Pet Talk
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Pet Talk

May 12, 2021

In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka deals with food aggression in dogs and paw-licking

By Maneka Gandhi

Why do dogs threaten if we go near their food bowl?

Dogs can be territorial, especially when it comes to mealtime. Food aggression causes dogs to be protective over their food. It can become an issue: those living with the dog could be at risk of being bitten, and it could lead to your dog becoming possessive in other areas of its life and even about you. Food aggression in dogs can be learned in puppyhood, either by accidental training practices, or by needing to compete over limited resources in a shelter environment. Dogs can also develop food aggression later in life as well. 

Trauma can be a massive trigger, something like losing a caretaker, physical abuse or neglect, natural disasters, or fighting with another dog can bring on symptoms of food aggression. They become more protective over their resources, most importantly, their food. 

Some breeds are genetically predisposed to dominant or aggressive tendencies, and may guard food due to a pack-like mentality. Dogs like English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds or Rottweilers, are well-known for having hereditary guarding instincts, though these instincts typically apply to livestock or property. 

While there can be a number of causes for food aggression in dogs, those that spent time in a shelter may be at a higher risk to experience this resource guarding tendency, due to competition for the available resources like beds, treats, potential mates or food.

Does hitting a dog on the nose hurt them?

The dog’s nose is a sensitive area. It is made of cartilage and soft tissue and it has a blood supply of arteries and veins and nerves. A traumatic nose injury in dogs can cause bleeding and pain. Dogs should not be tapped, smacked or punched on the nose for any reason. Repeated tapping to the dog’s noise may trigger fear and self defence in the long run and the dog may at some point react defensively.

What does it mean if my dog’s breath smells different ?

If you notice a marked change, with even a little halitosis, it might be time to take a trip to the veterinarian. There could be something wrong with your dog’s oral health. A change in the smell of your dog’s breath may also be a cause for concern with respect to its gastrointestinal tract, liver, or kidneys. If your dog’s breath smells of urine, for instance, it could have a kidney problem. Sweet-smelling breath is a sign to vets that your dog may have diabetes. The overall dog mood may appear happy, but if his breath has changed, pay attention.

Can dogs also suffer from diabetes?

Yes, diabetes is a chronic disease that can affect dogs as well as humans. Although diabetes can’t be cured, it can be managed very successfully. Diabetes mellitus, or sugar diabetes, is the type of diabetes seen most often in dogs. It is caused by either a lack of insulin in your dog’s body or, in some cases, an ‘inadequate’ biological response to it. When your dog eats, the food is broken down. One of the components of their food, glucose, is carried to their cells by insulin. Canine diabetes is more common in middle-age and older dogs, but it is also seen in young dogs. Some of the causes of diabetes in dogs are chronic or repeated pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) which can eventually cause extensive damage to that organ, resulting in diabetes. 


Obesity contributes to insulin resistance and is a risk factor for pancreatitis, which can lead to diabetes. Steroid medications can cause diabetes when used long-term. With Cushing’s disease, the body overproduces steroids internally, so this condition also can cause diabetes. Some autoimmune disorders and viral diseases are also thought to possibly trigger diabetes.

What are the symptoms of diabetes in dogs?

Few common symptoms are excessive thirst, increase in urination, unexplained weight loss, appetite changes, sweet-smelling breath, tiredness or lack of energy, urinary tract infection, loss of eyesight. The dog may ask to go outside frequently and increased urination happens, because the body is trying to get rid of excess sugar by sending it out through urine, along with water that bonds to the sugar. The dog can lose weight despite eating normal portions. This is because the dog isn’t efficiently converting nutrients from its food. The dog can be very hungry all the time because the body’s cells aren’t getting all the glucose they need, even though the dog is eating a normal amount.

How to stop dogs from biting shoes?

If you catch your dogs chewing on something they shouldn’t, interrupt the behaviour with a loud noise. Offer them an acceptable chew toy instead, and praise them lavishly when they take the toy in their mouth. If your puppy is teething, try freezing a wet washcloth for them to chew on. The cold cloth will soothe their gums. Supervise your puppy so they don’t chew and swallow any pieces of the washcloth. Offer your dog a treat in exchange for the item in their mouth. As your dog catches on to this idea, you can add the command “Give” as their cue to release the object in exchange for the yummy treat. Don’t chase your dog if they grab an object and run. If you chase them, you are only giving your dog what they want. Being chased by their human is fun for them. Instead, call them to you or offer them a treat. Have realistic expectations. At some point your dog will inevitably chew up something you value; this is often part of the transition to a new home. Your dog needs time to learn the house rules and you need to remember to take precautions and keep things out of their reach.

Why do dogs lick their paws?

Occasional paw-licking is normal for dogs as a part of their self-grooming process, especially when they come inside after walking on dirty or sandy ground. But if your dog frequently and intensely licks his paws, you can assume that something is wrong. The first step to take, especially if the licking begins very suddenly and is focused on one paw, is to examine the paws to make certain there is not an injury such as a cut, torn nail, growth, or perhaps a stone, thorn or tick stuck between the pads. 

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Look closely at the nails, between the toes and pads, and at the tops of the feet. Your dog may have irritated its paw by stepping on something sharp, walking on hot sidewalks, being stung by a bee, or getting a blister. Some of these problems can be relieved by a simple first aid treatment, while others might require treatment by a veterinarian. If the paw pads and feet appear normal, the licking could be due to a skin condition, which often is the result of bacterial problems, allergies, or food sensitivities. 

Your dog could develop dermatitis by being allergic to chemicals or certain types of grass or weeds. Keeping a bowl of water and a towel near the door, to gently clean off the paws when you come inside, could help. 

Parasite infections, such as fleas or mange, can cause the paws to be very itchy. Finally, a dog that is experiencing pain, due to arthritis or other foot or leg conditions, may lick its paws. Even if the pain is somewhere else in their body, some dogs will try to deal with it by licking a front paw continuously. This requires diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian. If you have ruled out all of the above problems, then your dog may be suffering from boredom, or a behavioural problem such as anxiety. Again, this is difficult to diagnose, but there are some steps you can take to help. Some dogs develop compulsive behaviours, which include paw-licking. To alleviate boredom, try taking your dog for more walks, runs, or playtime with you and with other dogs, to use up more mental and physical energy. Give it safe chew toys to take its focus away from its paws. If you think anxiety, such as fear of noises or separation anxiety, may be causing him to lick its paws, there are a number of ways you can attempt to relieve the anxiety. 

It’s important to recognise that licking behaviour can be indicative of a health problem and may become harmful to the dog. Don’t wait too long to do this, because the moisture of constant foot licking can cause a secondary bacterial or yeast infection — causing even more itching, redness, swelling, and licking. Meanwhile, depending on the underlying cause of the problem, the veterinarian may relieve your dog’s itching by prescribing topical anti-itch sprays, steroids to reduce inflammation, antibiotics for a bacterial infection, or anti-fungals for yeast infections.


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