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Lick - chew paws

Maltipoo Chewing and Licking at Paws

If your Maltipoo is constantly licking his/her paws, you are not alone. While dogs will lick to taste and it is also done as a form of communication, when a Maltipoo concentrates on one specific area such as the paws, this can be due to a health issue or it can be an obsessive habit and cause quite a few problems. It is also not uncommon for owners to fail to identify the root cause or only see partial improvement; and meanwhile the effects of continual licking focused to one area compounds each day. In this section we are going to cover:
  • The clinical signs that will develop
  • Behavioral symptoms that often accompany this condition
  • Each reason why a Maltipoo may chew or lick at his paws
  • Treatment and remedies to stop a Maltipoo from chewing and licking the paws
Clinical Signs of Paw Licking and Chewing

When a Maltipoo focuses actions such as licking and/or chewing to the feet region, the continual friction from licking and/or persistent gnawing from using the teeth can lead to the following problems:

Sores - The friction will begin as a tiny sore - undetectable at first. As the Maltipoo continues to lick or chew at the area, the sore will widen and deepen.

Bleeding - When licking or chewing continues, the sore(s) will crack open. Unlike a cut, this is often a cracking to the affected area that upon close inspection may resemble shattered glass. The skin will be dry and spots of blood will ease through. This often only serves to cause a Maltipoo to lick more due to 'wound licking' which is an instinctive response to lick an injury.

Infection - Once the skin has been broken, it is vulnerable to infection. The paw(s) may appear red, swollen in area, may have discharge and will be sore.

Hair Loss - Near constant moisture on the skin coupled with a pulling that weakens hair follicles often results in hair loss on the paws that are being compulsively licked or chewed. Minor trauma to the skin over a long period of time can be just as harmful as acute trauma.
Behavioral Signs of Paw Licking and Chewing

Maltipoos with this affliction often present one or all of the following types of behaviors:

Targeting Certain Paws - Licking and/or chewing may be focused on one particular paw, most often for Maltipoos that due this due to stress. When this is due to itching problems a Maltipoo may focus on the front paws but will also try and reach hind paws when lying in certain positions.  

As we move forward, you will see that identifying whether a Maltipoo only chews or licks at one front paw or tries to reach all of them can greatly help in determining why this is being done.

Restlessness - This is often a common symptom regardless of the trigger. Maltipoos that are stressed as well as those that are suffering from allergies and those that have a compulsive disorder are all uncomfortable to a certain degree. A Maltipoo may have trouble sleeping well, resting and relaxing since only short amounts of time lapse before the urge to lick and/or chew at the paws comes back into play.
Why Maltipoos Lick and Chew at Their Paws and Remedies to Treat the Affliction

There are several reasons why dogs do this.

1) Allergies- Many owners cringe when they read about this being a common cause. It may have been diagnosed with attempted treatment in the past without good results. Other owners feel that this diagnosis will lead down a long, winding road of frustration. However, the good news is that in many cases when it is directly only on the paws, this is an environmental factor that can be relatively easy to resolve.

Which type of allergy - With the majority of allergies, a Maltipoo will have other signs and symptoms other than just licking his paws. This consist of a wide range of issues including: itchy eyes, eye and/or nasal discharge, itching over the entire body, hair loss over other areas of the body, vomiting, changes to the stool including diarrhea, sneezing, and/or coughing and wheezing.

When a Maltipoo's issue is limited to his paws, this is an indication that if it is indeed an allergy, it is due to a contact trigger. This makes it easier to treat and once the paws have healed and the allergen is removed from the dog's environment, Maltipoos will stop licking and chewing.

How to Treat This at Home - In some cases, you can fix this at home as long as there are no other signs of concern. If your Maltipoo does have other symptoms or if the skin has broken open to the point of bleeding, you will want to have a veterinarian examine the paws. There may be a need for prescribed medications and testing to determine the source of the allergy. However, if the paws are have minimal sores and there is minimal to moderate hair loss, and you suspect a contact allergy it can help to remove the trigger.

