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Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws? 9 Potential Reasons

Watching your pup lick their paws can be a very cute sight to behold. Most of the time, this light afternoon licking is totally harmless and to be expected. The problem comes in when this modest tongue lapping turns to be excessive or consistent. In this case, there could be underlying reasons why your dog is licking or chewing its paws. Possible reasons include injury, allergies, skin problems, anxiety, or even boredom.

So while it is a totally normal self-grooming action across all dog breeds, it can also be indicative of a bigger root problem. Therefore, it’s handy to know all the possibilities in order to best care for your fur baby.

golden retriever why do dogs lick their paws

Why do Dogs Lick their Paws? Normal Reasons

1. To Communicate

Licking is one of the truest ways dogs communicate. Whether it be to share their pleasure and excitement, or their anxiety and displeasure. It’s not uncommon for a dog to lick its paws, so if you see your pup lapping at its pads, it’s not necessarily an area for concern.

2. Grooming

Our hounds typically paw-lick as part of their self-grooming routines. If your doggy is a particularly meticulous groomer, you may notice him licking his paws more regularly. You’ll likely see this routine happening after meals, before settling down for a snooze, or perhaps after coming in from outside.

Even if your dog isn’t naturally inclined to groom, you will still see them occasionally cleaning their paws. However, a healthy dog should not be licking its paws excessively; if you find this to be the case, there may be cause for concern and closer inspection.

whiteish dog licking paws

Worrisome Reasons for Paw Licking

While mild paw licking can be totally fine, it can also be a telltale sign of anxiety or underlying health issues. There are a number of things you can look out for if your pooch is taking to their paw too frequently.

3. Injuries

If your pup’s licking starts suddenly and is focussed on one specific paw, it could be indicative of an injury. In this case, examine the targeted paw for any obstructions like thorns or stones stuck between their pads or any wounds like a cut or torn nail. Remember to also check under and around the dewclaw which is the toenail on the inside of the dog’s front leg.

Some injuries may be simple and easy to treat, like if they were stung by a bee, bitten by another insect, or have a shallow cut that will heal on its own. Others, however, will be best treated with the help of a vet. These instances include injuries that require professional medical attention like deeper wounds or cuts. These may bleed a lot and possibly require stitches and infected areas may need antibiotics.

4. Claw Problems

A very viable reason your pup may be going at their paw could be that their claws are causing them problems. The same rules apply; do a thorough inspection of their paw, checking each claw carefully, including the declaw.

The problem may be from a loose or broken claw. While going about their daily activities, their claw may hook on something unforeseen and break off. What often happens is the claw snaps at the base but doesn’t fully detach, which could be very painful. Luckily, the sensitive inner skin can start to heal once the loose nail is removed.

white dog paws

It may even be an ingrown claw causing the hassle. If regular trimmings are not administered, your pooch’s claw can curl around and grow into the pad. If you find this to be the case with your doggy, the solution can either be a simple cutting of the long claws. If you find there is already an infection, vet care may be needed.

5. Interdigital Cysts

These appear as red, blood-filled nodules or bumps between your dog’s toes. Usually found on the front paws, these painful lumps form on the haired skin when follicles get clogged or dilated. This can be due to a number of reasons ranging from coat hair, environmental factors, paw shape, and even from over-licking which causes skin irritation.

These nodules often rupture or burst, causing pain, swelling, and infections. They are usually treatable so if you suspect the presence of cysts, consult your vet who may prescribe an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, or antibacterial shampoos. 

6. Parasites

One of the likely factors could be the infamous little pests that plague our poor fur babies. Fleas and ticks are an unfortunate element of being a dog owner. These intruders cause itching and irritation which could cause your dog to lick their paws in an effort to alleviate the frustration. Fortunately, there are some wonderful flea treatments for dogs out there.

terrier with paw up

7. Pain or Discomfort

Our canine friends often lick as a form of soothing. This means that your pup may be licking its paw because it feels pain, even if the pain is elsewhere in the body. If you see your dog lapping at their paws it may be because they are experiencing discomfort physically, in which case, a check-up is advised.

