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Do you think your dog is licking his paws too much? Occasional paw licking is a normal part of a dog’s self-grooming routine and isn’t anything to worry about. But what does it mean when dogs lick their paws excessively? If your dog is licking or chewing his paws a lot, this could indicate a health or behavioral problem. We’ll help you figure out what may be causing your dog’s paw licking and when it’s time for a vet visit.
Why Is My Dog Licking His Paws A Lot?
Dogs who lick or chew their paws a lot usually do so because they’re itchy, irritated, or even painful, but several things can cause this discomfort.
If you notice that your dog has suddenly started licking one paw excessively, it could be due to an injury. Your dog may have a foreign object embedded in his paw, a cut or scrape, a bee sting, a torn nail, or blisters from walking on hot pavement.
Examine your pup’s foot carefully in between his toes, on his pads, his toenails, and the top of his feet. You may be able to administer first aid yourself by cleaning a wound, removing an object, soothing a bee sting, etc. If the injury looks serious, you should contact your veterinarian.
Growth Or Abscess
As you inspect your dog’s foot, you may notice an abnormal lump, growth, or abscess (a pocket of pus under the skin) on your dog’s paw. Any growth or abscess should get veterinary attention. Your dog could have a cyst or a tumor, which requires proper diagnosis and treatment from your vet.
Dermatitis (Skin Irritation)
Dry, itchy, and irritated skin can often be the culprit for dog paw licking. Dermatitis, or skin irritation, is frequently caused by environmental allergies. Your pup’s skin may be sensitive to grasses, weeds, dust, yard chemicals, salt or de-icing chemicals, and other substances.
Keeping your dog’s paws clean, especially after being outdoors, can often help relieve the problem. But if you suspect that your furry friend has environmental allergies, you may want to contact your veterinarian, particularly if your dog’s itching is severe.
Some dogs have insensitivities to certain ingredients, such as chicken, beef, dairy, eggs, wheat, and soy, that can cause itchy skin and paws. Food allergens can also cause gastrointestinal problems, so if your dog frequently has tummy troubles along with excessive paw and skin licking, he could have food allergies.
It can be difficult to narrow down what’s causing a dog’s food or environmental allergies. If you suspect allergies, you should consider consulting your vet for allergy testing or do an at-home dog allergy test and then work with your vet for the best treatment. You could also try out one of our picks for the best dog food for allergies.
External parasites like fleas or mites (which cause mange) can cause paws and other areas of the body to be extremely itchy. Fleas are fairly easy to treat at home by killing the fleas and using a flea prevention medication. The treatment for mange varies on the type your dog has. It’s best to get a confirmed diagnosis from your vet for mange.
Dogs that are suffering from pain due to arthritis, an internal injury, or other condition may lick their paws a lot. Even if the pain isn’t in their paws, some dogs will lick or chew their paws to comfort themselves from the pain. If there’s no obvious physical sign for your pup’s constant paw licking, you should see your vet to make sure your dog doesn’t have health problems.
If your veterinarian has ruled out any health-related issues causing excessive paw licking, boredom or anxiety could be the reason. Dogs who don’t get enough mental and physical stimulation or suffer from separation anxiety may lick their paws to soothe themselves or occupy their bored brains.
How To Stop Your Dog From Licking His Paws
If your dog’s paw licking is behavioral, make sure your dog gets plenty of walks and playtime during his day. When you don’t have time to play or when you’re not at home, provide your dog with interactive dog toys so he can entertain himself.
You may also want to consider applying Grannick’s Bitter Apple Liquid or a similar pet-safe product to your dog’s paws as a deterrent. If the problem persists, consult your vet or an animal behaviorist for additional behavioral modification strategies to stop compulsive paw licking and ways to help combat anxiety and boredom.
The Risk Of Infection
It’s important to address constant paw licking as soon as you notice the issue because the moisture buildup can cause a bacterial or yeast infection, which can result in redness, swelling, itching, and even more paw licking. If you notice redness or swelling, consult your veterinarian to diagnose and treat the infection.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions our readers ask most often about dogs licking their paws.
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws Before Bed?
Many dogs lick their paws and other areas of their body before they go to sleep. Even if this is a daily ritual, there’s usually no cause for concern — it’s just the way they soothe themselves before bed. However, if your dog’s paws are red or swollen, you should consult your vet.
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws After They Eat?
Some dogs lick their paws after eating as a self-grooming routine. As long as it only lasts a few minutes and isn’t aggressive licking or chewing, there’s nothing to worry about. If the paw licking or chewing lasts a long time and your dog seems uncomfortable, he could have food insensitivities.
How To Keep Your Dog’s Paws Clean (Video)
This video from veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker explains why it’s so important to keep your dog’s feet clean and gives you some detailed tips on how to give your dog regular foot soaks. In addition to the advice in this video, we also give you our top picks for the best dog paw cleaners, including wipes, portable washer cups, and more.
Protect Your Dog’s Feet With Booties
Another great way to keep your dog’s paws clean is by protecting them with winter booties and dog shoes for hot pavement. These dog boots are an inexpensive way to keep pollen, dirt, foreign objects, chemicals for snow removal, and many other irritants from getting on your dog’s paws in the first place.