In the spring, summer and fall, it is not uncommon for a Maltipoo to lick at his paws or chew at his feet after being outside. Irritants in the grass and on the ground surfaces often attach to the paws and are tracked back into the home. In addition, if you have recently obtained new carpeting or have started to use a new carpet deodorizer or flood cleaner, it may be causing a reaction.

In the winter, ice melt chemicals can cause intense itching and chemical burns to a dog's paws. Even if you do not use these at your home, they are often used in other areas and cars can easily track them into your own neighborhood.

It can help to:

- Thoroughly rinse off the paws before entering back into the house. Wiping with a wet rag or canine wipe is not very sufficient. If the weather allows it, use an outside hose to rinse off all paws.

- All people in the household should remove shoes before entering into the living areas.

- Floors should be vacuumed using a HEPA certified vacuum cleaner. These remove 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 micrometers - these are the irritants that you cannot see but may be the source of intense itching and subsequent licking or chewing for your Maltipoo.

- Use products to offer relief and healing (more ahead)

Professional Veterinary Treatment - If the above steps do not offer improvement after one week, it will be time to have your Maltipoo's veterinarian perform thorough testing for allergies. The two most important things that a vet will do is to test to determine the exact trigger and offer prescribed treatments that may include Antihistamines, anti-inflammatory medication and possibly antibiotics if the paws have developed an infection. 
2) Boredom or Stress - While boredom can certainly be factor in licking the paws until they are raw or chewing at the feet until there is hair loss, for this breed a stress related issue causing Acral Lick Granuloma is not uncommon.

The skin of the paws can become severely damaged. Skin may be licked raw, causing tiny pockets of bacteria and broken hair follicles. This sort of severe condition will be deep enough to affect oil glands and capillaries.

Sores will be cleaned by a veterinarian. The paw may be wrapped; however if the root cause of the problem is not identified, a Maltipoo often begins licking or chewing at another un-wrapped paw.

What can make a Maltipoo so stressed out that he licks at his paws until they are bleeding and crusted with sores? Each dog has his own 'line in the sand' of how much stress will cause a tipping point of manifesting outward with self-destructive behavior. The most common reasons include:
  • Separation Anxiety - While some puppies and dog will whine or bark, others will chew at themselves as a way of dealing with the stress of being alone. The longer a dog is left alone, the more likely he is to have trouble coping. 
  • Change in Environment - This includes the loss or the addition of a human family member or pet. Moving to a new home may also cause distress.
How to Treat this with At-Home Remedies - Minimal damage to the paws may be treated at home (more ahead) though moderate to severe sores, swelling, bleeding and/or hair loss on the Maltipoo's paws often needs to be professionally treated. As these clinical signs are being implemented, owners will want to address the possible triggers for the stress or anxiety.
Boredom and separation anxiety can often be helped by:

1- Creating a comforting area for your Maltipoo. This includes a moderately large gated off area to combat any feeling of claustrophobia. Some Maltipoos do better when near a window and others when away from outside stimuli; owners should test both methods. Chew toys filled with treats, stuffed toys that emit heartbeats sounds and a TV playing in the background can all be useful tools to combat stress-related paw chewing or licking.  

2- Breaking up the day. Having someone take the Maltipoo for a walk and offering human interaction halfway through the day can be a great aide. If owners cannot make it home, a friend, family member, neighbor or even a paid dog walker (look for teenagers in your community who would appreciate payment for one hour of work) can offer a Maltipoo a good release of an otherwise isolating period of time.

3- Reevaluate your Maltipoo's exercise schedule. It is not uncommon for Maltipoo with paw licking problems to have exercise programs that are lacking in duration, intensity or both. Many factors including time management and weather may have caused a gradual reduction in how often a Maltipoo is allowed to be active outdoors.

Two 20 to 30 minute walks per day are recommended, going at what is considered a brisk pace for your Maltipoo.   

