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Why does my dog lick his paws?

Dog chewing paw

(Q) My dog, Kara, is a yellow Labrador. She constantly and very aggressively licks at the knuckles on her front paws, so much so that she strips them of hair and makes them very sore. Why does she do this? How can I stop her?

Health

(A) Vet Roberta Baxter says: Excessive licking of the wrists and paws could relate to skin allergies, it could be a behavioural habit that relieves stress and anxiety, or it could be related to deeper pain in the affected area.

People often use Bitter Apple Spray to deter dogs from licking a particular area, and washing paws after walks can reduce irritation due to pollen allergies. However, it’s important to try to establish the cause of the behaviour so that an appropriate treatment can be found.

Get Kara checked out by your vet so that he can examine her and see whether she has any underlying pain or stiffness in the knuckle areas, whether she has signs of allergic skin disease, or whether her problem is due to unresolved anxiety. Then you will know how best to sort this problem out.

Homeopathy

(A) Homeopathic vet Holly Mash says: There are a number of reasons why Kara might be chewing at her front feet. Dogs sometimes lick at areas of their bodies that are painful. Does she limp on her front feet or seem uncomfortable getting around at all?

Alternatively, she might be suffering from a skin complaint that is making her feel itchy and want to lick herself. Dogs also lick at areas as a reaction to stress, or due to an emotional problem such as grief or anxiety. Due to the numerous possible causes it’s best if you have Kara checked out by your vet. If the licking does have more of an emotional cause, then homeopathic remedies and Bach Flower Essences could be especially beneficial. There is a remedy called ignatia that is often recommended for grief-related problems in dogs. Using essential fatty acids (such as borage oil and Omega 3) can help to reduce inflammation and itchiness.

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