Why do dogs lick their paws? Is your pup’s obsessive paw licking normal? And should you be worried about it? If you’re asking these questions, know that you’re not alone. Many pup parents struggle with this.
Let’s learn the most common reasons for paw licking to get to the bottom of things and see if it’s a cause for concern.
Is It Normal For Dogs to Lick Their Paws?
Dogs lick their paws all the time, whether it’s for cleaning, irritation, or just because they feel like it. I’m pretty sure I’d also lick my paws if I was a dog, and they got dirty. It’s not like our furry pals can casually take a bath.
But it’s not all good news. Asking the following question is a sign of trouble:
Why do dogs lick their paws until they bleed?
Now, that’s not normal, and there’s probably an underlying issue you need to figure out with the help of your vet.
We’ve gathered some of the more popular reasons for paw licking, but we aren’t medical professionals. If it’s gotten to the point of bleeding, better contact your vet as soon as possible.
Why Do Dogs Obsessively Lick Their Paws?
The reason behind it could be medical, environmental, or behavioral. Let’s see if we can find the right one for your case.
Dog allergies are a pretty common issue, affecting 20% of pups at least once in their life. Some causes include environmental factors like dust, fleas, and mites.
The most common pup allergy is food, troubling about 10% of our furry friends.
Some of the dog allergy symptoms that are paws-related include licking, biting, and redness. But is it normal for dogs to lick their paws? While the answer is yes, there’s a massive difference between regular licking and allergy signs.
If you notice irritated paws after a walk, it could be outside allergens. So try to see what could be causing the problem. Look out for dust, if the grass has been recently cut, or maybe allergy-triggering plants. We recommend wiping the paws after going outside.
Unfortunately, allergies are challenging to diagnose. There’s one test available, and it’s only for environmental allergens. But your vet can help you with medication, like antihistamines. And if your pet has a food allergy, you should switch to hypoallergenic dog food.
2. Yeast Infection
What causes dogs to lick their paws? Another reason could be yeast infections, which are more frequent in allergy-prone pups. They can cause obsessive licking, so you need to stay on the lookout for the telltale signs — irritated, raw, red, and insanely itchy paws.
Yeast can come with a distinctive smell and a brown discharge seeping from the paws. If you’re at this point, it’s best to consult your vet.
You can get an official yeast diagnosis under a microscope, but your vet may determine it without the test. Then, your dog might get a combination of treatments like antifungal creams, sprays, and shampoos. Oral medications are also an option, but they’re usually only used in severe cases. Alternatively, you can also try some natural remedies for dogs licking paws.
Yeast thrives in creases and crevices. That’s why maintaining all areas of your pup’s body, particularly the paws, is vital for preventing infection.
It turns out that dog paw problems may be health issues humans experience, too.
Dandruff has some pretty noticeable symptoms, especially the white flakes. Unfortunately, if your pup’s also white, you won’t see it. Still, you might see flakes on their bed or your lap after a cuddle.
This issue can occur anywhere on the body, including the paws, so itching might be one way to tell for sure.
Dandruff is incredibly itchy because it’s literally dry skin that has come off. The itching makes your pup scratch, which in turn produces more flakes and leads to more itching. It’s an itchy circle annoyance.
Regular bathing and brushing can help. Food also affects dog coats, so if dandruff doesn’t get better after bathing and a good brush, speak with your vet. You can also get a shampoo, like the Vet’s Best Allergy Shampoo on Chewy.
Distress can cause excessive paw licking as the pup tries to remedy its injury, even if it’s on the inside.
Pain in paws can range from a simple injury to a fracture, so if you notice paw licking along with a limp, it’s time to get to the vet.
Unfortunately, pups can also suffer from degenerative conditions like arthritis and general joint pain. You can prevent the former by using dog joint supplements like the Dasuquin with MSM soft chews on Chewy.
5. Dry Skin
Now, a dog constantly licking its paws might also be due to a chronic condition. Dry skin is a lifelong issue for some poor pups, especially those without much fur.
Where you live might also impact your dog’s condition. Cold, dry climates can lead to dry skin that can crack and cause infection if left untreated.
And dry skin can be itchy beyond belief, so we need to do everything we can to stop inflammation and further scratching.
But don’t panic. You can get products that help, such as the Bag Balm Pet Moisturizer on Chewy, which works well for cracked and damaged skin on all pup sizes and breeds.
6. Bacterial Infection
A dog paw infection can get quite severe. So if you notice any of the symptoms, seeing a vet is an absolute must. It’s not a wait-and-see situation — the sooner, the better.
Symptoms include paw licking and chewing, redness, itching, and swelling. There might be fluid in between the toes, and the nails can turn a brownish color.
A bacterial infection can start from something as simple as a crack in the skin or from your pup scratching too much. Prevention includes keeping an eye out for any paw differences, no matter how small.
The vet will often prescribe a medicated topical treatment or antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that’s highly contagious through animals or contaminated soil, causing paw licking in dogs. The fungus causes the skin to look red and irritated, and so the itching begins.
It can be a nightmare to get rid of. Unfortunately, if you have a long-haired pooch, it’s going to need a shave to prevent reinfection.
There’s a range of shampoos, dips, and creams, all specifically designed to cure the infection. But we recommend speaking with your vet about the best treatment plan for your pup.
