It’s normal for a dog to lick their paws as a regular part of grooming, especially if they’ve just come in from outside and their feet are dirty. But if you notice your dog is licking his paws more than usual, or if your dog is licking his paws constantly, it’s safe to assume that something is wrong. Why do dogs lick their paws excessively? Here are a few common reasons for excessive paw licking in dogs.
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?
1. Injury or foreign object. The most obvious reason a dog might start licking just one paw is because the paw has been injured somehow or a foreign object like a small stone, a thorn, or a piece of glass is either stuck between their toes or actually embedded in their paw. Dogs can also get blisters and a torn toenail. If your dog is licking just one paw, this might be the reason.
If you’re able to solve this at home with simple first aid, then do so. Otherwise, see the veterinarian to make sure the paw is treated properly and doesn’t get infected.
2. Dry Skin. Winter weather, allergies, and irritants are common causes of dry skin in dogs. You might try a dog paw balm or and oatmeal bath. If the dry skin persists or gets worse, you should consult your veterinarian.
3. Allergies. Many dogs get itchy paws from food allergies, environmental allergies and also flea allergies. If it’s flea season and your dog is excessively licking their paws, I suggest using Advantage flea protection. Food allergies can cause itchy paws and ears, redness and swelling, and possibly diarrhea or vomiting. Environmental allergies can be caused by things like poison ivy, weeds or pollen. A simple way to help your dog with this is to wipe their paws whenever they’ve been outside.
Keeping dog paw wipes next to the door with a small trash can makes this fast and easy. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether your dog is suffering from allergies.
4. Irritants. A dog’s paws might become irritated by things like salt to melt snow or pesticides used on the lawn. You can switch to a paw-safe salt on your driveway and sidewalks and discontinue applying pesticides on your lawn. Here’s a helpful article about why pesticides are dangerous and not necessary, with suggestions for organic alternatives. You can also help your dog with irritants by cleaning their paws when they come inside.
5. Arthritis or joint pain. This might be more likely in older dogs, but don’t rule it out if you have a younger dog. Your dog may be licking his paws to try to alleviate the pain. There are arthritis and join pain supplements on the market, but please don’t use them until you’ve consulted your veterinarian.
6. Boredom. Dogs who lack exercise or mental stimulation can become bored and not only start excessively licking their paws, but also can become destructive by chewing things around the house. Try playing with your dog more often, taking him for more walks, or getting him some new toys. You might consider puzzle toys.
7. Anxiety. Dog anxiety is a serious issue and sadly, is quite common. To find out more about dog anxiety, read my article, How to Calm Dogs with Anxiety – Why They’re Anxious and How to Solve It.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from anxiety, I strongly suggest getting professional help from Professional Dog Trainer and Behavioral Specialist, Doggy Dan. He owns the dog training website, TheOnlineDogTrainer.com, which covers every dog behavior issue, including dog anxiety. You also might benefit from Doggy Dan’s mini-class on helping dogs overcome anxiety.
How to Stop Dog from Licking Paws
The best way to stop your dog from excessively licking his paws is to figure out why he’s doing it by investigating some of the common causes and taking action on suggested solutions. If you are unable to determine the cause of your dog’s constant paw licking on your own, then it’s time to visit the veterinarian. Excessive paw licking can be a symptom of a serious medical issue and shouldn’t be ignored.
Should I Let My Dog Lick Their Paws?
Some paw licking is normal, but if it gets excessive or intense, their paws might get infected, and you should call your vet.
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