In this article we’ll dive into the most common reasons why dogs lick their paws to help you understand this common canine behavior.
Many dogs lick their paws and they do it for a variety of reasons. If you’ve just noticed your dog licking their paws, you might be interested in finding out the top reasons why dogs feel the need to lick and chew.
The following are some reasons why your furry friend may be licking his paws more often than he should.
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?
It’s vitally important for pet owners to know when a behavior is normal and when it’s something to worry about.
1. Grooming Habits
Let’s start with the most basic behavior, grooming. Dogs will occasionally lick their paws as part of a dog’s cleaning routine.
In other words, if your dog is occasionally licking for the purpose of cleaning, then that’s normal and nothing to be concerned about.
It’s important to note that unlike cats, dogs don’t groom daily and tend to only clean themselves if they are very dirty.
2. Injury or Pain
One of the more serious reasons your dog is licking their paws could be due to injury or pain. Your dog may have hurt their paws on a walk and is licking them to help numb the pain. Injuries of this nature could be the result of thorns, insect stings, or burns.
If the licking is limited to one foot, your pet may be experiencing pain. There may be something else on a deeper level, such as an arthritic joints, ligament sprains, bony growths, or fractures.
Therefore, even if you don’t see anything, don’t ignore this behavior. Take your dog to the vet.
If your examination of the paw pads and feet don’t indicate an injury, the issue might be with the skin itself.
Your dog may be suffering from food or environmental allergies that are causing them to lick their paws. For environmental allergies like atopic dermatitis, increased ear-scratching and foot-licking are common reactions to things like grass, dust mites, and plant pollens.
Topical creams or sprays with hydrocortisone that are marketed for dogs may temporarily reduce the itch, but more intense licking requires medication to control.
Parasites can be the cause of your dog licking their paws. Your dog might have itchy skin from these parasites and is licking their paws as a way to relieve this.
Fleas are the most common parasite and are something lots of dog owners have to deal with. Since flea bites can be extremely irritating to our furry friends, this can cause a dog to lick their paws in search of relief. Thankfully, due to their commonality, fleas are easy to handle.
Mites are less likely on a dog’s feet but may still occur. Your dog may also have a tick on his foot or leg, so be sure to check closely between his toes and around his paw pad to be sure.
5. Dry Skin
Dry skin causes a dog’s skin to become irritated, cracked, and flaky (dandruff), causing your dog to start licking in order to calm the itchiness down.
This condition may be caused by over-bathing or the environment – cold and dry weather.
In addition to, winter snow and salt used for de-icing may also cause skin irritation that leads to a dog licking their paws. The extreme cold and irritation from the salt may cause redness of the affected areas.
If every other biological complaint has been eliminated as a possibility, your vet might suggest that your dog is suffering from some sort of behavioral issue.
If you work out of the home and have no one around for your dog to interact with, separation anxiety could be the issue.
Just like when anxious people bite their nails, anxious dogs sometimes resort to paw licking to help relieve their anxiety. Possible causes are separation anxiety, noise phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Boredom can cause your dog to lick their paws excessively at times. It’s their own way of entertaining themselves when they feel like they have nothing better to do.
This boredom could result in behavioral problems if not addressed, so even if you think your dog is just playing up, it’s best to treat the issue.
The good news is that boredom can be easily alleviated by taking the dog for more walks, runs, or engaging in more play behavior.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to lick their paws. Most do so as a part of their grooming.
Therefore, if your dog licks his paws occasionally, it shouldn’t raise any red flags. If, however, your dog has been doing that multiple times a day, you should be concerned.
It’s up to you to watch and look out for your dog to notice if the paw licking is random and short, or if it’s become a habit that lasts longer than a minute, or if it’s repetitive in the same spot or location.
If left unchecked, the licking can lead to skin damage, open sores, and secondary bacterial infection. This can then become a vicious cycle, since the damaged skin is more irritated and painful, causing even more licking.