I have a feisty 12-year-old Boston Terrier. He is in excellent health, gets fed homemade dog food and is very active. However, he licks his paws constantly. One of his paws is white and there is noticeable saliva staining. Any suggestions on what is causing this licking and how I can reduce it?
Thank you for your great question. The staining (likely either pink or red) on white fur is due to a substance in canine saliva called poryphrins. There are many reasons why dogs may lick at their feet. Constant licking at a paw could be due to a variety of skin conditions that can manifest with pruritis (aka itching).
Such conditions could be caused by a fungal agent (yeast, etc.), bacteria or parasite. Licking at the skin is typically not instigated by infection, but by inflammation. There could be environmental irritation causing inflammation, which leads to licking. Even a foreign body (such as a piece of material stuck in his skin, especially if you are only seeing it on one paw) could be a contributing cause.
It is best that you pursue an examination with your veterinarian. Your vet can perform diagnostics to determine an underlying cause (such as a skin impression smear, scraping, etc., including a biopsy, if needed) and recommend the best treatment.
There may be a veterinary dermatologist in your area that can lend an additional perspective, if needed.
For the possible behavioral reasons why your Boston constantly licks his paws, see Eugenia Vogel’s Ask a Trainer response to your question.
Good luck with your Boston Terrier. It is one of my favorite breeds!
– Dr. Mahaney