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Why Do Shih Tzus Lick Their Paws – Is It Normal & Top 10 Causes

Shih Tzus, like other dogs, engage in grooming behaviors to keep themselves clean and comfortable. Paw licking is a common part of their grooming routine, but it’s essential to differentiate between normal and excessive licking. Normal paw licking in Shih Tzus is occasional, gentle and non-intrusive. Excessive licking, on the other hand, can indicate an underlying issue that requires attention.

Top 10 Reasons Why Your Shih Tzu Licks Their Paws

Shih Tzus, like many other dog breeds, may engage in paw licking for various reasons. Understanding these causes is crucial in addressing the behavior and promoting your Shih Tzu’s overall well-being. Here are the top 10 reasons why your Shih Tzu may be licking their paws:

  1. Allergies and Skin Irritations: Shih Tzus can be prone to allergies, including food allergies or environmental irritants, leading to itchy paws.
  2. Dry Skin: Dry skin can cause discomfort, prompting dogs to lick their paws as a soothing mechanism.
  3. Parasites: Infestations of fleas, mites, or ticks can irritate a Shih Tzu’s paws, triggering excessive licking.
  4. Environmental Factors: Pollens, dust, or other environmental allergens can cause paw itching and subsequent licking.
  5. Anxiety, Stress and Boredom: Shih Tzus may resort to excessive paw licking as a self-soothing response to anxiety, stress, or boredom.
  6. Food Allergies or Sensitivities: Certain ingredients in their diet can lead to allergic reactions, manifesting as paw licking.
  7. Yeast Infections: Yeast overgrowth can cause itching and discomfort in a dog’s paws, resulting in excessive licking.
  8. Injury or Pain: Injuries, such as cuts, bruises, or sprains, as well as underlying joint or paw conditions, may cause Shih Tzus to lick their paws.
  9. Habitual Behavior: Some dogs develop a habit of paw licking, which can be challenging to break without addressing the underlying cause.
  10. Genetic Predisposition: Shih Tzus may have a genetic predisposition to certain skin conditions, making them more prone to paw licking.

Medical Concerns Related to Paw Licking

While occasional paw licking is a natural grooming behavior for dogs, excessive and persistent licking can lead to various medical concerns. Understanding these potential issues is essential for identifying when veterinary intervention is necessary. Here are some medical concerns associated with paw licking in Shih Tzus:

  • Skin Infections: Excessive licking can create an environment conducive to bacterial or fungal growth, leading to skin infections. Common types include pyoderma (bacterial infection) and dermatophytosis (fungal infection).
  • Hot Spots: Hot spots, also known as acute moist dermatitis, are localized areas of inflamed and infected skin. These can develop when constant moisture from licking irritates the skin, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive.
  • Skin Irritation and Inflammation: Persistent licking can cause irritation, redness and inflammation of the paw pads and surrounding skin. This can result in discomfort, swelling and a cycle of further licking, exacerbating the issue.
  • Secondary Skin Lesions: Continuous paw licking can lead to the formation of sores, scabs, or open wounds on the paws. These lesions can become infected, causing pain and potential complications.
  • Hair Loss: Excessive licking can cause hair loss in the affected areas, leading to patches of thin or bald skin. This can be particularly noticeable on the paws where the licking is concentrated.
  • Joint and Paw Problems: Dogs that lick their paws excessively may have underlying joint or paw problems, such as arthritis, ligament injuries, or interdigital cysts. Licking can be a response to pain or discomfort in these areas.

It’s important to monitor your Shih Tzu’s paw licking behavior and look for signs of these medical concerns. If you notice any of these issues, it’s recommended to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Prevention & Treatment Options

Preventing and treating paw licking in Shih Tzus involves a combination of good routine care, attentive monitoring, and specific interventions when necessary. Here are some strategies:

Prevention:
  • Regular Paw Care: Keep your Shih Tzu’s paws clean and dry to prevent irritation. Check regularly for any signs of wounds, foreign objects, or irritants stuck in the fur or between the paw pads.
  • Balanced Diet: Ensure your Shih Tzu has a well-balanced diet to support skin health and potentially reduce the risk of food allergies that could lead to paw licking.
  • Allergen Avoidance: Try to identify and minimize exposure to environmental allergens, such as pollen, grass, or household cleaners, which can cause skin irritation and licking.
  • Routine Grooming: Regular grooming can help manage the long fur of Shih Tzus, preventing matting and the trapping of irritants close to the skin, which can lead to paw licking.
  • Moisturize: Using a pet-safe paw balm can help keep your Shih Tzu’s paw pads from becoming dry and cracked, especially in harsh weather conditions.
Treatment:
  • Veterinary Check: If your Shih Tzu is licking their paws excessively, a veterinary examination is crucial to rule out or treat infections, allergies, or other medical conditions.
  • Medications: Based on the vet’s diagnosis, treatment might include antihistamines for allergies, antibiotics or antifungals for infections, or other medications tailored to the specific cause.
  • Topical Treatments: Medicated shampoos or ointments might be recommended for treating localized skin issues on the paws.
  • Allergy Management: For allergies, beyond medications, dietary changes or hypoallergenic diets might be suggested to identify and eliminate food-related triggers.
  • Environmental and Dietary Adjustments: Making changes to your Shih Tzu’s environment or diet based on potential allergens identified by your vet can help reduce paw licking.
  • Behavioral Therapies: If the licking is related to anxiety or stress, behavioral modification techniques, environmental enrichment, and possibly anxiety-reducing medications may be beneficial.

It’s important to address the underlying cause of paw licking to effectively treat the issue. Working closely with your veterinarian will ensure that your Shih Tzu receives the most appropriate care for their specific needs.

When to See a Vet

While occasional paw licking is normal, persistent and excessive licking can be indicative of underlying issues that require veterinary attention. It’s important to monitor your Shih Tzu’s paw-licking behavior and know when to seek professional help. Here are situations when you should consider consulting a veterinarian:

  • Persistent Paw Licking: If your Shih Tzu’s paw licking becomes constant and shows no signs of improvement, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian. This can indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Visible Wounds, Infections, or Inflammation: If you notice any signs of visible wounds, infections, swelling, or inflammation on your Shih Tzu’s paws, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care. These symptoms can indicate an infection or injury that requires treatment.
  • Behavioral Changes: If your Shih Tzu exhibits behavioral changes alongside paw licking, such as increased irritability, restlessness, or decreased appetite, it may be a sign of underlying discomfort or pain. A veterinarian can help identify and address these issues.
  • Licking Disruption: If your Shih Tzu’s excessive licking causes disruptions to their daily routine, such as difficulty walking, eating, or sleeping, veterinary intervention is necessary to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.
  • Chronic or Recurrent Issues: If your Shih Tzu experiences chronic or recurrent paw licking episodes, even after attempting preventive measures and home remedies, it’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian. They can conduct a thorough examination to identify any underlying health conditions contributing to the behavior.

Understanding why Shih Tzus lick their paws is essential for providing the best care for these adorable companions. While occasional paw licking is normal, excessive licking can indicate an underlying issue that requires attention. By identifying and addressing the causes, seeking veterinary care when necessary and implementing preventive measures, you can help keep your Shih Tzu’s paws healthy and their overall well-being intact.

Why Do Shih Tzus Lick Their Paws – Is It Normal & Top 10 Causes