Why Does My Dog Keep Scratching Ears and Licking Paws?

Dogs can exhibit some peculiar behaviors, and one common issue is their tendency to constantly scratch their ears and lick their paws. While these actions may seem harmless at first glance, they could actually signify more serious underlying problems. In this article, we will explore some potential causes of excessive ear scratching and paw licking in dogs, as well as provide tips on how to address these behaviors. Let’s dive in!

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Why Is My Dog Scratching Their Ears, Licking its Paws, or Shaking its Head?

There are several reasons why your dog might be scratching its ears and licking its paws. It’s important to take action and address these behaviors, as they could be indicators of serious illnesses. Some potential causes include:

1. Chronic Pain

Licking paws or shaking the head might be signs of chronic pain resulting from inflammation or injury. Osteoarthritis is a common cause of chronic pain in dogs, where the cartilage between the joints becomes worn down, leading to inflammation and discomfort.

2. Neoplasia

Neoplasia refers to the development of new growths within tissue cells, which can be either benign or malignant (cancerous). Examples of neoplasms include mast cell tumors, lymphoma, and vestibular schwannoma. If you suspect your pet is developing signs of neoplasia, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian for examination and proper diagnosis.

3. Infection

Pets can contract infections from various sources, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi. Symptoms of infection may include loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and lethargy. Excessive paw licking or head shaking could indicate an infection in the mouth or ears.

4. Metabolic and Endocrine Illness

Chemical imbalances in the body can lead to excessive paw licking in pets. An endocrinologist can perform blood tests to check for thyroid disorders and diabetes mellitus, which are possible causes of these behaviors.

5. Allergies

Allergies can also result in abnormal behavior in pets. Fleas are a common allergen, but other culprits include pollen and dust mites. If you suspect your pet has an allergy, especially to fleas, consider using a flea treatment.

What Is Excessive Licking?

Licking is a natural and instinctive behavior that dogs engage in to clean themselves. Dogs may lick their paws, faces, or lips when wet or dirty, or even lick other pets. However, excessive scratching, ear licking, and paw licking may indicate an underlying medical issue. The causes of these behaviors range from allergies to infections, and it’s crucial to determine the underlying cause to provide proper treatment.

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On the other hand, excessive licking behaviors could also be a response to changes in the dog’s environment or routine. In such cases, it’s important to ensure that your pets have enough stimulation throughout the day and try to minimize stressors.

Dog licking hand

Causes of Excessive Licking?

Excessive licking in dogs can stem from various causes. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Anxiety and stress
  • Gastrointestinal issues (e.g., diarrhea, vomiting)
  • Allergies to food or environmental factors
  • Dry skin

If you notice that your dog starts licking excessively when left alone at home, it might be time to consider training to address the issue. Additionally, dogs that have been abused or neglected may develop behavioral problems like excessive self-grooming and destructive behavior such as chewing on furniture.

How to Stop a Dog from Scratching Ears and Paws

Treating excessive scratching and licking behavior can be approached in various ways. Let’s explore some traditional and non-medicinal treatments that can help alleviate these issues:

Traditional Treatments

  • Antihistamines: These pills or capsules can help reduce inflammation and itching caused by allergies.
  • Antibiotics: If your dog has an infection or parasites, addressing those underlying conditions is vital to reduce excessive licking.
  • Topical sprays and creams: These can soothe irritated skin, but it’s important to ensure that additional relief is provided if your dog is still itching.
  • Medicated shampoos: Great for treating dry skin conditions, but they may not be effective for itchy skin.

Non-Medicinal Treatments

Besides traditional medication, non-medicinal treatments can be helpful in addressing excessive licking and itching behavior. These treatments have fewer side effects and can be used alongside prescription drugs:

  • E-Collars: Also known as Elizabethan collars, these devices prevent pets from licking or biting affected areas by placing a plastic cone around their necks. Although they might cause temporary discomfort, they are essential for preventing further irritation and promoting healing.
  • Cooling mats: These mats can be placed in the freezer to soothe swollen areas and reduce inflammation. They constrict blood vessels beneath the skin’s surface, relieving itching and pain.
  • Compresses: Warm or cold compresses can be used to soothe affected areas and reduce itching and inflammation.
  • Behavioral modification: Techniques like environmental enrichment, exercise, and training can address underlying causes of excessive licking.

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Natural Supplement Treatments

Natural supplement treatments offer a safer and gentler alternative to traditional medications. Some examples include:

  • Probiotics: These beneficial bacteria improve gut health and boost the immune system. They can be found in supplements or foods like yogurt and kefir.
  • Vitamin E: An antioxidant that reduces inflammation and improves skin health. It can be found in supplements or foods like almonds, spinach, and chamomile.
  • CBD oil: A natural supplement that can reduce inflammation and improve skin health. It comes in various forms, including oils and capsules.
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Before starting any natural supplement treatment, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the appropriate dosage and duration based on the underlying cause of the itching and licking.

Diet Changes

Diet changes can also play a significant role in addressing excessive licking and itching in pets. The food a pet consumes can impact their overall health, including skin and coat health. Consider these common diet changes:

  • Limited ingredient diets: These diets contain a limited number of ingredients and are often used to identify and avoid food allergies that may cause itching and licking.
  • Hypoallergenic diets: Formulated for pets with food allergies, these diets use novel protein sources that the pet has not been exposed to before.
  • Grain-free diets: Eliminating grains, a common allergen for pets, can alleviate itching and licking.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements: Adding omega-3 fatty acids to a pet’s diet can improve skin and coat health, reducing itching and licking.
  • Probiotic supplements: These supplements can improve gut health and boost the immune system, thereby enhancing skin health.

Dog licking nose

Work with Your Veterinarian

If you suspect that your dog has a medical problem causing excessive licking, it’s important to contact your veterinarian for a thorough examination. Your vet will conduct blood tests and other diagnostic procedures to determine the underlying issue. If a health problem is identified, appropriate treatment can be initiated to alleviate symptoms and help your dog stop licking.

Veterinary Remedies for Your Dog’s Itchy Paws

Veterinarians employ several methods to assist dogs in returning to normal conditions. Here are a few examples:

  • Antihistamines: These medications help treat allergies that cause excessive licking. Your veterinarian will recommend the appropriate dosage and type of antihistamine.
  • Steroids: In severe cases, steroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and itching. However, long-term steroid use can have side effects and should only be used as directed.
  • Antibiotics: If the excessive licking is due to a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to clear it up.
  • Immunotherapy: If allergies are the root cause of your dog’s itchy paws, immunotherapy might be recommended. This treatment involves gradually exposing your dog to increasing amounts of the allergen to boost their immunity.

Final Thoughts

With the information provided in this article, you are now equipped to take care of your dog and address issues related to scratching ears and biting paws. By identifying problems early and taking appropriate steps, you can ensure the health and happiness of your beloved pet.

For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at TryFi.com.

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