Does your Shih Tzu act like a cat? As it turns out, it’s fairly common for Shih Tzus to obsessively lick their paws. However, it’s not always a good sign. The reasons range from benign boredom to trying to heal themselves from an injury or infection, so it’s definitely worth taking some time to find out why your Shih Tzu suddenly can’t take their eyes (or tongue) off their feet.
6 Common Reasons Your Shih Tzu Might Lick Their Paws
1. Normal Grooming
Dogs don’t shower everyday like we do, so they lick themselves in order to stay clean. It’s perfectly healthy for your Shih Tzu to clean their feet—sometimes. It can become a problem however if it develops into obsessive behavior.
In a house full of chew toys that you’ve lovingly doted upon them, you may ask yourself why on earth your Shih Tzu has taken up paw cleaning as their new hobby. Boredom or self-destructive behavior sometimes gets the better of us, and even our animals. Making sure your Shih Tzu receives enough exercise daily may help them refocus their energies on positive play instead of fiddling with their feet. Aim for a couple of 30-minute walks or one hour-long walk each day.
Although they’re not quite as temperamental as cats, big life changes such as a new family member or moving houses can stress out your Shih Tzu. Since they’re bred to be companion animals, Shih Tzus are also more likely to develop separation anxiety if they’re left alone for long periods of time. Take some extra time to reassure your Shih Tzu that you’re not going anywhere, especially if you’re in a transition season that can be scary for them. Playing ball, petting them, or taking them out for longer walks can alleviate some of their stress.
4. Skin Allergies
When the word “allergies” pops up, we often think of food or the oak tree budding outside. While these things are definitely potential allergens, flea allergy dermatitis is actually the leading cause of skin diseases affecting canines. Some dogs are so allergic to fleas that one bite can create skin rashes, excessive itching, and cause some of their fur to fall out. Make sure that your dog is flea-free by giving them some form of flea control, especially if you live in a warmer area where these pests are problems year-round. If you’re certain the flea population is under control, talk to your vet about other possible reasons for your dog’s behavior. Tell them if you’ve noticed any other signs of an allergic reaction, such as sneezing or vomiting.
When your dog begins to exhibit unusual behavior, a good first step is to thoroughly examine their body for any injuries. Note if your Shih Tzu feels unusually anxious when you touch their paws. An overgrown nail could be irritating them, or even sun-scorched paws if you walk them on asphalt during hot weather.
Skin infections are often caused by secondary conditions, such as allergies or injuries. It’s not uncommon for dogs to develop yeast infections in between their paw pads, which can be painful or itchy. Check for signs of redness or irritation and call your vet if they don’t look normal.
What to Do When Your Shih Tzu Won’t Stop Chewing Their Feet
Once you’ve identified the source of your Shih Tzu’s frustration, you can begin to solve the problem. Talk to your vet about the best food to give your Shih Tzu, especially if you suspect a food allergy might be the issue. Food allergies are relatively rare but are often accompanied by GI upset. If your dog experiences vomiting or diarrhea, that’s a good indicator that a food allergen could be the culprit.
However, allergy symptoms can also mimic serious illnesses, so you should take your dog to the vet to be safe. You should also take your dog for a check-up if you notice redness or irritation on their paws or skin, or if they seem unusually irritable if you try to touch their feet.
A bored or anxious Shih Tzu may lick their paws as a way to relieve stress. Despite their reputation as indoor dogs, these small companion animals weren’t designed for a solitary or sedentary life. Shih Tzus thrive when they’re around the people they love, and they need to walk for 30 minutes to an hour every day to stay in shape. If your Shih Tzu feels well emotionally, they’ll be more likely to focus on better things than chewing their feet.
Licking paws is a fairly common behavior and can even be healthy in moderation. However, your Shih Tzu is probably trying to tell you something is wrong if they clean their feet obsessively, especially if they suddenly start chewing on them. Chronically licking and chewing on their paws can also lead to infections, so talk to your vet as soon as possible to prevent them from injuring themselves, or to treat an underlying condition in your Shih Tzu.
Featured Image Credit: Kwan Kajornsiri, Shutterstock