My dog is an avid foot licker. She often just licks her feet to the point of pure annoyance, and I usually deter the behavior via distraction, ample dog walking, and an herbal spray that I make myself to deter her licking and chewing on her poor feet and bring her relief. She does this mainly out of stress, and usually I am able to keep her repetitive foot licking at bay for a while to give her poor feet a break. However, this past week her common foot licking went from annoying to a trip to the vet in a few short days, and it turns out this go-round, she had a piece of “quack grass”- those little weed seeds, stuck in her pad on her right front foot, and it required surgery to remove it.
So when do you know when to take your dog to the vet for a condition you treat yourself? By paying attention to your dog. Your dog will tell you when they are in massive pain, and will begin exhibiting abnormal behavior that tells you something is seriously wrong. I knew my dog needed professional help when she actually quit licking at her foot and wouldn’t get off the couch to go outside- she would just lie there staring wild-eyed not sleeping, and it was obvious she was in pain. She would not go outside to urinate, and actually urinated on the couch during the night, and the next morning I was calling the vet (my vet is actually just down the road) and got her in, where they told me that a piece of seed had embedded itself in her foot, gotten infected, and would require surgery to remove.
If your dog goes from bad to worse, you’ll know. They will begin to do minor things, like not responding when you call them, refusing to go outdoors, forgoing food and drink, and just become lethargic, jittery, panicky, or aggressive because they are in pain and confused with their condition. My dog luckily would get up to eat, but the poor thing would hold her foot and hobble on 3 legs (which is common for her when she has licked her foot to tenderness), but I knew there was a real problem when I was able to leave the house with keys in hand and could not get her to even get off the couch to “go for a ride”.
Unfortunately, since she does lick her feet a lot, it took me about 3 days to realize a true problem. She had to urinate all over the couch after I couldn’t get her to go outdoors to make me realize, holy crap! Her foot is REALLY bothering her, and all the little signs, like not wanting to go for a car ride, slight limping gone worse, quitting licking her foot and not being able to walk on it, became clear signs of an issue. Yes, mommy doggy guilt ensued, but the important thing is I eventually caught the issue for what it was and got her to the vet. She is now hobbling about with her little cast and being a spoiled rotten dog (food in bed, water brought to her), while she snoozes away in doggy doped up bliss from the pain meds I insisted she go home with. In a week she should be good as new.
Don’t ignore signs of your dog being in serious pain. A simple limp, animal bite, ear infection, or fall out of the truck can quickly exacerbate to a serious condition that leaves your dog in so much pain that they can hardly move to do their normal things. The wild-eyed pain look, lethargy, not wanting to go outside, and refusing to eat or drink are sure signs that your dog needs more help that you can give them.
Don’t feel guilty that it took you a few days to realize the true injury of your pet. Dogs can’t talk, and will typically deal with pain like it’s no big deal until it gets so bad they just can’t take it. For me, it was my dog licking at her foot like always- she was walking fine, acting fine, still going for runs with me, and then BAM! Suddenly there was a true issue on my hands. You are not a bad doggy parent is you don’t realize your dog’s true condition right away, just make sure you get them to the vet when you KNOW there is a problem, and don’t just try to deal with it on your own. Your dog will thank you for it.