Have you ever heard the saying “Dog’s are creatures of habit”? Whether your dog has developed a good habit or bad habit, they will continue with any habit until you give them a reason to stop. One very common habit dogs can develop is obsessive paw or leg licking and biting. This obsession can be caused by a number of things. Here are a few reasons WHY your dog may have started or continues to be fixated with licking obsessively.
· Food allergies
· Grass or plant allergies (foxtail)
· Reaction to a flea bite
· Abnormal cell growth
· Emotional/behavioral problems
· Infected wound
If this obsessive habit is not stopped, your dog will likely acquire a lick granuloma (hot spot) which is a skin condition, also known as acral lick dermatitis. Once they have developed a granuloma, it is extremely difficult to keep the itchiness under control.
What Can Be Done?
Treating this unwanted habit is easier said than done. Determining the reason(s) behind their need to lick at a paw or leg is the first step. Once you have uncovered WHY they are obsessed with licking, then you can prescribe appropriate treatment.
1) Identify and correct the emotional causes by increasing the amount of human contact, changing kenneling habits, providing other animal companionship, and distracting with interactive toys.
2) There are a number of medical treatment options available which may include sedatives/tranquilizers, endorphin blockers, corticosteroids, antidepressants, or pentoxifylline.
3) Have your Veterinarian surgically remove the lesion.
4) Ask your Veterinarian about radiation therapy.
5) Bandage the infected area with a waterproof bandage or wrap.
6) Apply a bad-tasting substance to the granuloma. There are many dog friendly creams and sprays on the market. Take note: some dogs will get use to the bitter tasting cream or spray after a while.
7) Have your dog wear a Soft E Collar or The StrockTM or other deterrent devices, during flare ups.
Remember, dogs are creatures of habits. They rely on routines, and any changes in their daily routine may cause undue stress which may result in an unwanted behavior, like obsessive paw or leg licking. Make sure you eliminate all/any medical condition before assuming your dog has developed an emotional habit.
ALWAYS consult with your Veterinarian before trying ANY new treatment.