually down the leg towards the paw. The pet will often lick the affected area including the paw for relief. Acupuncture is very effective in treating referred neural pain. Alternatively consult your local vet.
  • Secondary yeast infections (this can be one or more paws): Any skin irritation between the paw pads can disrupt the natural microbes of the skin, which can sometimes get bacterial and cause yeast infections. This can be extremely itchy and can make the paw licking worse. Your dog will need antibiotics and antifungals.
  • Psychological (also can be one or more paws) : Anxiety or boredom can cause pets to lick their paws excessively. Endorphins get released when they lick so they feel better when they do. Give your dog an adequate amount of exercise and make sure they have chew toys etc.

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Phone: (021) 439 1784
59 Regent Road, Sea Point