Health & Wellbeing
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws Constantly? Causes & Remedies
Obsessive paw licking can lead to quite the paw-dicament! Learn the common causes & remedies here.
Katy and Shell are two style-savvy dog mums celebrating the best in pet-friendly living. A professional pet photographer and dog lifestyle writer, together they share dog-friendly inspiration, pet product reviews, dog treat recipes, expert pet advice and on-trend dog brands with discerning pet parents around the world.
Why do dogs lick their paws constantly? The truth is, there are a number of potential explanations for this concerning behaviour.
Perhaps the icky, slurping sound of your dog chewing on their paws is waking you up at night.
Or maybe your pup is obsessively licking their feet until they become irritated, and their paws are red and sore.
If this sounds like a familiar scenario, don’t worry. We have firsthand experience dealing with excessive paw licking, which we eventually overcame by identifying the root the cause of our Ziggy’s behaviour.
So to help you out, we’ve outlined the potential reasons why dogs lick their paws, and how this behaviour relates to their overall health and wellbeing.
You’ll also find a list of helpful tips and remedies to stop your dog from licking their paws for good.
5 Common Reasons Why Dogs Lick Their Paws Constantly
While it’s completely normal for your dog to lick their paws as part of their self-grooming routine (especially when their paws are dirty or muddy), if you’ve noticed obsessive licking of late, this may be a sign something more serious is lurking.
The very first step to understanding why dogs constantly lick their paws? Identifying the root cause of the behaviour.
There are a few reasons why your dog might compulsively lick their paws, and it can become a serious and painful problem if the paw is licked so much that it becomes an open wound, which can lead to an infection.
Here are five common reasons that explain obsessive paw licking:
The most common cause of constant paw licking is allergies. In fact, food allergies turned out to be the root cause of our dog’s constant paw licking and itching!
Dogs can actually be allergic to just about anything, including the food they eat, environmental factors such as pollen or grass, and even the chemicals used in some dog shampoos.
If your dog has skin allergies or is allergic to something in particular, they may lick their paws in an attempt to relieve the itchiness.
2. Bacterial or yeast infections
Bacterial infections in dogs occur when the surface of the skin is damaged, causing normal bacteria to overproduce. This can cause scabs to form, accompanied by redness, dry and flaky skin, and even hair loss.
The overproduction of yeast is another source of infection which causes irritation and a grimy feel to the skin. The warm, moist areas between paw pads are a common breeding ground for yeast.
You’ll certainly know if your dog has a fungal yeast infection – aside from the itchiness, you won’t be able to miss the yucky smell!
If your dog has a yeast infection, it’s likely a sign your dog needs probiotics in their diet.
3. Stress, anxiety & boredom
Another common reason why dogs lick their paws is due to boredom or stress. If your dog is suffering from boredom, they may start licking their paws simply to entertain themselves.
Stress can also cause a dog to lick their paws. Dogs may lick their paws as a way to soothe themselves when they’re anxious or nervous about something, such as a vet visit or a move to a new house.
If you think your dog is overly anxious about going to a vet, a good option could be an online 24/7 vet chat to get advice from a certified vet from home, and therefore avoiding having to drive your pup to the vet clinic.
4. Pain, injuries or arthritis
Dogs may also lick their paws as a way to relieve themselves from pain.
If your dog has an injury or is suffering from arthritis, it’s likely they’ll have a strong instinct to lick and clean their wounds in an attempt to ease the pain (even though an actual wound isn’t present per se).
5. Dry skin
Dry skin on your dog can be caused by a number of things, such as bathing too long, cold and dry weather (notorious for causing dry skin in dogs and humans alike) and can even be a breed-specific issue.
If your dog has dry and flaky skin, it’s likely to become itchy and cause your dog to start licking in an attempt to relieve the itchiness and discomfort.
If you’ve tried to find a clear reason for your dog’s constant paw licking and none of the above causes seem to fit, it’s best to contact your vet.
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How to stop your dog from licking its paws
There are a number of ways you can prevent your dog from licking their paws constantly.
The most important place to start? Finding the source of the problem, then working on addressing the behaviour itself.
Below is a list of treatment options you can try when your dog won’t stop licking its paws:
Medicated dog shampoos & topical treatments
If your dog is licking their paws due to allergies or bacterial infections, topical treatments such as sprays or creams (containing hydrocortisone), medicated dog shampoos or dog wipes may be effective in restoring a healthy balance of organisms on your dog’s skin.
Allergies can be difficult to diagnose and treat however, so it’s best to talk to your vet to identify the source of your dog’s allergy and prescribe the best treatment plan.
Excessive paw licking can be caused by the over-production of yeast in your dog’s body.
A very common cause of yeast infections are food-related allergies. So, it might be time to look closely at your dog’s diet and speak to your vet about the best course of action, such as switching to a raw dog food diet or a brand of anallergenic kibble.
Natural home remedies
If you prefer to take a natural approach to your dog’s health, you may wish to try a home remedy to stop your dog from licking their paws.
From soaking your dog’s paw in apple cider vinegar or oatmeal, to applying coconut oil to the affected area, check out this quick list of 3 holistic hot spot remedies, or this extensive list of home remedies for paw licking.
Bathing & paw balms
If your dog’s paws are dry and cracked, a daily bath will help to soothe and soften their skin. You can try a pet-formulated, high-quality dog shampoo or a gentle baby shampoo.
After bathing your dog, be sure to dry their paws thoroughly to help prevent cracking and infection, particularly between the toes. Once your pup is dry, apply a soothing paw balm (such as our recommended paw balm above) to lock in the moisture.
Boredom busters & exercise
If your dog is licking their paws because they are bored or anxious, they simply need more stimulation and exercise.
Walking your dog for at least 30 minutes every day, as well as supplying them with good quality toys or these easy DIY dog enrichment toys when they are left alone, will go a long way in easing their anxieties and keeping them happy and occupied.
Try a bandage or socks
A simple way to stop your dog from licking its paw is with a bandage or sock.
It may take a little patience, but if you cover your dog’s paw with a light bandage and let them wear it for a few days, you may find that your dog will stop their constant paw licking.
For some dogs, bandaging their paw is enough to prevent them from licking – out of sight, out of mind after all!
When should I be worried about my dog’s paw licking?
If your dog won’t stop licking its paws and you’re worried this could indicate a more serious health problem, here’s a quick list of signs to look for:
- Lick granulomas: a chronic skin problem caused by excessive paw licking
- Limping: a sign your dog has a foreign object in their paw, such as a grass seed
- Dogs paws are red: red and irritated skin between paws and toes
- Bleeding paws: excessive paw licking until they bleed is cause for concern
- Clear signs of injury or infection
If your pup is showing any of the above signs or symptoms, a visit to the vet is strongly recommended.
If you are concerned your dog’s constant paw licking is an emergency situation, it may be a good idea to consider a subscription to help eliminate the costs of emergency veterinary care.
Initiatives such as the Pet Emergency Fund can cover your pup’s emergency costs once per year, for up to $3,000.
We hope the above tips and reasons why your dog might be biting or licking their paws have been helpful!
Ultimately, paw licking can be a sign of a more serious medical problem and shouldn’t be ignored.
If you’re worried about why your dog licks their paws constantly, speak with a veterinarian to discuss the best treatment and/or management plan for your pup’s paw-dicament.
We wish you the best of luck!
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