Dog Licking Paws – Why Do They Do It?

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Your dog started excessively licking his paws? Check this article to discover the most common reasons why your dog licks his paws.

How often does your dog lick his paws?

Licking or biting paws is something that dog owners tend to see in their dogs. It may happen every day, from time to time, or can be a seasonal thing.

No matter how frequent it may appear, there are certain reasons why dogs do it.

Sometimes it may be a normal occurrence, or a sign of a health issue, while in some of the most severe cases it may stand for serious injuries.

Here is what you expect when you see your Fido starts licking his paws.

Licking His Paws

Dogs tend to have certain behaviors that may be hard to understand from a human point of view. This is common for dogs – they do talk to humans so they express themselves by using their bodies.

Body language is something that dogs have mastered in their co-living with humans. Their brains evolved so much next to humans throughout history that they know how to use their bodies to tell humans when something is wrong.

Dogs have mastered body communication so well that it’s easy for them to communicate a single need.

They may bark when they are feeling scared, shake when they’re scared of thunder or fireworks, or simply come to your leg when they are worried.

Thanks to certain dog behaviors, dog owners can easily notice when their dog is in pain, or even when he is super happy.

Certain behaviors are direct signs that something is wrong with the dog, while some are just the dog’s behavior and have nothing to do with any type of underlying health issues.

Could dogs lick paws out of boredom? Is licking something that you should be worried about, why do dogs lick? Or its always done when there is a reason to be worried? How normal licking paws are?

Here are the most common reasons why your dog might be licking his paws.

1. Injuries

When you notice your dog licking his paws it’s important to check them. Sometimes paws licking is a sign of physical injury, and you should check them for any sign of physical change.

Make sure that there isn’t an injury, such as a small cut, torn nail, or a stone or thorn between the pads.

Check the nails as well, and the space between the toes and pads. Sometimes paws could be irritated by stepping on something that is heavy, sharp, or even salted.

This is why you should put extra attention to the dog’s paws during the winter. In some rare cases, paws licking may appear when your Fido is stung by a bee.

Luckily, the majority of these issues may be relieved by a proper first aid treatment, while any other treatment should require a proper veterinarian treatment.

If you are not sure what is the issue, contact your veterinarian.

2. Flea Allergies

Just like humans, a dog’s immune system can have its ups and downs.

It can be affected by several factors that can be beneficial to a dog’s immune system.

As result, when a dog’s immune system is super sensitive it can overreact to flea saliva and lead to a condition called flea allergy dermatitis, or short FAD.

This allergy may be caused by an irritation in the skin which leads to an intense itchy sensation. Therefore, the dog will scratch and lick his paws to soothe the itch caused by flea allergies.

Some of the symptoms of this condition may include:

  • Fur loss
  • Redness
  • Hot spots
  • Paw licking
  • Thickened skin

3. Food Allergies

What dogs eat matters.

They thrive on high-quality food, proper nutrition, and regular feeding. Do you know how much you should feed your dog and when? Or do you know the feeding preferences of large dog breeds and how a proper dog bowl can save them from the bloat?

If your dog is prone to any specific food allergies it is expected that you keep that food away from him, right? However, dogs tend to be sneaky when it comes to food, especially human foods.

They are big foodies, and whenever you leave something delicious out at the one they are likely to snatch that and have a bite.

This is how they come easily to food that can harm them.

So, if your dog is allergic to something make sure that you monitor your dog closely to any sign of food allergy, such as:

  • Itchy skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lack of energy
  • Aggression

If you know for sure that your dog isn’t allergic to some specific food, but there are often some of the symptoms listed above, you should check it.

The majority of dogs are allergic to identical items. That being said, the most common allergens in dogs are:

  • Beef
  • Wheat
  • Gluten
  • Egg
  • Chicken
  • Soy Pork
  • Rabbit
  • Fish

As a general rule, dogs are allergic to more than one thing. If you have any doubts about your dog’s health or allergies, make sure that you talk to your veterinarian.

4. Pain

Dogs do experience pain just like humans do and other animals. Reasons for the pain may vary as their pain may go from mild to more severe levels.

Sometimes, when the dog is in pain, due to arthritis or any other joint-related issue, he may lick his paws. The tricky part about licking paws and pain is that the dog may lick his paws even if the pain is located in any other body part.

In this case, paws licking is a way for a dog to deal with pain. They will lick their front paws continuously to ease their pain and communicate that something bothers them.

In any other case, this will demand a veterinarian check-up, diagnosis, and later on proper care and treatment.

5. Behavioral Issues

If you have noticed some changes in your dog’s behavior and your veterinarian has ruled out all of the possible physical traumas, it’s time to think about the mind.

Some dogs may demonstrate unusual behavior when are under some kind of stress. Therefore, paw licking may be a sign of behavioral issues, such as anxiety.

This is difficult to diagnose, although there are some steps you take to help. Maybe your dog is bored or unhappy.

