Dogs may lick themselves for medical and/or behavioral reasons. For example, a dog may start licking a wound on the leg, but do so so energetically that the licking slows down the healing process. Dogs with joint problems may also lick those areas. Other times, the dog may continue licking after any wound has healed because the licking has become a habit. Still other times, the dog may use licking as a form of stress-relief, sort of like the way some people chew their nails when upset.
If all of these cases, if the dog licks long and hard enough, a growth called a lick granuloma will form. These are difficult to treat because removing them surgically may give the dog something to lick legitimately.
Step one is to have your veterinarian determine the cause of the licking and treat it accordingly. Re: what you can do at home, keep a journal to see if you can determine the kinds of situations that cause your dog to lick and then eliminate them if possible. For example, sometimes people mistakenly think that taking their dogs for long walks around the neighborhood will make the dog too tired to lick. But that's only true if the dog is comfortable during those walks. If he's doing a lot of marking and sniffing, he may be responding to threatening messages from other animals which are anything but relaxing. In that case, he'll come home from the walk physically tired, but mentally wired. If so, relieving that stress by licking on a convenient paw is a viable option.
Also, distract your dog before he starts licking by tossing a ball or otherwise engaging him in more acceptable behavior. You don't want to react to him after he's started licking because that will only reinforce the licking behavior.
NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice,
diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your
physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere.
If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.