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Every time you look at your dog recently, you seem to find him licking at the inside of his legs. The hair around his dewclaws is gone and the exposed skin is tender, perhaps even raw. You may be at a loss as to what to do if you don't remember any injury to the area, but you want to do something for him. You'll need to discover what is causing him to lick so much at his legs and what you can do to treat him.
A dog rarely begins licking obsessively from out of the blue. Many reasons exist for obsessive licking, including boredom, dry or broken skin, pain, allergies, anxiety, parasites or even long or injured nails. According to DogPawLicking.com, if a dog licks at one paw or just the front paws, psychological issues are usually to blame; dogs that lick at all four paws may have allergies or other physical issues. At first, the licking might seem to have no causative factor; however, taking a moment to make a closer examination will usually reveal a telltale sign either on your dog or in his environment.
Dogs, like people, can have food allergies and allergies to things in their environment. Dogs can be allergic to grass or to the agents with which people treat the grass. In addition, dogs may have allergies to processed food, such as corn or beef in their kibble. Dogs with food allergies often chew on their feet and pasterns to relieve the itching caused by such allergies.
Boredom and Stress
A dog with nothing to do will frequently lick at its front legs, toes and dewclaws. One theory is that licking releases endorphins, chemicals released by the body to reduce pain and cause a person to "feel good." Because the dog feels better when it licks itself, it continues to lick despite causing damage to itself. Lick granulomas are small raw areas that may grow quite large and dangerous to your dog's health if the situation is not changed. Providing your dog with interactive toys, attention or spending time with him by training him or playing with him may prevent him from licking those areas.
Dogs that do not receive sufficient fat in their diet will sometimes lick compulsively at a portion of their bodies. Adding fat or oil supplements to your dog's food can help reduce the itching caused by dry skin.
Long or Broken Dewclaws
Pain can cause a dog to lick at an area; broken or damaged nails may also cause a dog to lick at its paws. If your dog is licking his dewclaws, it may mean that he caught it on something and either broke the nail or tore the skin. Dewclaws that have been partly torn away from the dog's leg might need a veterinarian's attention. Torn or broken dewclaws can also lead to infection, which in turn may encourage your dog to lick at his dewclaws.
People with dogs tend to think of fleas when they think of parasites. However, ticks can sometimes embed themselves between a dog's toes. If your dog is chewing at his dewclaws, a tick may have attached itself in that area, especially if he has recently been walking in tall grass. Inspect the area visually but also feel for small bumps that might indicate an immature tick is feeding on your dog's leg. Demodectic mange, caused by the parasitic demodex mange mite, also initiates localised itching that might appear on the dog's feet.
- Dean Golja/Digital Vision/Getty Images