Obsessive paw licking is always a sign of trouble. There are four common reasons that your dog may be doing this – all of them require your attention. The first two are behavioral, while the second two are environmental.
Injuries & Infections
If you see your dog suddenly licking or chewing one foot in particular, check for injuries or signs of infection. There are many injuries of the pad that may cause your dog to lick and chew it, including:
* Puncture wounds
* Cuts and scraps
* Burns (from hot asphalt for example)
* Foreign bodies stuck in the pads, fur, or between toes. Things like burrs, seeds, thorns, and ticks are common.
* Bone fractures in the toes or nails
* Torn toenail
If you notice anything unusual, use your best judgement if you need to take your dog to the vet. Some of these you can treat at home, others need veterinary attention.
A cut or wound that is left untreated can become infected, which can also cause licking and chewing, even if your dog wasn’t doing it before. Small objects can get lodged inside your dog’s skin, causing infections as well. Seeds can even work themselves into your dog’s bone (foxtail is a big culprit), so it’s important see a vet if you suspect something is lodged where you cannot see.
Blue Buffalo issued a recall a few years ago on one of their cat foods because propylene glycol was found in them. In cats, propylene glycol is known to cause Heinz Body formation in the red blood cells. It reduces the red blood cells survival time, renders red blood cells more susceptible to oxidative damage and has other adverse effects in cats.
If your dog has light fur or paw pads, then you can easily see the inflammation – they will have bright pink to rusty red discoloration on the paws and fur. Your dog will obsessively lick and chew, mostly likely all his feet (whereas with an injury it will just be the one affected foot). If he has been doing it for a while, he will lose the hair around his mouth and nose. If it gets really bad, your dog may even limp from the discomfort they are feeling.
If you suspect allergies (your dog may also be itchy all over and constantly scratching themselves), a good thing to cut out first is grains. Grains are notorious for causing allergy responses in dogs. It’s why we don’t put them in our Stay Loyal dog foods. Switching to Stay Loyal Grain Free has helped many dogs stop foot chewing and licking.
Stress & Anxiety
Some dogs start licking and chewing on their pads out of stress or anxiety. Many dogs in shelters will exhibit this behavior. If you have already ruled out injuries, infection, and allergies, it’s time to think about whether or not your dog is stressed.
Pay attention to when your dog is licking. This may give you a clue as to what is causing the stress so you can change the situation. If you get stuck, consult a dog trainer.
Boredom & OCD
If your dog is not stressed, they could be bored – another way paw licking and chewing is exhibited, often in shelter dogs. Sometimes, paw licking that started out as an injury or infection, becomes an obsessive compulsive disorder. Like chasing their tail, dogs begin to lick and chew and just can’t stop themselves.
Giving your dog something to do, such as a bone to chew on or a food toy can help stop this behavior if it’s due to boredom and sometimes help with OCD. Also make sure they are getting plenty of exercise. Again, if you get stuck, consult a dog trainer.