8. Fleas and Ticks
If you’ve ever had a dog with fleas, you know there’s no way to stop a dog licking its paws. Plus, the itching can drive you and your pup up the wall.
Fleas and their eggs are among the hardest things on the entire planet to get rid of. It’s not an exaggeration. The moment you see one, there are already hundreds right behind it.
While just as nasty, ticks won’t merely feed on your pup and let go as the flea does. They’ll burrow into the paws making the experience incredibly painful.
Treatments for ticks and fleas are absolute musts for pet owners. Here you have many options — spot-on, shampoos, or dips. No matter how fussy your dog is, one of them will work.
But why do dogs lick their paws at night? The issue may not be physical but rather emotional and behavioral.
Your dog can get anxiety simply from missing you too much or due to a more serious state like depression. That’s why you should walk your dog frequently. It can be very distressing for your pet if it has no idea when it might go out again.
Licking is one of the behaviors dogs use to soothe themselves. So if your pup’s anxious, it’ll lick its paws, especially around bedtime.
Here’s where getting an anti-anxiety dog bed might make all the difference. Many of them have been scientifically proven to help your pup feel secure, safe, and ready for a good night’s rest.
Everyone’s suffered at least once from wondering what to do all day, and dogs aren’t immune to it.
So, why do puppies lick their paws? Because they have so much energy that boredom is worse than it is for adult dogs.
Since licking can be soothing, your pup might turn to it if there’s nothing else to do. But the constant licking can cause lick granulomas, a form of dermatitis if it’s done in one spot, usually the paws.
There are antifungal and anti-itching medications that can help. However, to stop the behavior, you need to keep your dog busy. We recommend getting some dog toys or pupper puzzles like the Outward Hound Smart Puzzle Game on Chewy.
11. Hormonal Imbalance
Now that we know about puppies, why do older dogs lick their paws? The most common hormone imbalance, hyperthyroidism, usually happens in pups over five years old.
It can cause itching, red, and swollen skin, and dogs try to remedy it through licking. You can also spot crusty bumps on your dog.
If you notice any of the signs and symptoms above, a trip to the vet will be essential for blood work. Look out for any skin difference or loss of fur.
The treatment for hormone imbalance includes prescribed medications and annual blood work monitoring.
12. Gastrointestinal Issues
If your dog keeps licking one paw, it could be a sign of gastrointestinal issues.
A study on gastrointestinal dog disorders showed that about 73% of pups with GI issues also had problems with excessive surface licking.
GI issues can be torturous for pups, so getting medical advice is necessary for the proper treatment. Besides, diet also plays a massive part, and fiber could help with GI problems.
13. Overgrown Nails
Whether your pup is low or high maintenance, regularly cutting its nails will prevent overgrowth.
So why do dogs lick and bite their paws in this case?
The nail’s length can cause pain, and it might even curl back into the incredibly sore paw pad. Imagine an ingrown toenail but one that grows back into the soft part of your foot. That’s what it would feel like.
Hearing nails on the floor when your pup walks around means it’s time for a trim. Overall, regular grooming is vital, whether you pay a professional or learn to do it yourself.
How to Stop a Dog from Licking Its Paws
Let’s go through some general tips to prevent itching.
First, do all you can to stop the itch. Whether that’s anti-itch meds or topical treatments, you need a way to soothe the area.
Now, we hate using the cone of shame on our precious furry friends, but sometimes we have no choice. It can stop your pup from getting to its paws. You can also help with behavioral licking by using the cone as soon as your dogs start licking. Consistency is crucial here, so your pup can begin to associate the licking with the cone.
Another remedy on how to prevent a dog from licking its paw is distractions. If your pup isn’t thinking about it, they won’t do it. So play with your pup, use toys, games, walking, anything to get your dog out of licking away the whole day.
Home Remedies for Paw Licking
These remedies help if the issue is due to a yeast infection and soothe broken and painful skin from excessive licking.
Epsom Salts: Soak your pup’s feet in water with Epsom salts (one cup Epsom per gallon) for about 20 minutes. Do your best to keep your pet in there. Perhaps using a bucket with warm water and putting it next to you will help your pup calm.
Baking Soda: Like the Epsom salts, put warm water in a bucket with ½ cup of baking soda and soak the paws in it for ten minutes.
Coconut Oil: We recommend using only natural and organic oil. All you have to do is rub some on the affected area.
Apple Cider Vinegar: It’s one of the best dog licking paws remedies. Dilute ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar with ¼ cup of water and spray it onto the itching paw.
Thanks to the sheer amount of possible causes, paw licking can be a real headache.
But how to stop a dog from licking its paws? First, find the reason behind it.
Allergies, yeast infections, dandruff, ringworm, fleas, and dry skin can all affect your pup’s licking habits and make the skin incredibly itchy. Remedies for these include topical and oral medications prescribed by your vet. You can also buy them yourself if you know what the underlying issue is.
Your pupper might also be licking to soothe behavioral problems like anxiety and boredom. So you better keep it busy with toys and walks.
Remember that some medical issues like hormone imbalance and gastrointestinal conditions can also affect your pup’s skin and licking habits.
So, why do dogs lick their paws? It’s a guessing game until you seek medical advice. We recommend doing that if you notice unusual paw licking behavior.