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Hot Spots! Too Much Licking

canine hot spot pawDogs lick themselves to clean themselves, however not all licking is for hygiene. Licking can also be a sign that something is wrong.  Read our post about what excessive licking in dogs can mean in terms of infection, arthritis and anxiety.  Sometimes all that licking can lead to a “Hot Spot”.

A hot spot is a red, wet irritated area of the skin caused by licking, chewing, biting and rubbing, called acute moist dermatitis. It is hallmarked by:

  • Moist Skin
  • No hair (hair rubbed off)
  • Red
  • Inflamed
  • Sore and irritated

They are most commonly on the head, chest or hips, but can often be found on paws.  As hot spots develop, it is likely that your dog will continue to “worry” the area, making the hot spot bigger and more inflamed.


There are a variety of different potential causes for hotspots. If you are not sure what is causing them, make sure to consult your vet. They may want to perform some tests.

  • Allergies
  • Boredom
  • Anxiety
  • Dry Skin
  • Pain (arthritis, an infection, injury)
  • Parasites (fleas, ticks and mites)


If there is an underlying cause, your vet will need to treat that cause.  He may give you some topical ointment for the hot spot to help alleviate the immediate symptoms.  It may be necessary for your dog to wear a Victorian Collar if he cannot stop worrying the hot spot.

Often a big cause of hot spots is anxiety or boredom. Our pets get lonely when we are not there and this can cause anxiety. Try to give your dog lots of attention when you get home. Give them something to chew on when you are gone, other than their leg.  You may want to look into treatments for anxiety, there are some nice holistic remedies and some prescription treatments in more extreme cases.

Excessive Licking: Dog Paws

dog licking hotspotDoes your dog like to lick and lick and lick? When your dog licks his paws it is not always good! Sometimes a dog can lick their paws too much and cause the skin to become raw. Excessive licking can also indicate another problem.  If you see your pup licking a lot, you may need to take your dog to the vet.   Excessive licking could mean your dog has a mild to severe infection, arthritis, or thorns are jammed in their padding.

Just because your dog is licking a lot doesn’t necessarily mean that something is physically wrong. If you do not see any issues or swelling, it might be a bad habit they are forming based on anxiety, boredom, or stress.

Possible Causes of Licking:

Thorns: The longer your pets fur the more likely they will attract nature when outdoors. Sometimes this results in thorns or burrs that will need to be removed since they become painful if they get jammed in the skin, especially between the pads. Also note that sticky leaves can also irritate your pet. In this case they are licking their paws excessively to remove the smell and texture.

Stress or Boredom: When a dog is bored or stressed they may tend to turn to their legs and paws… this can turn into a bad habit that will cause their skin to flake and will look similar to eczema. Simple solution: If your pet is licking their paw until it is soggy and wet, PLAY with them immediately! He or she is probably just craving for some attention. Play with them for at least 30 minutes to distract them. This will also reduce their stress levels and provide well needed exercise.

Arthritic Inflammation: Some breeds, as they get older, may develop arthritis and their joints may become painful and inflamed. One solution is acupuncture. Take your pet to an acupuncturist who understands understand animal qi (energy) so they can place stainless steel needles in their skin to reduce the inflammation.

Swollen Pad: Usually this comes from him or her being stung. If from a bee it won’t hurt them but the pad will inflame slightly for about a day. However if it was something else like a spider, this will hurt them greatly and you must take them to your veterinary immediately as this can also cause infection. Also it can be from a shard of glass that has embedded itself in their foot. If you see the glass, you can pull it out gently with tweezers. If you cannot see it, your vet will be able to remove this safely.

Fur Knots: Dogs can lick their paws to remove knots. Place your finger gently between the pads where the skin is to feel if there are any knots. Then pull up the knot and slowly cut it off. Be careful not to nip your pet by making sure that your thumb is by the skin and you cut above it. If you let the knots go they will tighten the skin and make walking uncomfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself then a pet groomer or vet can do it easily.

Don’t forget fleas: One of the most common causes of excessive paw licking are fleas! It comes from the generalized itchiness and staph infections that go along with a flea problem since fleas themselves are rare on the paws. Please note that although no fleas or flea dirt are found on your pet this is no guarantee that fleas are not the cause or a contribution to the paw-licking problem. That is because the itching resulting from a fleabite, or even the presence of a flea that did not bite, go on for a long time after the flea has left. Sometimes a flea’s mere presence stimulates licking and itching.

Certain breeds seem to suffer from paw problems a bit more than others. Among those breeds are Labrador retrievers, terriers of all kinds, poodles, Chihuahuas and Maltese. White and blond-haired breeds may not be more prone to paw licking but when they do have the problem, their saliva discolors their paw fur and makes it more apparent.

If you do not know what the cause is your veterinarian can help you find it.

Treating Sore Feet

Fun with the Feet: Foot soaks! This is a great way to disinfect the paws of your dog whether their paws are infected, irritated or have been exposed to certain contaminants. By cleaning your dog’s feet properly you can avoid some of the problems mentioned above.

Whether in a tub or with a hose make sure to use an iodine solution (it is a natural antifungal, antiviral, safe, non-stinging, non-toxic, and non-abrasive) to disinfectant your pet’s paws for at least 30 seconds. Rinse and then pat the paws dry with a towel.

Other effective solutions you can use are: half a cup of vinegar per gallon of water is a great topical disinfectant. Chamomile tea bags are good if your pet’s paws are just irritated. While green tea provides healthy antioxidants to his skin. If your pet’s white feet have turned brown from excessive licking, rinsing paws with hydrogen peroxide with help remove the unsightly stains.

NOTE: It’s important to recognize that if your pet begins licking their paws it means their paws are irritated. Avoid applying cream, salves or dips. Keep the paws clean and dry. Although ointments may soothe the paws, they don’t always do an adequate job of disinfecting, or removing contaminants. Besides ointments increase the stickiness of the paws which can attract more contaminants.

If you are concerned, call your vet immediately.

Anaphylaxis in Dogs

dog allergic reactionHave you heard of someone dying from a peanut allergy or a bee sting? This is called anaphylaxis. It is a sever allergic reaction that requires immediate attention. Did you know that dogs can have anaphylactic shock too?

A dog will have anaphylactic shock when they are exposed to an allergen to which they have been sensitized. This means they have been previously exposed and had a more mild reaction. The new exposure leads to a more severe reaction because they body is less able to deal with it.

Most Common Anaphylactic Allergens

  • Penicillin is the most common antibiotic to have a reaction to.
  • Bee stings
  • Wasp stings

Signs of Anaphylaxis

If the reaction is because of a sting, you will often see the first signs of an allergic reaction at the point of contact. such as

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Redness

If the signs escalate to the following, get your dog to the vet immediately.

  • Agitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Harsh breathing souds (stridor) from a swollen voice box
  • Weakness
  • Circulatory collapse
  • Coma
  • Death

Treatment for Anaphylactic Shock

If you dog has gone into anaphylaxis you will need immediate emergency treatment. Which may include oxygen, antihistamines, IV fluids, hydrocortisone drugs therapy.

If your dog has had an allergic reaction to a drug, like penicillin, do not give them the drug again.

A dog who has had an allergic reaction to a drug in the past should not be given that drug again.

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The information provided on this website is written by Vetco staff. All information is meant to be informational and is not meant as veterinary advice. If you have a health question regarding your pet, their treatment or anything concerning their veterinary care, please call Vetco to consult with a veterinarian.