Any loving pet parent knows that their dog seems to be obsessed with their own paws. You’re trying to have a relaxing evening, and you keep hearing the sloppy sound of paw licking. It’s downright annoying sometimes, but why do dogs lick their paws so much?
As it turns out, there are several possible reasons your dog might like his paws. Let’s take a look at several common causes of paw licking and when it might indicate a problem that you need to address.
Dogs Lick Their Paws as Part of Normal Self-Grooming Behaviors
Your dog’s paw licking is part of a normal self-grooming process. Dogs will usually lick their paws after coming in from a walk as a way to remove any debris they might have picked up while they were out.
If the licking goes from occasional grooming to intense or frequent paw-licking behavior, then it’s likely that something is wrong. This is also true if they chew their paws instead of just licking them. In that case, it’s time to take a closer look at the cause of your dog’s licking.
Let’s discuss some possible causes of this kind of behavior.
Injuries Can Cause Excessive Paw Licking
Injuries are one of the most common reasons your dog might be excessively licking his paws. You’ll want to examine his paw carefully to look for foreign objects, like a foxtail, or some other underlying cause, like a cut to the paw pad.
If an injury is the cause, you might notice him limping as well. If he does have a cut, you’ll want to take care that it doesn’t become infected. You’ll want to clean it well, and you may want to put booties on his feet to protect them while he’s out and about.
Allergic Reactions Can Also Cause Your Dog to Lick His Paws
Another common reason your pooch might engage in excessive paw licking is that it’s an allergic reaction to something. Environmental allergies can cause allergies in dogs just like they can in humans. The culprit could be allergens such as pollen or dust, or it could be a food allergy as well.
Dog food allergies usually also cause a rash, particularly on the inside of your dog’s hind legs or on his belly. Without treatment, he could develop allergic dermatitis, which can be difficult to treat.
If allergies are to blame, you might see other signs, like sneezing. If you suspect a food allergy, you can stop feeding him his usual food and just feed him something bland like lamb and rice. Of course, a trip to the DVM can also help you pinpoint the exact allergen.
Skin Problems Cause Your Dog to Lick His Paws
Skin irritation due to certain skin conditions is also another common reason why your best buddy might lick his paws. He could have developed hot spots on his paw pads, or he could simply have itchy paws due to dry skin.
Hot spots can have several underlying causes, including trauma, skin allergies, or other itchy skin conditions.
It might not even be his paws that are the problem; however, it could be he has itchy skin, and he’s just licking his paws. It’s not uncommon for any kind of discomfort to result in compulsive behaviors like excessive paw licking.
Pain Can Cause Constant Paw Licking
If your dog is an older dog, conditions that cause chronic pain, like arthritis, could cause him to lick his paws.
As the American Kennel Club (AKC) notes, the pain doesn’t have to be in his paws. It could be elsewhere in the body, and he’s just licking his paws as a result.
Behavioral Issues and Paw Licking
Another common cause for compulsive behaviors like excessive paw licking is a behavioral problem. Your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety, for example.
Increasing your quality playtime together can help, but in severe cases, you might need to contact an animal behaviorist to help resolve the problem.
It’s also a good idea to make sure your best friend has plenty of mentally stimulating dog toys to capture his attention while you’re away from home. That way, he has plenty of interesting things to do until you get home.
Parasites and Paw Licking Behavior
Another common cause of paw licking is the presence of internal or external parasites. Fleas are present in many environments, and while they don’t live permanently on your dog, they do live in his bedding, your carpet, and other areas where your dog lies.
When they’re in the same environment as your dog, they get into a constant cycle of jumping on him to take a blood meal. They can cause an extreme flea allergy in some dogs, which can easily result in excessive paw licking.
Additionally, there are other external parasites that can cause conditions like mange. Mange causes very itchy skin as well as patchy hair loss. Mites are another external parasite that can cause skin irritation.
These types of parasites can be extremely irritating to your dog’s skin, and some of them can infect you as well. That’s why you’ll want to get him into the vet for treatment if you suspect this is the cause.
Internal parasites can also cause problems that result in excessive paw licking. Many types of internal parasites cause abdominal pain that can then cause your dog to lick his paws. It’s a good idea to take a sample of your dog’s poop to the vet for his yearly exam to check for and treat any internal parasites.
Secondary Infections Can Lead to Excessive Paw Licking
Finally, the reason for your dog’s paw-licking behavior could be a bigger health problem. They could have some kind of health problem causing them to lick, and then, as a result of the licking, they can develop a secondary bacterial or yeast infection.
That will cause even more redness, swelling, itchiness, and more licking. If this is the underlying cause, you’re going to want to find out what the bigger health problem is and get that treated. You’re also going to need antibiotics or antifungals to treat those secondary infections, so a trip to the vet is in order.
While your vet is determining the real cause, they can always prescribe certain medications to relieve the itching, reduce inflammation, and stave off more licking until the larger problem can be treated.
For a lot of loving pet parents, watching their pooch lick their paws makes them feel very uncomfortable as well. You want your best friend to be comfortable and healthy.
If you can’t find an obvious cause for excessive paw licking, it’s time to take your buddy to the vet. It will make both of you feel much more comfortable, and I’m sure your pooch will want to replace his paws with your face as a way of showing his appreciation!