Does your dog have an annoying habit of licking his paws?
If your dog does this occasionally and gently then there is nothing to be alarmed about as licking is a very common way for dogs to clean themselves.
Animals often lick their body to keep their fur clean and untangled.
However, if your dog licks or chews his paws aggressively or almost constantly then it is a good reason for you to be worried. Often, excessive licking of the paws has a variety of causes and they can be harmful for your dog’s health and well-being.
Sometime it’s behavioral addiction and sometimes it’s medical problem. But the more you know about it, the better you will be able to help your dog.
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws: Most Common Causes
It’s not uncommon in dogs to lick their body and paws but excessive licking could be a sign of serious medical problem.
Here I have listed some of the common reasons for your dog to lick his paws aggressively.
The most common and overwhelming reason for dogs to lick or chew their paws is because of itch. Nine out of ten times, skin allergies and bacterial infections are the main cause of itching in paws.
Skin allergies in dogs can be caused by number of different reasons including environmental changes, season/weather changes, dust in floor mats, blanket & rugs and even airborne grass and tree pollens.
Since their paws have more sensitive skin than rest of their body and often the first to expose to everything, they usually itch first and then spread to other sensitive skin areas of the body.
Usually these allergies are seasonal but if the problem is not dealt immediately, it can often become year round problem.
In case of allergies, you should consult with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Sometimes this can also turn into excessive barking. If this happens, then our best bark collars guide will help you find the best solution.
Often food allergies are discussed but it is rarely the cause of obsessive paw licking. Food allergies are also not as common as we believe.
Food allergies are commonly caused by consumption of beef, dairy and low-quality grains in dog food such as wheat, corn and soya.
Switching to high-quality dog food is the best solution to most food allergies.
Watch this video below where Dr. Karen Becker, an integrative wellness veterinarian, discusses about food allergies in pets and how to avoid them.
Bacterial And Fungal Infections
Bacterial or fungal infections, commonly known as yeast infections, are not very common in dogs… as dogs, in general, are healthy animals.
Yeast is more prevalent in summer times as it usually grows in hot and humid environment.
As yeast thrives in moist areas, it mostly affects dogs at paws, ears, armpits and anal areas.
Due to the infection, dogs continuously lick affected areas to get instant relief from itchiness.
Bacterial or fungal infections can easily be treated by applying anti-fungal shampoo, cream and sprays at affected areas of the body.
Arthritis is one of the most common problems in middle-age to older dogs and directly affects dog’s joints.
If your dog has arthritis or other body aches then he will feel more pain in body parts that are in constant contact with floor, such as his paws and legs.
To deal with the pain around his paws and suffering joints, he licks them continuously.
Arthritis can be treated by combination of weight loss through balanced diet and mild exercise by minimizing the load on joints and maximizing the movement of muscles around affected joints.
Just as humans with anxiety are prone to bite their nails, dogs too have tendency to lick and chew their paws to comfort themselves and release the nervous energy.
Anxiety in dogs can be caused by changes in lifestyle, food and disturbed routine. When the daily routine is disturbed, such as a new roommate, pet, baby, job or new home, a mentally sensitive dog can become upset and anxious.
So it’s very important for your dog’s physical and mental health to keep a consistent daily routine and active lifestyle.
Fleas & Parasites
Parasites, such as mites, ticks and fleas, are one of the most common reasons for compulsive paw licking and chewing in dogs.
Dogs often excessively lick areas that have been infested with parasites.
Parasite bits are so sharp and painful for sensitive dog skin, dog’s natural response is to stop the biting by killing the parasites and chewing them alive.
Even after killing the parasites, itch and pain at the spot of parasite bit will make your dog to lick and chew to ease the pain.
The common solution is to eliminate the parasites and wash the dog’s bed, mat, and blanket & vacuum the rug and carpet regularly.
Since dogs lead a very active lifestyle, it’s common for them to pick up an injury near legs and paws, especially in sporting and hunting dogs.
Dog, who has split, a broken nail, fractured toe or wounds near paws, will tend to lick the injured area to ease the pain and begin the healing process.
If your dog is excessively licking his paws, first you need to check his paws for any sign of injury or swelling. If you notice something, then you need to consult your veterinarian for proper treatment.
Although it’s rare but sometimes dogs get into habits attempting to relieve their boredom. Licking their paws is one of the common habits that dogs tend to pick to pass the extra time due to extreme boredom.
Try giving him something to chew on, like a bone or a squeaky toy to play with or lots of attention whenever he starts licking.
You can also increase his playtime, walks or exercise schedule to provide him enough distraction.
Toys filled with treats or peanut butters that require lots of work to reach the treat are ideal for your dog to relieve him from boredom.
What You Should Not Try With Your Dog
- Drugs sold without prescription
- Alcohol based products
- Bitter sprays or deterrents
- E-collars or Shock collars
- Yelling and screaming
Although these are some of the most common causes for dogs excessive licking their paws but it’s important to note that these causes are not easily diagnosed, especially for person without any training.
If you believe that your dog has started to lick his paws out of the blue then you should consult with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.