Furthermore, when your fluffy friend is in pain, it causes us a lot of distress too. Luckily there is some excellent CBD oil for dogs on the market to alleviate pain, anxiety, and any general discomfort. 

golden brown dog paws

8. Behavioral Issues

This diagnosis is hard to reach or pinpoint. Similar to us, dogs can experience anxiety and boredom which often lead to obsessive-compulsive habits like constant paw-licking. It can be worth looking into CBD oils for dogs to help calm your pup’s anxiety

Their anxiety could often flare up due to environmental stresses like harsh noises, new routines, pets, or people.  If you suspect your pooch has a nervous disposition and is prone to separation anxiety or general stress, it may be worth trying some at-home solutions.

To alleviate boredom, try incorporating more exercise, like more walks and dog toys for some playtime. It’s helpful to engage them both mentally and physically with activities like puzzles and pet-safe chew toys. This will keep them interested, busy, and distracted from their paws.

golden brown dog licking paws

9. Allergies

Allergy signs usually begin mildly but gradually worsen and are often a major reason for dogs excessively licking their paws. The best time to detect allergies is usually between 6 months and 5 years of age. They can be tricky to identify, so knowledge is power when trying to get to the bottom of your pooch’s specific needs and treatment.

Here are 3 of the most common types of dog allergies.

Dermatitis or Skin Conditions

If you’ve inspected your pup’s paws and pads for injuries but the licking persists, then it may be due to dermatitis or a similar skin condition that’s bugging your canine. Over-licking may even result in a bacterial or yeast infection. This will cause even more unpleasantness for your pup like itching, redness, and swelling which unfortunately perpetuates the licking cycle as they try to relieve the discomfort

It is also possible that your dog is sensitive to certain chemicals in the products that you use with them. It may be worth switching to some all-natural, skin-friendly doggy soaps and shampoos to see if the problem is solved.

dog paws in the sand

Don’t disregard very obvious causes like classic dry skin. Your pup’s licking could very likely be because they have itchy skin from dryness or even cracked paw pads. This could be from winter weather, a dry climate, or even from a deficiency of fatty acids in their diet. In this case, applying a pet-friendly hydrating lotion will do the trick as well as introducing some healthy fats for dogs into their diet.

Food Allergies

Your beloved doggo may be experiencing an allergy to their food, or general food sensitivities if they are suffering from itchy paws. It’s therefore really handy to opt for good dog food as it undoubtedly plays a huge role in your pet’s overall happiness.

If it doesn’t get resolved, your vet may suggest an elimination diet to uncover which ingredients are causing the irritation. This may look like a 12-week food elimination trial, with simple foods and gradual reintroductions, in an effort to find the specific culprit. In addition to this, you could give your pooch some supplements to promote skin health like allergy treats.

bulldog licks paws

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Environmental Allergies

Many of us suffer from the dreaded allergies which usually flare up around the change of season. This may result in sneezes, itching everywhere from eyes to skin, and even coughing.

It may be surprising to learn that our furry family members are not exempt from this inconvenience. If you notice increased paw licking (from itch), and even some sneezes occurring around the change of season, seasonal allergies may likely be their trigger.

Many lawn and garden chemicals also serve as irritants to your doggy’s. Since it’s their playground, it may be worth looking into more natural landscaping products. A helpful tip is also to keep a bowl of water and a wet towel by the door to clean your pup’s feet before coming inside. This will help in removing irritants they may have picked up outside on the grass.

dog paw pads

When Should I Start to Worry?

There is no need to go into a stress spiral, but keeping an eye on your dog consistently is important, especially if you notice abnormal behavior. 

There are plenty of available solutions to try before there’s cause for concern like antihistamines, topical creams, a healthy diet, and lotions, as well as treating any infections and looking into underlying causes. Our pups are tougher than we think and are wonderfully resilient.

black dog licking paws

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Final Thoughts on Paw Licking

Occasional paw licking is fine, but if you find it’s your dog’s new favorite activity and it happens in excess, it’s wise to take a closer look and monitor them. 

Most licking has a simple, solvable cause. But if you find that it persists after you’ve eliminated common reasons, you can consult your vet and they will help you narrow it down.

At the end of the day, a happy pup makes for a happy you. With this knowledge and more, you’re well on your way to helping your pooch put its best foot forward.

I covered all of the costs associated with writing this post on why do dogs lick their paws. However, it does contain affiliate links. That means if you click through on some of the links in this article and end up making a purchase I may receive a small commission. It won’t affect the price that you pay. Just wanted to let you know.

black and brown dog licking its paws

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