Paw chewing and skin problems can be caused by emotional stress.
Stress increases blood levels of cortisol, which raises blood pressure, heart rate and prepares your dog for the fight or flight response. Over time, stress can disrupt normal functioning of your dogís immune system, either allowing normal levels of bacteria to get out of control, or causing your dogís body to over-react to normal irritants, causing an allergic response. In effect, your dogís immune system has turned on itself. This same feedback loop is believed to be related to dozens of other disorders such as eczema, asthma, arthritis, heart disease, even tartar build up on your dogís teeth.
Emotional stress may cause your dog to deal with nervousness or depression by exhibiting a number of behavioral responses, including obsessive licking or paw chewing. A major component to any treatment program must include eliminating or decreasing stress, and finding other ways for your dog to expend energy and lower his cortisol levels.
Train your dog. She needs intellectual stimulation and she was genetically selected to want to please you. Your dog will do anything for you and feel good about herself for learning more ways to make you happy, or earn her a hug or a treat.
Teaching her how she can help you around the house, be a better dog, or performing tricks will improve your dogís self esteem and keep her busy. You arenít doing your dog a favor by letting her lie around the house all day and night. A dog was meant to have a job, so give her one. Sheíll love you for it.
Make sure your dog knows you are returning when you leave. Many dogs will whine and want to come with you when you leave. The main issue here is that they are worried when you will be coming back. Donít yell at them to ďget backĒ when you leave or sneak out when they arenít looking. Tell them goodbye and hug them. Let them know you are coming back and they will be less concerned when you leave. They will also be less worried when youíre gone and be less likely to lick or chew their feet.
Turn the television or stereo on for them to listen to while you are gone. Music or television reduces a dogís stress level when you are gone because they canít hear all the mysterious noises coming from outside. They already feel a little bit nervous when you are gone. Give them something to listen to. Turn on the Animal Channel.
Get plenty of soft toys and play catch. They can chew on the toys when youíre gone and you can play fetch with them when youíre home.
Make sure your dog knows you are the pack leader. A dog feels more stress if he thinks he has the responsibility for the protection of the pack, in this case, your family. If you are in charge, your dog will be able to relax because he doesnít feel like heís guarding the house all the time. When youíre home, your dog should be able to feel like you have things under control and will let him know if you need his help. If your dog ever snarls at you, urinates on your carpet, or wonít listen to you commands, then he thinks heís in charge. That adds stress to his life.
Teaching your dog who is in charge is mostly accomplished by training. If your dog isnít trained you arenít doing either of you a favor. Take the time to train you dog and you will end up with a better roommate. Itís well worth it for both of you.
When you get home, make a big deal about seeing your dog. Take time out to play with her, pet her and hug her. If you have to take your work clothes off first so you donít get dog hair on you, change clothes and get down on the floor and get physical. To your dog, youíve been gone a long, boring time, and she missed you. Make sure you let her know you feel the same way.
Try to look at everything you do from your dogís perspective. By learning all you can about dog behavior and why they do things, you will be better able to figure out why your dog is chewing and you will have more success at stopping the problem.
If you have children, make sure they are treating your dog gently and with respect. Often, without meaning to, kids can cause a dog emotional or physical stress. Some breeds donít do well with children. Know your dog and educate your children as well. Your kids can be a dogís greatest source of happiness, but they can also be a source of stress and unhappiness. Just keep an eye on things and make sure your dog isnít having to put up with your kidís behavior. This is rarely a problem, but if can be, especially in the smaller breeds.
Exercise your dog any way you can. Play with him. Pay a kid to play with him. Take him to the dog park. Take him with you in the car, (just make sure he is wearing a seat belt). Walk around the block. Take him hiking or to the pet store. Let him explore new things and go different places. A dog is curious and they need exercise to be healthy and happy. By a ball launcher. Play fetch.
The better you train your dog, the more places you will be able to take him, and the more socialized he will be. Exercise stimulates your dog and relieves boredom. It also makes your dog happier, and less likely to lick or chew. It also raises serotonin and endorphin levels, and ďburns upĒ cortisol manufactured by his adrenal glands.
When bed time rolls around, your dog should be ďdog tired.Ē
Remember your dog has emotions and nearly all of them are centered around you and your family. Youíre his pack, heís depending on you to support him and let him know you care. Also remember heís not a human, heís a dog. Get a book or two on his breed, or if heís a mutt, as close as you can get. Buy another few books about dog training and behavior in general. A book about your particular dogís breed will give you considerable insight into why he does things and how he thinks.
Chronic or obsessive dog paw licking can be a challenging problem. Investing some time in educating yourself will help you solve her problem and yours, but more importantly, it will make your life and your dogís more fulfilling and considerably easier. You have to live with your dog and its behavior. You can help you dog fulfill her potential as a companion, helper, well-behaved, well adjusted member of your family and household. If youíre dog is happy, your life will be easier, less expensive, and filled with more joy because of it. Your dog is your best friend. He or she would do anything for you. Return the favor and your relationship will be more rewarding than you ever thought possible.
When Nothing Works
In a large number of dogs, nothing seems to work. These cases require tough decisions and aggressive intervention. Often a combination of treatments can help alleviate the symptoms, but some treatments are either on-going or have serious possible side-effects.
As an owner, work closely with your vet to decide just how serious the problem is and know that continuous use of steroids and antibiotics can have serious consequences. Paw licking, however, has serious consequences as well, so you may have to decide between whatís bad and whatís worse.
One theory is that excessive licking raises endorphin levels in dogs and the dog can become chemically addicted to licking. If your dog ignores you, or especially food, and nothing you do can interupt his compulsive licking, it is highly likely he is addicted. Attempting to correct this addiction can seem nearly impossible and must be approached with a variety of drugs and behavioral strategies.
Many owners and vets have had success with longer-acting steroids like Depo Medrol injections. This steroid has fewer side effects than Prednisone and can help clear up skin problems for up to two months. Simplicef is one of the most commonly used antibiotics and is extremely effective to keep infections under control.
To help with the licking addiction, hydrocodone is commonly prescribed to relieve pain and act as an endorphin substitute. This follows the theory that licking produces increased endorphin levels, so by giving the dog a substitute, it should reduce the urge to lick. If your vet doesn't bring it up, don't hesitate to ask for pain killers for your dog.
Many vets also advocate using antidepressants, and have had success, but if the behavioral causes of the obsessive licking isnít addressed, it will come back when the antidepressants are stopped.
In cases of lick granuloma, surgery can sometimes be necessary, especially if the granuloma contains dead cells. Laser surgery has become a common method of removing granulomas because recovery time is shorter.
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Copyright 2009 Dogpawlicking.com. We want to be clear that we do not endorse any advertising, products, services, or opinions that appear on this site. We feel this subject needs a central source of information and knowledge, and that is our mission. Dog paw licking can lead to serious consequences. The more information you have, the better able you will be to make decisions concerning your dogís health. We remind you to check your sources, including information from this site. We are not trying to provide medical advice. The opinions expressed are not meant to be used without the collaboration and advice of your veterinarian. Always check with your veterinarian before doing anything that could possibly adversely affect your dogís health.