Dogs lick their paws either out of habit or because of medical problems such as allergies and infections. The reason behind why you dog is licking its paws will determine how you try to stop it. Solutions include behaviour modification techniques, medication, products that make your dogs paws taste bitter and devices that prevent your pet from accessing the paws.
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Why Dogs Lick Their Paws
Take a close look at your dog's paws. If the paws are red, swollen or crusty, your dog might have an infection, which may be either the cause or the effect of excessive licking. The paws may also be irritated by something the dog walked on, such as salt used to dissolve snow and ice. If the paws have bumps or lumps between the toes and footpads, your dog might have a painful cyst or some other growth that is making its paws sore. If there is no sign of inflammation or infection, other reasons for licking might include habit, boredom or stress relief. Excessive paw licking can encourage infections and skin injury, as the paws are kept too damp and become a breeding ground for fungus and bacteria.
Visit Your Vet
If your dog's paws look unhealthy, take him to a veterinarian. Medication may be needed to heal the paws. Your vet might also suggest changes to diet or dog grooming that will ease your dog's urge to lick.
Creams and Sprays
If the licking is a behavioural problem, the solution may be a cream, ointment or spray which is non-toxic but extremely bitter tasting. Beware that over time, the dog may become used to the taste and the product will lose its effectiveness. If this happens, try a new brand.
Another option is anti-licking devices. Adhesive strips are available, which bond to the fur on a dog's paws and block them from licking the surface of the paw. These strips will often have ingredients on them that taste bad to your dog and are usually designed to fall off after a few days. If your dog starts licking again, try applying again. You can also try breaking the dog's paw-licking habit with specialised collars, such as an oversized plastic cone or lampshade collar. Some dogs are miserable in these hard plastic collars because it interferes with eating and drinking. Soft cone collars are also available, made of a lightweight durable fabric which may be less stressful for your dog.
Think About How You Treat Your Dog
If medical conditions have been ruled out and deterring products aren't doing the job, think about how you treat and interact with your dog. Your dog might be bored, stressed or feeling neglected. Think about ways that you can improve life for your dog. Be more interactive with your dog, take her for walks, and provide plenty of exercise and play. Don't do things that cause stress, such as yelling or hitting. Be kind and attentive to your dog, but don't reward bad behaviour.
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