Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws? Important to know!

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

It is quite normal for dogs to lick their paws, it can be just part of their self-grooming process, but if your dog starts to excessively lick their paws or just one paw, then it may be a sign that there is something wrong.

In this article, I shall answer the common question: Why do dogs lick their paws?

If your dog has started licking their paws excessively or aggressively, then it is probably time to take notice and take action.

Some of the most common reasons your dog may have started excessively started licking their paws are:

why dogs lick their paws
  • Pain/Injury
  • Dry Skin
  • Food/Environment Allergies
  • Fleas/Ticks
  • Anxiety/Boredom
  • Behavioral Issues
  • De-icing Salts/Cold Weather
  • Hormonal Imbalance
  • Secondary Infections

Pain/Injury

This is most likely if your dog has suddenly started licking just one paw and may be accompanied by your dog limping. Your dog may have stepped on something sharp, so start by checking the paw for any cuts, thorns, torn nails, stones, broken glass, insect bites, lumps or growths, or anything which looks abnormal. Your dogs’ paw may have been irritated by one of these or maybe even by walking on a hot pavement if it is summer or even been irritated by the salt if it is winter. Many of these symptoms can be relieved by some simple first aid treatments at home, whereas others may require a trip to a veterinarian.

If you can’t see any problems for yourself and your dog continues to lick its paw excessively, don’t ignore it. It would be best to take the dog to the vet as soon as you can, just in case there is a deeper problem that may need investigating, such as some form of inflammation, muscle sprain, or possibly even a fracture, especially if your dog is limping or yelping.    

Dry Skin

injured paw

Dogs, just like us, can get dry, cracked, and flaky skin in cold dry climates. Breeds which are hairless are particularly prone to this because of the natural protection hair gives. As you go outside, the moisture from your skin dries out in the cold air, which then chaps the skin, leading to the skin cracking and becoming sore.

Another common cause of dry skin can be excessive bathing, as this removes the natural oils from their skin. There are shampoos, lotions & oils available which can help relieve itchiness and dryness. Alternatively, you could give them some quality vitamins and oil supplements.

Food/Environment Allergies

Food allergies are very difficult to pinpoint but some of the symptoms caused by food allergies often include, itchy paws, paw licking, itchy rash, hot spots, vomiting, and diarrhea. These are most commonly caused by an allergy to dairy, wheat, egg, beef, and chicken. If you think your dog may have a food allergy, spoke to your veterinarian as your dog may need a special diet.

Environment allergies are a reaction to things like grass, pollen, dust mites, mold spores, etc, and will occur after a walk to the park or around the block. These allergies will have the following symptoms, eyes watering, sneezing, rash, itchy skin, and paw licking. Start by wiping your dog’s paws after a walk, this may help, if not, you can help relieve these symptoms by the use of antihistamines for dogs, although I would always speak to your veterinarian before giving your dog medication from over the counter.  

You can find allergy relief tablets by CLICKING HERE

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Flea/Ticks

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) is a possible cause, this is when a dog’s immune system overreacts to a flea’s saliva. The allergic reaction then causes irritation in the skin which then results in your dog excessively licking to relieve the itch.

Here is an article on how to rid your dog of fleas.

Alternatively, check with your veterinarian what treatment they recommend. 

Anxiety/Boredom

Your dog may be suffering from anxiety due to being left alone, being away from the owner for a long period of time can cause your dog to be stressed, this then leads to your dog comforting themselves by licking. A lack of exercise, illness, or maybe your dog is just bored. Try taking your dog to the park more, go for a walk or run and if you can’t go out, have a play in your garden or in your house. There are some great dog puzzle games that will challenge your dog and keep them mentally stimulated if you need to go out and can’t take your dog with you.

You can find some great dog puzzle games by CLICKING HERE

Behavioural Issues

It’s possible your dog has CCD (Canine Compulsive Disorder) the dog version of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), which would usually start out of boredom.  You can try exercise and/or redirection to break the habit. Has their environment changed recently? Have you moved house? Has your routine changed? Are their new people around? Are their new pets? Are their loud noises? These are all possible sources of stress for your dog, and again, when dogs get stressed, they comfort themselves.

Some dogs lick their paws just before going to bed or fall asleep while licking, this is sometimes just their way of relaxing.


De-icing Salts/Cold Weather

ice balls on fur

If you find that your dog is excessively licking their paws in winter, after a walk, then it may be being caused by salt used on the roads to melt ice. These salts can cause a chemical burn so try to avoid any areas which have been sprayed with salt and if you can’t avoid these areas, give your dog’s paws a good wipe or better still wash their paws after any walks. You can even buy boots for your dog if you would prefer.

If you live in an area that gets snow, ice balls may be a problem. As the snow gets caught in the fur between their toes, it starts to pull on the hair, crack the skin, and then causing it to bleed, your dog then licks their paws to relieve the pain. During the winter months, trim the hair on their paws to prevent the build-up of ice balls.

Hormonal Imbalance

If a dog has a hormonal imbalance, they either produce too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) or too much cortisol (which is known as Cushing’s syndrome), which will increase your dog’s chances of developing skin issues like, red spots, brittle hair, and balding. When dogs then lick these bald patches or red spots, these can then lead to secondary infection.

Secondary Infections

It is important to know that excessive licking can be a sign of a health problem in your dog. If you can’t find an obvious reason for his behavior, then you should make an appointment to see your veterinarian. If you wait too long and the paw licking carries on, their paws remain constantly damp from all the licking, which can then lead to a secondary fungal or bacterial infection which will then lead to more licking and further infection. The sooner you get advice from your veterinarian, the sooner the problem can be addressed and remedied.

Tips for stopping your dog licking his paws

The cause of your dog licking its paws excessively could have been just an insect bite, but your dog’s licking may have made the problem far worse.

  • The easiest tip to try first would be to distract your dog with a chew toy or puzzle game which releases a treat.
  • If distracting your dog doesn’t work, have your dog wear a cone or an Elizabethan collar if you have one.
  • After bringing your dog in from the garden or after walks, use a damp cloth to wipe your dog’s paws, in case your dog has allergies to something which he stands on outside.
  • To relieve itchy paws, you can get a shampoo with a calming agent in the form of phtosphingosine salicyloyl provide your dog temporary relief.
  • If your dogs licking doesn’t improve, speak to your veterinarian about acquiring anti histamines. 
  • If the problem lies with food allergies, you will need to speak to your veterinarian regarding some form of special diet.

Conclusion

Here are the most common reasons why do dogs lick their paws? But there’s nobody that knows your dog like you do, if you feel your dog’s paw licking is excessive and have concerns about it, then it is always best to have your veterinarian check them over.

dog been licking paws

This article has been compiled to be, and is believed to be, as accurate as possible and is true to the best of the author’s knowledge. This article is not meant to be a substitute for professional veterinary medical advice and should not be used as such. It is the opinion of the author and this website that any dog showing signs or symptoms of illness, discomfort or distress, should be seen by a qualified veterinarian immediately.  


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