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Jane Lefler
Jane Lefler, Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 20173
Experience:  Dog breeder/Trainer and Behaviorist 18+ years
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I have a 4 and a half year old Yorkshire terrier. Since last

Customer Question

I have a 4 and a half year old Yorkshire terrier. Since last November he has developed a habit of throwing his head back and licking his front legs. At the beginning, not realising what was happening he licked his legs so badly that he got an infection and had to go on a course of antibiotics. I have spent over £700 with my local vet who has tried all medical theories with absolutely no success and I have since spoken to the UK coordinator for rehousing Yorkies and she said it is definately a behavioural problem. Can you help me?
Thank you Anne.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 4 years ago.
Hi JaCustomer,
My name is Jane. I've professionally worked with animals for over 16 years dealing with both health and behavioral issues. I have over 14,000 satisfied customers. It will be my pleasure to work with you today.
I need to ask for some additional information. Once I receive your responses, it will likely take 30-40 minutes to type my response. I hope you can be patient.
What did the allergy testing show?
Did your dog have mites?
Did the vet suggest he had a liver shunt or an epilepsy?
Have x-rays been done?
Did the vet actually witness one of the head throws himself or go by your description?
Have you tried any type of training?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Tiny does have an allergy to dust mites and food storage mites.

No he does not have mites

The epilepetic drugs made no difference so the vet weaned him off them, he didn't mention liver shunt

No xrays - can't afford it. Have spent over £700 so far for no gain.

Yes, 2 separate vets witnessed the head throwing and I video'd it for them as well. They asked colleagues who mainly suggested epilepsy. No have not tried training, not sure what sort to try.

Hope this clarifies the problem. I have mentioned Tiny's problem to everyone I can think of and have come up with nothing apart from the Yorkie rehousing lady's suggestion that it is in his head.




PS I will wait for however long it take you to find an answer for me

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 4 years ago.
I understand your frustration. It can be a difficult situation when there is no clear reason why an animal is behaving in a specific manner. Before I get further into my answer I want to be sure to let you know that the site does not allow me to make clickable links to supporting websites at this time. So where there is a site listed, you may have to copy that to a separate browser window or tab to access the data there.
I asked about x-rays because sometimes a disc in the back or neck will be injured leading to some abnormal behavior. In some cases it is a lowering of the head, an avoidance to move the head in certain ways or even some problems with the rear legs and in severe cases can cause paralysis. It doesn't quite sound like this is an issue, but I wanted to mention it and give you some links to read on the issue.
Another possibility for the head tossing might be an abnormality in the eye. Sometimes a dog will develop a scratch on the eye. If it is on the edge of the eye, the dog can believe he is seeing something, in this case on the ceiling. However, every time he moves his head to see it clearer, it moves because it is on the edge. This can cause dogs to start moving their heads quickly in the direction of the spot to try and see it. I hope I explained that so you could understand. This would require a stain be put on the eye to see the possible scratch. Your vet might not routinely do this check unless there was redness or discharge from the eye. That might explain the head tossing behavior.
The most common cause would be seizure activity. Focal seizures can result in a variety of repetitive or abnormal behavior. I'll give you a site that goes over seizure activity in quite a lot of detail with lots of information on medication, causes, and types of seizures.
I asked about a liver shunt because yorkies frequently do have liver issues such as the liver shunt. What happens is some of the blood is not being cleansed of toxins by the liver. This toxicity can lead to seizures. These frequently will be seen after eating. Frequently this can be seen on bloodwork. You can read about shunts here:
If a tiny dog is not eating on a regular basis such as twice a day, the blood sugar level can drop leading to hypoglycemia. Dogs with low blood sugar levels can also have seizures. If you suspect your dog is having low blood sugar you can put a drop of pancake syrup on your dog's tongue which should raise the level.
So not eating often enough or even eating in some cases can cause seizures. This might give you a clue if it is seizure related and what a possible cause might be.
For the paw/leg licking issue, it might be related to allergies or long nails or a thyroid condition. Unfortunately, if it is a thyroid condition, that also requires special testing to rule out. Dogs with thyroid condition often have behavioral changes like aggression, and in some cases the hair seems brittle and the hair seems to break off more easily. Thyroid conditions can cause excessive paw licking and chewing.
If that has been done and no medical reason has been found you are dealing with Acral lick dermatitis or lick granuloma. You can read about this here:

You can read about some treatment methods on this site:

You may also want to try an Elizabethan collar (cone shaped collar) that is designed to keep a dog from licking themselves until you get his paws somewhat cleared up. You can also try soaking the paws in epson salt and warm water, cleaning with hydrogen peroxide and using triple antibiotic ointment or Neosporin to help aid healing as well. If you don't use a collar, baby socks or larger socks on the paws taped at the top may prevent the licking and allow the paws time to heal.
There really isn't any training to stop them from licking their legs and feet. You might try a kong chew toy with the treat compartment. You will fill that compartment with peanut butter or yogurt and can even mix in a little food in there and freeze it. Then when you give it to your dog, it takes them hours of licking to get everything out. If he is busy licking the kong, he won't be licking his legs.
I wished there was more I could suggest, but hopefully I have given you enough information that you have a few other avenues to explore.

I hope this information is helpful to you and you are satisfied with my response. If you would like any additional information or have more questions please don’t hesitate to press the reply to expert or continue conversation button so I can address any issues you still have .
If you have questions in the future that you wish me to answer, you may click here and bookmark the page or make it a favorite. It is best to put my name "JANE" in the question as well. Please recommend me to your friends and family members if they have any problems with their dog as well. I would truly appreciate it.
Since there have been recalls on certain foods, please check the following site to be sure the food your animals eat is not affected. If it is affected, contact your vet as soon as possible. Have your dog seen if they have any symptoms.

Expert:  Jane Lefler replied 4 years ago.

I'm just following up with you to see how everything is going. I hope you found my answer helpful.

Let me know,
Jane Lefler