Be it a Doberman, Irish setter, Labrador, or German shepherd, dogs will lick their paws.
That’s a given!
But, it’s normal only up to a certain extent.
Too much paw-licking often leads to abrasions and raw wounds, which are only going to get worse if the licking continues.
Many dog-owners have this question as to how to treat these cases and provide relief to their canine friends.
More often than not, it is wise to take your dog to a vet, who needs to examine the extent of the wound and then prescribe treatment.
What’s a raw paw? (Explanation)
When your dog keeps licking its paw continuously and obsessively, the body hairs in that area start falling off and exposes the skin, which then becomes red and shiny.
If licked further and undetected, the area hardens up and sometimes the skin breaks and bleeds.
These conditions are referred to as lick granulomas. Lick granulomas occur mostly in active dogs who have to stay alone for most part of the day doing practically nothing, found some animal doctors or advisors.
These are often hard to treat as the skin is majorly damaged.
According to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, total control of the condition is achieved in only about 65% of dogs.
Even if treatment starts, it may take a long time to heal. Therefore, the earlier these are detected, the better.
The vet would recommend medicines, along with ointments and the paw-care instructions at home.
Although there is no singular solution to all raw paws and the treatment depends on the extent of damage, some of the commonest treatments suggested by vets include the following:
- Bandaging the raw paw to restrict access
- Fitting Elizabethan collars or e-collars to your dog
- Laser therapy
- Surgical intervention (tissue removal)
- Topical medications
Apart from these, there are also some peripheral paw care regimen that the vet may recommend you practice at home.
These may include activities like regular washing, monitoring to keep the raw paw dry at all times, training the dog not to lick it, etc.
Let’s take a quick look at the:
9 treatment options commonly recommended by the vets for raw paws:
Your vet may ask you to apply some antiseptic in the affected area and then bandage it with a non-stick gauze.
You would first need to apply the ointment in the wound and then make a thick pad with some cotton and gauze to put over it.
Next, to keep it secured, you may use paper tapes. Finally, wrap the paw with a self-adhesive bandage.
However, do not wrap the bandage too tightly on the wound, otherwise you will hamper the blood circulation.
Sometimes, your dog’s vet may ask you to invest on buying an e-collar for your furry pet if it is too drawn to licking its paw.
These Elizabethan collars or e-collars look like lampshades and restricts the dog’s mouth from reaching its paws, or any part of its body for that matter.
This foreign element hanging around its neck all of a sudden may irk your dog for a while or it may even scare the poor creature, but it will get used to it soon.
However, please note that there are many varieties available in the market and your vet may guide you on which would suit your purpose.
Soft versions sometimes work better for some dogs as the cone-shaped collar can be inverted both ways depending on the situation.
Another good idea will be to buy transparent collars so that your dog can still see things around and feel less nervous about this.
Sometimes when dogs do not respond to doctor-prescribed medications like steroids or anti-inflammatory interventions, the vet may recommend canine acupuncture for treating the lick granuloma.
Acupressure is an ancient therapeutic practice, developed several years ago in Asia (particularly China).
It’s believed and proved to have huge healing effects on both humans and animals.
Acupuncture or acupressure can improve immune systems, enhance cognitive abilities, benefit joints and muscles, and also heal wounds.
Canine acupressure has immense positive impacts on wounds and injuries like a raw paw.
If the vet recommends this, a licensed acupressure specialist will have to attend to your dog. You should never try it at home yourself with surface knowledge from the Internet.
After inspecting your dog’s raw paws and conducting other tests, as needed, the vet may recommend a non-invasive, non-surgical, and drug-free laser therapy for treatment.
Laser therapies are often very effective in treating injuries and pain.
However, there are two kinds of laser therapies – cold laser therapy and hot laser therapy.
The cold kind is safer and less complicated, while the hot laser therapy involves cutting or burning tissues (riskier).
A canine practitioner in a veterinarian hospital in California confirmed that dogs find cold laser therapies quite soothing and enjoy the sessions that last about 3-20 minutes.
Surgeries are time-taking and complicated, but if your dog’s raw paw has deteriorated so much that other treatments would not be able to arrest it, then the vet will have little choice but to surgically intervene the sores and remove the affected tissues.
However, post-operative care is critical and needs to be done with utmost care to avoid further complications.
Antibiotics & Topical Medications
Infections arising out of lick granulomas are often treated with oral antibiotics.
The vet may prescribe 6 to 8 weeks of oral antibiotics to control the infection in the raw paw and then move to behavior-modifying medications.
Since most lick granulomas are boredom- and anxiety-induced, anti-depressants (doxepin, clomipramine, fluoxetine, etc.) are commonly given to improve their psychological states.
Then the infection is checked with oral antibiotics. Topical steroids and anti-inflammatory medicines are also asked to be administered, even antihistamine.
Additionally, sometimes vets prescribe bitter-tasting topical solutions to stop the dog’s compulsive licking behavior.
Sometimes vets suggest treatment with radiotherapy. This is generally applied to prevent further spread of the infection.
A research conducted by L.N. Owen reveals the success of radiotherapy in treating lick granulomas in 11 out of 13 dogs, although complete cure is hardly possible with radiotherapy alone.
Sometimes, the infection recurs even after radiotherapy and needs to be treated again with other methods.
Raw paws are time-taking to treat, but are never life-threatening.
However, some raw paw conditions or lick granulomas need to be treated with interventions like laser therapies, surgeries, radiotherapies, and cryosurgery.
Although rarely recommended, cryotherapy is a very effective way for treating these conditions in dogs, especially if:
- the raw paw(s) keep cracking and bleeding,
- your dog is over-licking the paw(s),
- the pain seems unbearable for your dog, or
- you are anxiousand worried about your dog.
These are some of the treatments that a vet may recommend for your dog’s raw paws. But there are also some care he may ask you to take at home.
i). Keep the area clean – Wash the affected areas with an anti-bacterial soap so that germs and pus don’t accumulate.
ii). Observe and monitor – Keep an eye on the raw paw(s) so that you can consult with the vet whenever there is any development. Sometimes foreign bodies like dust and threads may stick to the wound.
So you may be asked to dip the area in warm water added with some Epsom salts.
iii). Disinfect and keep the area dry – It is important to clean the lick granulomas with cotton and antiseptic solution and then dry it. The raw area must be allowed to dry at certain times, although not always (otherwise it might catch germs).
iv). Train the dog – Along with any other therapy that the vet may recommend, he may also suggest you start training your dog at home to stop its compulsive licking behaviors.
Distract the dog, use some consistent commands like “Leave the paw” every time you find your pooch licking its paw. That will condition him slowly to the idea that “licking” is not okay.
v). Minimize lone times – Most cases of lick granulomas are a result of boredom.
If you are away for most part of the day and your active canine is bored to the tee with no one around, chances are that he will start licking his paws all day.
You may leave toys at home, but then how long can it be content with the same toys?
It needs your time and attention too.
So, try to minimize lone times for your dog and if you can’t help long hours outside home, make sure there is someone at home to attend to your furry friend.
May your dog remain healthy and hearty, always!