CHENNAI: My two-year-old labrador can't stop licking his legs. We try to stop him and even pull his legs away, but he keeps doing it. Should we worry about it?
— Shreya Jain
Licking in dogs is a healthy stress reliever, however obsessive licking indicates an underlying medical problem or anxiety in case of a healthy dog.
Licking or biting the paws in dogs can indicate an underlying dermatological condition or an arthritic pain from a medical perspective. This is not a typical temporary itch.
Older dogs that often suffer from arthritis or other joint-related pains lick their paws in an attempt to alleviate the pain. In others, it could be skin-related ailments or allergies. Hence, the fist thing to do is to identify if there are any medical reasons for the constant licking.
If all medical reasons are eliminated, then the licking behaviour can be attributed to boredom and anxiety. Dogs that are not actively engaged often tend to kill boredom by licking their paws. Licking is also a way to handle anxiety in some dogs. Sometimes, this becomes an obsessive behaviour and often the dog is seen even chewing the paws until is it sore and raw and tend to hurt themselves. If your dog is active by nature and you are forcing him into a sedentary life, this might be his stress dealing mechanism.
To stop your dog from excessive licking, invest in a special collar that will prevent him from accessing and licking the paws excessively. Do not reward his licking behaviour by giving him undue attention or unnecessary reassurance. Correct him every time you catch him licking. There are sprays that the doctors can prescribe that will discourage the dog from licking.
The most important remedial action is to ensure that the dog is well exercised. In addition to good physical exercise, invest in toys and play games that will keep her mentally stimulated and occupied. Spending quality time with your dog is very important.
If all else fails, seek professional help in understanding how to correct her and engage her in a positive manner.
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