Paw-licking is common behavior for dogs, and they will often lick their paws as a natural part of self-grooming. Some dogs may do this less than others, but most dogs will lick their paws after eating or after playing outside. However, excessive paw-licking could be a sign of something more serious. If your dog is licking their paws constantly or aggressively, there may be an underlying health or behavioral issue. Let’s take a closer look at common reasons that your pooch may be excessively licking their paws and how to fix it.
Pain is the most common reason for excessive licking. Your dog could have picked up an injury that is causing them pain or discomfort, or they may have something lodged in their pads, like a thorn, insect bite, or glass shard. Incessant licking of only one paw is usually a clear indication that an injury is the problem, typically accompanied by limping. That being said, if they are also limping, there may be something more serious going on, like a sprain or fracture.
Closely inspect your dog’s paw for any abrasions, thorns, or injuries. If it’s all clear, they may have a bone fracture or sprain, and a trip to the vet is necessary.
Chronic paw-licking could also be the result of an environmental or food allergy. Finding the cause of this allergic reaction can be a challenge, but we recommend checking the environment that they’ve been walking or playing in first. Food allergies in dogs are exceedingly rare, affecting less than 1% of pooches, and this is why it may be more likely that the allergy is coming from their environment. These can include reactions to mold, grass, pollens, dust mites, and fleas. If you find that your dog is licking excessively only after a walk, then the cause is most likely environmental. This is often accompanied by other symptoms, like itching, sneezing, and rashes.
If the cause is food allergies, it can take time to find the cause, and you’ll need to try different foods to narrow down the culprits. Environmental causes are also a challenge, but a trip to the vet may help diagnose the problem. Cleaning your dog’s feet with a damp cloth after walks may help, as well as frequently washing your dog’s bedding in order to stop the lifecycle of dust mites and fleas.
Dry skin in dogs can be caused by a variety of reasons, including diet, dry weather, excessive bathing, and allergies, and it may even be breed-specific in rare cases. Dry skin will cause chronic paw licking, accompanied by itchiness, fur loss, and redness.
Don’t bathe your pooch too often, and when you do, avoid using soaps and shampoos, as these will deplete the natural oils found in your dog’s coat. A natural dog lotion or oil can provide relief in dry weather, as will regular brushing and grooming. Some dogs may have a genetic and breed-specific reason for dry skin, such as some hairless varieties. A paw balm or moisturizer will help with these breeds.
High-energy and docile dogs like require regular activity to keep their minds working. If they don’t get the required mental stimulation, they can often turn to peculiar behaviors, like paw licking, digging, and chewing.
Make sure to give your dog both adequate exercise and mental stimulation every day. A long walk followed by a game of ball-throwing or frisbee will go a long way in mitigating any obsessive behavior. Remember, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog!
Anxiety and Stress
Reasons for anxiety and stress in dogs can have a wide variety of causes. Is there a new dog in the home? Have you recently moved to a new house? Has your dog been left alone for long periods recently? All these factors could have a role to play. Dogs will often try and comfort themselves in times of stress, and paw-licking could be a reaction to a stressful situation. However, excessive paw licking with no physical causes could also be the result of obsessive-compulsive behaviors, which have become a chronic bad habit over time. This excessive licking can result in raw skin on the paws and may lead to ulcers.
You’ll need to try and identify what is causing this anxiety in your pooch and make them feel more comfortable about it. If the behavior has become compulsive, you may consider an Elizabethan collar as a temporary measure to help them get out of the habit.
There are many reasons that your pooch may be excessively licking their paws, many of which are simple but some of which may require more serious treatment. Of course, you should always consult your vet first.
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