I’ve noticed our yellow lab, Bear, started licking his paws more often and wondered why. Is he trying to clean himself, did he hurt is paw, or is he just bored?
My search for the answer to why my dog keeps licking his paws led me to dig deep into the research.
There are several possible reasons for dogs to lick their paws, including physical discomfort, psychological factors, and even health concerns.
Some common physical reasons for paw licking include minor injuries, skin irritations, or allergies. Your dog may be experiencing pain or itchiness resulting from cuts, scrapes, or dermatitis caused by bacteria, allergens, or food sensitivities.
Alternatively, their paws may be irritated by environmental factors such as deicing salts, harsh weather conditions, or flea and tick infestations.
Psychological factors might also play a role in excessive paw licking. Boredom, anxiety, or compulsive behavior can lead your dog to find comfort in this repetitive action. By understanding the possible causes of your dog’s paw licking, you can identify the most suitable solutions to ensure their well-being and comfort.
Causes and Treatment of Paw Licking in Dogs
Your dog may be suffering from allergies, which can cause their paws to become inflamed and itchy.
Common allergens include pollen, weeds, and environmental substances, as well as certain proteins or additives found in dog food.
Our dog, Ginger, suffers from severe allergies so during a flareup I will notice her licking her paws and scratching her ears excessively.
Learn more about dog allergies with my series of articles: Does My Dog Have Allergies?
If it’s allergy season and your dog is excessively licking her paws, try soaking your dog’s paws in pure Epsom salt, it should help relieve the itch and swelling.
Once the paws are dry apply paw wax to moisturize and protect their paws when outside. We like to use Musher’s Secret on our dogs all year long. I’ve also tried coconut oil, as it has great antimicrobial properties, but my dogs love the taste so they will just lick their paws more.
If your dog’s paw-licking is due to allergies, medications like antihistamines can provide relief but always consult your vet before administrating any medication.
If your dog has allergies read The Ultimate Guide to Home Remedies for Dog Allergies.
Parasites such as fleas, ticks, and mites can lead to excessive paw licking, as they cause irritation and itchiness. Check your dog for these parasites and keep them on a preventive treatment plan.
Be aware of what you are using as a preventative, read WARNING! The Hidden Dangers of Flea and Tick Medications.
Bacterial and yeast infections
A skin infection can make your dog’s paws itchy, leading them to lick them to relieve the itch.
You can usually identify a yeast infection by the smell. A visit to your vet may be necessary to treat infections. Skin infections, particularly if left untreated, can develop into more severe secondary infections, which can worsen the problem.
If your dog’s paw-licking is due to an infection, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or steroids to help clear it up.
Arthritis can lead to pain and discomfort, making your dog lick their paws for relief.
Our dog was diagnosed with arthritis in his paws by a canine massage therapist. I had no idea that the paw-licking was connected!
We have since changed his diet to raw food and put him on a joint supplement (this is the one we use) which has helped tremendously.
Pain can cause your dog to lick their paws excessively. Your dog may have been injured by stepping on something sharp like a thorn or piece of glass. Dry skin can lead to pain and discomfort too.
Gently clean any wounds with warm water and soap and remove any foreign objects with tweezers.
Follow the steps below on how to inspect your paws properly.
Make sure you provide your dog with a clean, comfortable environment to reduce the chances of contact with chemicals, mold or other irritants causing skin irritation.
Cleaning products used on your floors can also be a cause for concern. Your dog’s paw pads come into contact with the floor 24/7. Use natural products to clean your floor.
Pesticides and other chemicals used in your backyard or during walks can irritate your dog’s paws. Always clean their paws after being outside. Keeping pet wipes or a towel near the door helps ensure that their paws are cleaned each time you come inside.
Anxiety, stress, and boredom can all lead to excessive paw licking in dogs. These behavioral issues can be the result of a change in routine, a new environment, or other factors that may be causing stress for your dog.
If you recently adopted your dog, make sure to give them time to decompress. Read the 3-3-3 rule of bringing home a new rescue dog.
If your dog is exhibiting signs of stress or anxiety create a calm environment and provide them with training to help them cope better.
If your dog is bored, consider providing them with more mental stimulation, exercise, or training.
In some cases, a consultation with an animal behaviorist may be helpful. Dogs with compulsive behaviors or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may also lick their paws excessively.
Dog Paw Soak Recipes
For cuts or infections, including yeast, add a small amount of Betadine Antiseptic to a small plastic tub of water (enough to make the water look like tea) and soak your dog’s paws for 1-2 minutes. Then pat their feet dry.
You can make the tea solution and save it in the refrigerator to create an easy-to-use cooling spray.
Pure Epsom salt is another great option to soak your dog’s paws in to help relieve itching and swelling.
You can use plain cool water to wash your dog’s paws each time you come inside.
Or mix ½ cup vinegar with one gallon of water and use this to soak your dog’s paws.
How To Check Your Dog’s Paws
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to check your dog’s paws for the cause of licking:
- Prepare a Safe and Comfortable Space: Choose a quiet, well-lit area where your dog feels safe and comfortable. Make sure the space is free of distractions.
- Handle Your Dog Gently: Approach your dog calmly and gently. Speak to them in a soothing tone to keep them relaxed.
- Inspect the Paw Pads: Start by inspecting the paw pads for any cuts, cracks, foreign objects (like splinters, glass, or rocks), or signs of irritation. Lift each paw and examine both the top and bottom of the pads.
- Check Between Toes: Carefully spread the toes and inspect the spaces between them for any foreign objects, wounds, or signs of infection. Look for redness, swelling, or discharge.
- Examine Nails and Nail Beds: Examine each nail for cracks, splits, or breaks. Look for any signs of injury, overgrowth, ingrown nails, or infections. Check the nail beds for redness, swelling, or discharge.
- Look for Swelling or Lumps: Gently run your hands along the legs and paws to check for any abnormal swelling, lumps, or bumps. Pay close attention to any areas that may be tender to the touch.
- Assess for Signs of Infection: Check for signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, swelling, or discharge. Foul smells can also indicate an infection. The Frito smell can mean a yeast infection.
- Be Gentle and Patient: Be gentle during the inspection, and watch for signs that your dog is uncomfortable or in pain.
- Reward Your Dog: Reward your dog with praise, treats, or playtime after the paw inspection to create a positive association with the experience.
If you notice any abnormalities, injuries, or signs of discomfort during the paw inspection, consult your veterinarian for further evaluation and appropriate treatment.
I recommend that you check your dog’s entire body, not just the paws to help maintain your dog’s overall health and well-being.
Keeping Your Dog’s Paws Healthy
Self-grooming is a natural part of a dog’s daily routine, but excessive licking may indicate a problem. Regular grooming sessions will help you identify any changes in your dog’s skin that could indicate a problem, such as redness or inflammation.
To prevent your dog from excessively licking their paws, it’s essential to address the underlying causes. Several factors can contribute to this behavior, including allergies, parasites, wounds, and foreign objects. Regularly inspecting and cleaning their paws can help you stay on top of any issues that may arise.
Providing mental stimulation and exercise for your dog can help reduce boredom and anxiety, which can lead to excessive paw licking as a coping mechanism. Regular walks, interactive toys, and training sessions can help keep your dog’s mind engaged and reduce the likelihood of them developing self-destructive habits.