Try shaking his routine a bit by:

  • Providing more walks
  • Having more intense and longer walks
  • Playing indoor games
  • Spending more time with your Fido
  • Providing chewing toys packed with treats
  • Spending more time in dog park

If your Fido is of more active breeds and he enjoys running or hiking sessions, make it a part of your weekly routine.

Dogs love having a purpose. They thrive when there is a job to be done. Dogs were bed to perform certain tasks and help people with everyday jobs. Therefore, they love having a job to do. Have you ever heard that saying – a tired dog is a happy dog?

When neglected or when left with extra energy to burn out dogs may demonstrate signs of boredom that will eventually lead to destructive behavior. Some dogs, when bored, may demonstrate compulsive behaviors, which include paw licking.

When there are no health-related reasons for behavioral changes, it’s most likely that your dog is bored.

6. Boredom

When bored dogs will demonstrate some form of destructive behavior, In some cases, they may even show signs of self-destruction. This man that actions such as paws licking may appear.

Bear in mind that you should research a breed well before you get a dog.

Some breeds are more active and therefore more prone to boredom.

In fact, this is mostly the case with working breeds (but not limited to them), such as:

When bored, the dog just might try to entertain himself, and he will do so by licking his paws.

7. Dry Skin

When your skin is dry you tend to experience itchiness, right? This is similar to how dogs experience itchiness, as well.

Since humans can use their hands to scratch their skin, dogs use their tongues to scratch themselves.

So, when they experience dry skin on their paws, they will lick them.

Flaky skin can be caused by many factors, including:

  • Excessive bathing
  • Dry humidity
  • Many allergies

Symptoms of dry skin will often include fur loss, itchiness, and redness. In many cases, symptoms of dry skin will include scabs and dandruff.

8. Environmental Allergies

Environmental allergies are a real thing. They may affect equally humans and animals.

If you find your dog licking his paws heavily you should think about environmental allergies, and search for potential external factors.

Some of the most common environmental allergies include:

Symptoms of environmental allergies are easy to spot. This is why it’s crucial to monitor your dog daily and to know his regular behaviors.

As soon as you notice something different in your dog, you should react. Very often spotting early symptoms can save your dog a lot of trouble. Plus, the fast reaction can save you a significant amount of veterinarian bills.

If you are not sure how to recognize environmental allergies in your dog, here is what you should be mindful of:

  • Sneezing
  • Running eyes
  • Paw licking
  • Rashes
  • Itchy skin

9. Lick Granuloma

Excessive paws licking isn’t a normal occurrence in dogs. This practice isn’t something that they do on regular basis. Therefore, when it’s done regularly it’s usually a sign that your dog is troubled by something.

In many cases, the main cause for paw licking will include lick granuloma, otherwise known as skin disease named lick dermatitis.

These granulomas are caused by repeated licking that is typically the lower leg leading to skin irritation.

Lick granulomas are not hot spots, although they may seem identical at first. Lick granulomas are very persistent regardless of the treatment.

How Will Veterinarian Determine The Cause Of Paws Licking?

Carefully monitoring your dog when you notice something unusual is a great thing to do. Informing your veterinarian of those finding is even better.

Any information, next to the dog’s medical history will help the veterinarian make a proper diagnosis and later on adequate treatment. Although diagnosis may differ from condition to condition, some steps are standard.

For example, steps for an underlying infection will often include:

  • Analysis using a piece of tape, also known as the tape preparation cytology
  • Culture
  • Less common skin biopsy

Once these tests are completed, veterinarians should be able to determine the next steps of the best treatment.

In most cases, treatment will include:

  • Usage of anti-fungals
  • Antibiotics
  • Shampooing with prescribed shampoo
  • Topical sprays
  • Medicine to decrease the inflammation

Bear in mind that this doesn’t mean that additional testing won’t be needed.

It is important to rule out certain conditions, such as:

  • Food allergies
  • Dermatitis
  • Atopy

In some cases, when it’s not possible to determine the cause, your veterinarian may refer you to a dermatologist. This usually means that advanced testing is needed.

To make these moments as durable as possible, think about investing in pet insurance – it can save you a lot of money, time, and energy in the long run.

The Bottom Line

To help your dog overcome an abnormal situation, you should know first what’s normal. More specifically, you need ot know what is normal for your dog.

The biggest issue health-related is that changes in health are often subtle, or they commonly occur over a longer time. When something takes so long to change it’s usually very difficult to notice that specific change.

If it’s not common for your dog to lick his paws, you might want to check external factors first and then focus on monitoring your dog.

By monitoring your dog you can actually see what bothers him, and you will be able to give your veterinarian more information on your dog’s behavior.

Certain conditions couldn’t be treated without veterinarian help, so make sure that you follow through on everything that your veterinarian advises you to do. This is the only way to make your dog healthier.

By making your dog healthier you are actually enabling him to live longer.