Four Reasons Why Your Dog Can’t Stop Licking Himself

Four Reasons Why Your Dog Can’t Stop Licking Himself

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A dog that’s frequently licking and/or chewing his paws, legs or other parts of his body is – well, just being a dog. However, when your pet’s grooming behavior becomes a chronic habit, it can lead to serious injury and irritation.

Beyond inflammation to the topical area, obsessive behavior like this can be an indication of something more serious than a sore foot or a minor insect bite.

It’s easy to think your pet is just getting carried away with keeping tidy. And it’s true – dogs naturally try to keep clean by licking away dirt and picking at burrs and grasses that stick to their fur and feet.

Unfortunately, your canine companion can’t tell you in words if something abnormal is going on.

An English Bulldog licking its paw.

An English Bulldog licking its paw.

The first clue a dog parent should look for is the excessive attention to a single spot. A paw or leg that becomes inflamed by constant licking or chewing is not normal. Your dog is reacting to a range of possible problems that may require medical treatment.

If your dog raises a red or pink spot on his skin, it’s time to look deeper into what may be wrong.

Here are a number of possibilities to investigate:

Injuries, Foreign Objects or Bad Toenails

Dogs naturally put wear and tear on their paws whenever they go for a walk or play in the yard. Stones, twigs, pieces of metal and other objects can produce cuts that can grow infected. Antiseptic creams and bandages can be used to treat such injuries topically.

A torn or broken toenail can also be a source of discomfort and may require a trip to the vet. Dogs can develop cysts between their toes – these can swell, produce pus and otherwise become painful. A foot infection can be serious business and may require surgery.


Licking and chewing may indicate that your dog has an allergy. Allergies can result from flea bites, grasses or the wrong kind of diet. Skin patches and blood tests can be used to diagnose the problem.

Addictions and Reactive Behavior

Instead of licking, a Boston Terrier chews on a ball.

A Boston Terrier chews on a ball.

A dog may get addicted to the pleasure of licking himself. He may also be falling into such behavior patterns out of anxiety, stress or boredom. Putting a muzzle or a cone on your dog to keep him from hurting himself will only make such problems worse. A happier, more secure pet will be less likely to resort to unhealthy repetitive behaviors if the cause isn’t physical.

A chew toy might help, too.

Referral Pain

Some pet experts have found that a dog’s chronic licking or chewing of one part of its body may have its source in another. (This is called referral pain.)

For example, a dog that chews its leg may be reacting to a pain in its neck or shoulders. Deep tissue work has been used successfully to relieve such conditions.

An irritated foot or a chewed-on patch of skin means there’s something wrong with your four-legged family member. Help him heal.

He will love you even more for it!

Barry Alfonso has written songs recorded by Johnny Cash, Pam Tillis and Olivia Newton-John, contributed articles to Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times and earned a Grammy Award for music journalism. He is currently active as a personal historian, freelance author and faithful servant to his cat Clarence.

Article: Four Reasons Why Your Dog Can’t Stop Licking Himself
Author: Barry Alfonso
Category: Pet Training Tips
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Four Reasons Why Your Dog Can’t Stop Licking Himself

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