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My wife and I adopted a wonderful 5 year old female Pitbull about a year ago. Shortly after we got her she started licking her paws, not just normal cleaning of the paws but repetitive licking until the pads are all bloody and she cannot walk on them without limping. I clean and bandage them and she leaves them alone, lets them heal and does it again. To be clear, it isn't just one paw, it's all of them.

raw pad

I contacted the dogs previous owner and asked her if she had ever experienced anything like this, she said no, and of course I just have to take her word for it...

The dog has been to the vet numerous times, even to different vets.

The first vet said she had food allergies and suggested putting her on a grain free food.

The second vet said she had skin and food allergies and suggested adding Claratin, she also said the dog had a yeast infection in her paws and put her on steroids for 60 days.

I've changed her food to a grain free salmon recipe, put her on the claratin, gave her the steroids and she still won't stop licking.

So my questions are this, what else could be causing the licking? Is there anything I can to stop this destructive behavior?


Notes:

  • We live in an apartment, all the grass is watered by a sprinkler system and I do not believe any fertilizers are being used.
  • She is up to date on all of her shots
  • She gets monthly FrontLine flea treatments, bought from the vet not online vendors.
  • I've tried deterring her with rawhides and kong bones, she isn't interested.
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It is really good that you have taken her to the vet to try to rule out a medical issue. It could be an allergy and unfortunately, skin allergies can have many causes. It could also be a nervous or anxious reaction. Some dogs, when nervous or anxious can self inflict harm onto themselves, such as biting, licking excessively or scratching themselves. There could be many reasons for this behaviour from separation anxiety to you dog being born with anxiety (studies have shown that 1 out of every 5 dogs born will have some form of anxiety). Dogs who self inflict harm may do so as it helps to keep them calm, sort of like when people get nervous rubbing their hands together or tapping their feet.

A good place to start to see if this is a behavioural issue, is to keep track of when and where she is doing it. Is it just after you leave, is it after an encounter with someone or something unfamiliar, is it when she meets another dog she doesn't know? If you do go down the course of obtaining help from a behavioural specialist, please only use one that uses positive reinforcement and no form of punishment. Make sure to check their credentials, not that they simply have grown up around dogs all their life so therefore they know how to train a dog. You wouldn't go to a person, claiming to be a doctor, simply because he grew up around sick people his whole life.

A joint approach with a vet and a behaviourist (not necessarily a dog trainer as anyone can call themselves a "trainer"), will provide the best outcome for your lovely girl.

  • I appreciate the response, I didn't think about keeping a log to track it. I think your right though, I'm tired to treating the symptoms and want to treat the cause. I'll talk to our vet and see if she thinks it could be anxiety and if she can recommend a local behaviorist. – matt. Jun 19 '15 at 1:34
  • Beautiful. I'm happy to hear this was helpful for you. Please let us know how you and your girl goes :) – furreal training Jun 21 '15 at 23:07
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    @enki.dev: definitely check that angle - I recently saw a documentary on TV with a similar case, a dog who did this because it felt neglected after the owners had a baby. The main remedy was to give the dog attention and something fun to do (digging treats out of a heap of twigs, IIRC). – Michael Borgwardt Jun 24 '15 at 12:24
  • @enki.dev. I think that furreal has the right idea. I have a Jack Russell who had a similar issue and it comes and goes. The vet told me it's something called a 'litz granuloma'. That's how it sounds, not sure how it's spelled. Basically, he said it was psychological. When I started doing more stuff with her and giving her other things to do, she quite. However, we have another dog who does something similar and it is allergies in her case. – Dalton Aug 28 '15 at 18:32
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I'd also like to add that it's possible the dog is allergic to grass. Mine was. Or he was allergic to something in the apartment sprinklers or stuff they put on the grass. Grain-free food helped, but didn't solve it. The next thing I tried was, after he'd go outside to potty, I'd wash his feet in a warm water with baking soda mixture, then dry them as much as possible. That helped a lot, but he'd still lick his paws until they were dried off. I then started putting booties on him before he'd go outside. Now that did the trick for me. After that, no licking feet. Granted, I agree this could be behavioral.

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My dog has the same problem. He is a 9 year old wire fox terrier and he just likes to lick himself to pass the time. He doesn't have anxiety issues, he's a very calm, relaxed dog but he likes to always be licking on something. If it's not his paws, and there's nothing else around, he'll lick the bedspread! Anyway, our dog's paws got to be worse than your dog's and even though he's had a round of anti-fungal medicines he's still not healed. You see, he recently licked them so badly the outer layer of his toe pads started detaching. So, the vet isn't exactly sure what's going on, and we never did rule out demodex mange mites, so that's a possibility. In any case, the prescription antibiotic and anti-fungals didn't really help. So I've been treating him with natural home remedies -- borax baths and also epsom salt foot soaks. His feet are about 30% better after three weeks of this. As to the licking impulse, we have somewhat broken him of that habit just by telling him "no" when he starts up. I should add something important -- we ordered a basket style muzzle for our dog from the internet and we have it on him at night, and also when we leave the house. This is a must!! We also have tape under the bottom of the mask, so he can't get his tongue out down there and lick himself (he was sneakily doing that). Anyway, I hope this helps. I'd love to know how your dog is doing. I know this is a tough problem and can get very expensive!

  • Thanks for posting this. She's been pretty consistent with the licking, she had to make a vet trip after the last bad flare up, front paw ended up with an infection and she had to be treated with antibiotics. We haven't tried borax baths or epsom salt. Sounds like something we'll need to try. Also, we've tried telling her no, most of the time it works, other times she'll look right at you while you're telling her no and lick anyways, like she doesn't even care. – matt. Mar 30 '16 at 0:34
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Your question implies that your dog will leave a bandages alone when placed on her injured feet, and the wounds heal.

There are dog boots/booties that available all over the web putting these on and leaving them on 24/7 (probably get a few pair and change/wash daily) should eliminate the issue. When her feet are completely healed, try taking them off in a controlled manor.

  • take them off only at night
  • take them off only when in the house
  • take them off only when you get to the lawn
  • take them off only when supervised

The boots should prevent further cases of the foot problem, taking them off in a controlled way will limit her exposure to environments and allow you to identify if there is a specific irritant.

Related Question what is a good moisturizer for a dog's pads?

  • James, sorry, I should edit it and correct that. She does tend to lick at the bandages but I can't tell if its just because she is uncomfortable or what. I do appreciate the response. Thank you – matt. Jun 19 '15 at 1:37
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    We had a serial paw licker, and she actually took her fur off in places and left tender skin exposed... There was no medical reason it was behavioural... We didn't use boots just regular socks but same principle and it did help. – Aravona Jun 19 '15 at 7:12
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it is very unlikely that allergy can cause paw hair to uproot. My dog currently has some very similar symptoms and its most likely a paw fungus, try washing her paws in vinegar and use some chlorhexidine body wash for the paws when she's not feeling pain.

  • She was treated for a fungus infection with steroids and she still continued licking, I've also tried the apple cider vinegar remedies with no results. She I'd also currently using an anti fungal shampoo with chloroxylenol and some leave on lotion that contains chlorhexidine – matt. Aug 27 '15 at 21:03

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