Dogs lick their paws and scratch their ears incessantly. It’s very discomforting and is potentially harmful to the dogs if uncontrolled.
An initial sign of this disorder is the appearance of reddish patches on the skin (possibly from the friction of scratching and licking) or skin eczema on the head, chest, hips, or any other part of the dog’s body.
These skin changes usually become sore and irritating.
A few causes have been attributed to this behavior, among which are the following:
Seasonal allergies are implicated in the itchy skin behavior of dogs. They affect the dog’s paws, face, ears, and to a lesser extent, any other part of the skin.
These allergies, especially during late summer, arise from different allergens the dogs could be exposed to, like foods, mold, dust, pollen, pesticides, grass, etc.
Contact with any of these allergens would elicit an allergic reaction by inducing the mast cells of the dogs to release histamine. It is histamine release that is responsible for all the allergic behavior of dogs.
Atopic skin allergies
Atopic dermatitis is one of the most frequent types of allergic dermatitis in dogs, and it is caused by an interaction between a dog’s genetics and its environment.
It results in itches and licking, although the cause is not linked to contacts and exposures. Although exposure to allergens elicits atopic dermatitis, its actual cause is an immune response arising from a genetic predisposition.
Atopic dermatitis causes dogs to lick and chew their paws and regularly scratch their face, eyelids, and ears.
It is known that dogs poop in large sizes. When the housing is not cleaned often, and the poop is left to decay in the cage, it could attract pests.
Additionally, the cage would become infected from the decaying poops. It forms an origin for a secondary cause of licking paws and scratching ears in dogs – pests and infections.
Consider chances that licking paws and scratching the ears incessantly in dogs could be emanating from a place of pain. The dog may be responding to a specific or nonspecific pain within the body or on the skin.
It may be due to physical injury on the skin, paw joint dislocation, arthritis, or any other injury.
Presence Of Pests
The common pests that leech on dogs include fleas, ticks, and mites. These parasites can attack dogs for a long time without being noticed because they are not naked to the eye except for ticks.
Fleas are frequently the first thing that comes to mind when we witness a dog scratching for no apparent reason. Even in flea-free homes, your dog can still collect fleas from the outside environment.
Scratching and licking associated with flea infestation are grave and can drive your dog insane, regardless of the source.
Repeated exposure can induce abnormal, exaggerated symptoms to even a single flea bite, making it even more challenging to determine the source.
Hypersensitivities frequently cause infections and inflammation. Your vet will go over treatments and preventative measures with you, focusing on prevention.
It becomes crucial to check on your pet dogs for any sign of parasitism.
Anxiety And General Fatigue
Dogs may lick paws and scratch ears out of boredom. It has been called an obsessive-compulsive disorder in dogs. It usually happens when the dog is lonely, tired, or anxious.
The dog feels better once the source of boredom has been eliminated or handled right, such as a change of environment.
As seen in the winter season, weather changes can lead to a dried skin condition in dogs. Another culprit is the depletion of adipose tissue in dogs.
Any condition that will cause the dog to lose moisture can lead to dry skin and, consequently, to licking paws and scratching their ears.
Steroids are one of the hormones that maintain the skin moisture of dogs. Abnormally low steroid hormones in dogs could predispose their skin to infections.
The presence of skin infections can cause itching and licking in dogs.
A dog could develop a secondary bacterial infection from licking its paws and scratching its ears over an extended period. With incessant touch, the organic skin barrier is ruptured.
This broken barrier will expose the skin to opportunism by the normal bacterial microflora of the dog’s skin. This infection increases skin irritation, leading to aggravated scratching and licking.
Fungal Infection On The Skin
Another cause of licking paws and scratching ears in dogs is a yeast infection on the skin of the ears and paws. Yeast is a typical flora of the skin and ears, but only in small amounts.
However, they often overgrow and get opportunistic in the presence of triggers like depleted immunity. Like an infection, they infect the skin, causing itching, red or flaky patches, and a strong odor.
Dog’s skin folds, in-between paws, and ear canal are damp; therefore, there is an increased risk of yeast infection in these parts. You can use medicated shampoos or oral drugs to treat yeast skin infections.
The dog’s ear is lined with delicate skin that can be damaged during inflammation by histamine production. Dogs with seasonal allergies are more prone to ear infections.
The ear bacteria (microflora) create an infection if the interior skin of the ear is irritated and inflamed. The ear’s dark, warm, and damp environment enables bacteria to thrive and increase.
If your dog frequently scratches his ear, you must take him to your veterinarian for ear cytology.
We call this ear cytology when we take a cotton swab from the inner ear, stain it, and examine it under a microscope to see if the infection is caused by bacteria or yeast.
Handling Dog’s Allergies
- Lifestyle changes for the dogs. Monitor their food for possible allergic reactions. You may do this by introducing one type of feed per time while gradually looking out for any signs of allergies.
- Identify and Eliminate known allergens. When you successfully identify an allergen, substitute for or withdraw the cause. There is also another approach which is called desensitization. You expose the dog to the allergen to induce immune reactions and gradually withdraw the allergen.
- Change their housing to eliminate pests and parasites. Use compatible pesticides.
- Address anxiety or boredom through a change of environment and freedom.
- Consult a veterinarian for counseling on their skin protection and treatment of the scratching and licking behavior. The vet may recommend over-the-counter medications, or additional anti-inflammatory drugs, such as steroids, to get them through the worst of the allergy season.
Dogs lick their paws and scratch their ears due to anomalies. These are not healthy habits of dogs.
The common causes are allergies and infections from environmental exposure and genetic predisposition.
Knowing the particular origin of the paws scratching and ear licking is necessary for selecting the best treatment.
While over-the-counter medications are an option, an expert’s opinion is highly recommended. It is essential to check with the veterinarian whenever a dog begins to exhibit these behaviors.
Moreover, identifying the cause of the licking and scratching is paramount for preventing and removing the source of such discomforts to the dog.
Zoey is a long-time pet owner and animal rights advocate, a vital part of Purrfect n’ Pawesome. She shares her unique experiences and learnings with her readers to enhance their understanding of pet behavior and nutrition. Along with being an active pet writer, she volunteers at multiple animal shelters, rescue centres with some bespokenly awesome pets.
Zoey has a lot to share when raising the pets and spending life being their true friends. She has a quite pampered Persian cat and a Ragdoll, whom she loves the most. Readout her blogs to know more about being a responsible parent to your beloved pets.
“I love to be around cats and dogs; that’s my passion and my trick to get away from all the negativity and soaking in unconditional love and affection. Being attached to this platform gives me the reason to be vocal about pet love, care, and nurturing. Although I am not an expert or veterinarian by any means, I have a lot of experience and learnings to share with my fellow readers.”