7 November 2022
There are many reasons why dogs lick their paws. To keep their paws clean, they probably lick them every day. However, if your dog is licking their paws constantly or aggressively, excessive paw-licking may indicate a problem, such as a cyst, an infection, or an injury. Take action if you see your dog frequently licking his paws, and learn why your dog may be licking his paws and how to respond.
Dogs occasionally lick their paws as part of self-grooming. Even dogs who don’t self-groom often will sometimes clean their paws. So it’s nothing to worry about if your dog licks his paws occasionally. However, this is not normal if your dog licks its paws frequently or aggressively. Usually, this indicates a health problem or a behavioral problem.
You should first determine if your dog has a health problem if you think he licks his paws too often. For example, itchy, irritated, or painful paws often cause dogs to lick them excessively.
An injury to the paw or a foreign object could explain paw-licking. The dog may have stepped on something uncomfortable, such as a sharp object or hot pavement. He may have gotten stung or bitten by an animal or insect. He may even have something stuck to his paws that needs to be removed. Splinters and grass can get embedded in the paws and irritate them.
It is also possible your dog has an abnormal growth on one of his paws, such as a cyst or a tumor. Or your dog has arthritis or an injury to his paw’s soft tissue or bones. It may not be visible to the naked eye. Your dog may focus more on one paw more than the others because of an injury, foreign object, or growth.
Dogs often lick their paws to relieve itching or irritation caused by food allergies or environmental allergies which cause paw itching. It’s not uncommon for dogs to develop bacterial or fungal infections on their paws, requiring a veterinarian trip. As a result of allergies or for unknown reasons, these infections may occur. A dog’s paws stay damp when it licks them frequently, making them more susceptible to bacteria and fungi. Fleas, mange, and hookworms are external parasites that cause excessive licking of the paws.
You can start by looking closely at your dog’s paws if they seem to be constantly licking them. Next, observe the tops and bottoms of the feet, the toenails and nail beds, and the spaces between the toes. Look for foreign objects, cuts, bruises, bleeding, swelling, redness, crusting, scabs, discharge, broken nails, and anything else that appears abnormal. If necessary, administer first aid.
It is important to note that excessive licking often results in saliva stains on the hair around the paws. The rust-colored staining is easiest to see on light-colored hair. You may be referred to a veterinary dermatologist or surgeon if your dog needs advanced testing or treatment.
If the paws seem abnormal to you, you should contact your veterinarian. You need to rule out health problems before you address a behavior problem.
A vet may think paw licking occurs for behavioral reasons if all health concerns have been ruled out. The cause can be boredom, stress, anxiety, or fear.
Your dog might have started licking out of boredom and then developed a habit that has become relaxing or satisfying. On the other hand, if your dog has obsessive-compulsive tendencies, he may obsessively lick his paws.
Distracting your dog can help you address behavioral paw-licking. Take them for more walks, play with them more often, and give them toys to keep them entertained. Avoid scolding them for licking, but don’t reward them, either. If these methods do not work, consider rechecking with the vet to see if there are other causes or treatments.
Consider behavior modification techniques if your dog continues to lick. Help is available from a dog trainer or a dog behaviorist.