Canines will have a buildup of pent-up energy that if not properly released on a regular basis can lead to all sorts of behavioral problems including a compulsion to lick or chew at the paws. Daily walks will also tire out a Maltipoo that is home alone afterward and will always play an important role in overall health.
3) Dry Skin - While dry skin can affect any part of a dog's body, the paws are also exposed to the abrasions received by walking and are therefore more vulnerable to drying. Winter is the most typical season of dry skin issues due to the air being much more arid and the effects of cold winds.

When a Maltipoo licks his paws to relieve minor itching of dry skin, the moisture deposited on them only serves to exasperate the problem.  

How to Treat this with At-Home Remedies - If the paws are deeply cracked, are bleeding or you suspect infection this is your sign to have the veterinarian examine them. Otherwise, for general dryness that is affecting the paws, you may wish to follow a two-step process of combating the dry air and offering relief to paws. 

1- Humidifiers are the best option to add moisture to the home; though some methods such as adding houseplants and/or leaving doors open while showering will help to a small degree.

2- The use of quality paw lotion along with proper moisturizing shampoos and conditioners can heal both dry paws and add shine to a dulled coat. (More ahead on general treatments)
4) Other Less Common Reasons- Sudden chewing at the paws or constant licking may be due to the following - yet less common - triggers: Hormonal imbalances, pain from a sliver or pebble stuck in the paw, parasites including fleas, ticks and mites. Very rarely a neck injury may trigger nerve pain that radiates to the paws and in some rare instances hip pain - including hip dysplasia- may cause discomfort that shoots down the leg into the paw(s).
Treatment and Remedies to Treat the Licking and Chewing of Paws

While there are several effective treatments that you can provide from home for your Maltipoo, red flags that warrant the attention of a veterinarian include: Prolonged bleeding, deep sores that expose inner tissue, pain that causes limping or interferes with normal activities, puss or extreme redness, any other signs of infection, any signs of physical or emotional distress.

With minor to moderate cases that have just developed, there are some treatments you may wish to try from home:

1) Treat the Paws with a Quality OTC Remedy - There are some products that work very well for many dogs for both topical treatment of certain areas such as the paws and for all-over body relief when giving baths. Even if just the paws have effected by licking, you'll want to bathe your Maltipoo in a shampoo and then condition that remedies both skin and coat issues. Sore, red, irritated paws with or without hair loss will be vulnerable to the effects of your every-day shampoo and grooming products.

- Use a quality skin rescue lotion- You'll want to look for those that contains organic whole leaf aloe vera gel and vitamin E to quickly offer relief. Those that also have Sesame oil can help quite a bit with healing and rosemary essential oil aids in restoring hair loss from the paws. You'll want to slip canine socks over the paws once the lotion is applied so that it can be properly absorbed.

- Use healing bath products - Don't shy away from baths since they can serve to not only rinse away possible allergens and irritants but also work to restore skin and the coat. Those that contain peppermint and tea tree work well for many Maltipoos and the product should be free of sodium laurel sulfate.
2) Protect the Paws - A good idea any time, if a Maltipoo's paws have sores, are red and/or have hair loss, you'll want to protect them both outside and inside.

Outside gear - canine boots or shoes - should be put on especially in the winter, since cold dry air can do additional damage to paws. These will protect a Maltipoo's paws from ice, sometimes painful cold surfaces and burns from ice melt chemicals that can be brought in by vehicles from miles away.

During the spring, summer, winter and fall, shoes offer a layer of protection from fertilizers, weed killers, insects and other lawn irritants. In the summer, it will can protect the paws from hot pavement surfaces.

Indoor gear - Place cotton canine socks on your Maltipoo. This holds in the healing balm as well as offers a layer of protection from licking or chewing at the paws. Look for socks that have non-skin treads on the bottoms to offer your Maltipoo good traction. 
*** Recommended Products - If you would like to see recommended healing balms and lotions for chewed and licked paws look to 'Grooming' or for aides to help a Maltipoo deal with stress look to 'Separation Anxiety Aides' in the Maltipoo Specialty Shoppe.
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