This is a very common question among dog owners. Could it be a medical problem or a behavioral one? Why won’t they stop? Could it be harmful for them to lick their feet? The truth is that these questions really don’t have a simple answer.
Anytime you have a question about your dog where a “behavior” is involved, it’s critical that you first rule out any potential medical reasons for it. Once you have ruled out all medical concerns, then you can deal with the issue as a behavioral one- and you can use behavioral modification techniques.
Your vet is really the only one that will be able to determine exactly what is going on- and here are a few things that he is going to want to know and will be checking for upon examination.
Red, Swollen, Crusty/Flaky Feet
If your dog’s feet are crusty/flaky, swollen, and/or red- it could indicate that there is a local irritant or even an inflammation or infection due to a parasitic, bacterial, or fungal source. Even if the cause is no longer present, the constant licking/chewing can become a cycle of continued trauma to the skin- which continues the inflammation.
Could Licking be the Result of an Allergy/Infection/Something Else?
Your dog’s licking could be the result of a food or inhalant allergy, which is resulting in general itching. Foreign bodies can also be quite painful and are a very typical source of infection in the feet. In addition, arthritis and other internal conditions can result in pain in the area without there being a visible infection on the foot- and can cause your dog to lick. In addition, cysts can occur, which cause discomfort and cause your dog to constantly lick his feet.
No Signs Something is Wrong
Something else you should know is that foot licking can be a habit-formed behavior that the dog does when he is bored, stressed, or simply relaxing. There are even some dogs that will chew at their nails.
Depending upon what your vet finds when he examines your dog, treatment will be directed at the cause. If it’s an allergy, you can change your dog’s diet or give him medications. If pain is the cause, it will be directly dealt with. An abscess will most likely be surgically removed. Keep in mind that changing this behavior is going to take consistency, patience, and time. It will not happen overnight.