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Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws – Is It Normal & Top 9 Causes?

As dog owners, we are used to seeing our furry friends constantly grooming themselves. But what happens when they start licking their paws excessively? Paw licking is a common behaviour in dogs, but it can also be a sign of an underlying issue.

Is Paw Licking Normal in Dogs?

Before we dive into the reasons why dogs lick their paws, it’s important to understand what normal grooming behaviour looks like in dogs. Dogs groom themselves to keep clean, healthy & comfortable. This includes licking their paws to remove dirt and debris or to soothe any irritation or discomfort. However, if your dog is excessively licking their paws, it could be a sign of an underlying issue and it’s important to address it.

Top 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Licks Their Paws

  1. Allergies: One of the most common reasons for paw licking in dogs is allergies. Dogs can develop allergies to food, environmental allergens like pollen or mold, or flea bites. Paw licking can be a sign of an allergic reaction and it’s important to identify the allergen to provide the right treatment.
  2. Infections: If your dog has an infection in their paws, they may lick them excessively. Infections can be caused by bacteria, yeast, or fungi and they can be painful and uncomfortable for your dog. Seek veterinary care to properly diagnose and treat the infection.
  3. Injury: If your dog has injured their paw, they may lick it to relieve pain or soothe the wound. Licking can also help clean the wound, but excessive licking can delay healing and lead to infection. Keep an eye on the wound and seek veterinary care if necessary.
  4. Anxiety: Dogs who are anxious or stressed may lick their paws as a coping mechanism. If your dog’s paw licking is accompanied by other signs of anxiety, like pacing or panting, talk to your veterinarian about behaviour modification techniques or medication.
  5. Boredom: Dogs who are bored or understimulated may lick their paws out of habit or frustration. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise, mental stimulation and attention to prevent boredom.
  6. Dry skin: Just like humans, dogs can develop dry, itchy skin. If your dog’s paw licking is accompanied by dry skin or flaking, consider using a moisturizing shampoo or adding a supplement to their diet to support healthy skin.
  7. Parasites: Fleas, ticks and other parasites can irritate your dog’s skin and cause them to lick their paws excessively. Keep your dog up to date on parasite prevention and seek veterinary care if you suspect an infestation.
  8. Pain: Dogs who are experiencing pain or discomfort may lick their paws as a way to distract themselves from the discomfort. This could be caused by an injury, arthritis, or other underlying medical condition. Seek veterinary care to properly diagnose and treat the issue.
  9. Reaction to food or chemicals: Dogs can develop allergic reactions to certain ingredients in their food or chemicals in their environment. Paw licking can be a sign of an allergic reaction and it’s important to identify and eliminate the allergen to prevent further issues.

Medical Concerns Due to Paw Licking

Excessive paw licking in dogs can be a sign of various medical concerns, including some specific conditions such as:

Hot Spots (Acute Moist Dermatitis)

Hot spots are localized areas of skin inflammation and bacterial infection that appear as red, moist, irritated, and sometimes oozing lesions on a dog’s skin, including the paw area. These spots can spread rapidly due to a dog’s licking, biting, and scratching. The moisture from excessive paw licking can create an ideal environment for hot spots to develop, particularly if the dog’s skin is already irritated or if there’s underlying skin damage.

Skin Infections

Skin infections, including bacterial and fungal (such as yeast) infections, can cause significant discomfort, leading to increased paw licking. The warm and moist environment between a dog’s toes can exacerbate these conditions, making paw licking both a symptom and a contributing factor to the persistence of the infection. Signs of a skin infection can include redness, swelling, a bad odor, and discharge.

Hair Loss

Excessive paw licking can also lead to hair loss around the affected area. This might be a result of the direct physical action of licking or as a consequence of an underlying issue that causes the licking behavior, such as allergies, parasites, or skin infections. Hair loss can expose the skin to further irritation and infection, compounding the problem.

Prevention & Treatment Options

Preventing paw licking starts with identifying and addressing the underlying issue. Depending on the cause, treatment options may include:

  • Medication: If your dog has an infection or is experiencing pain, medication may be necessary to properly treat the issue.
  • Dietary changes: If your dog has a food allergy, switching to a hypoallergenic diet may help prevent paw licking.
  • Allergy testing: If your dog has environmental allergies, allergy testing can help identify the allergen so that you can take steps to eliminate it.
  • Behavioural modification: If your dog is licking their paws due to anxiety or boredom, behaviour modification techniques like exercise, training, or puzzle toys may be helpful.
  • Topical treatments: Depending on the cause of paw licking, topical treatments like ointments or sprays may be recommended to soothe the skin and prevent further irritation.

Breeds That are More Prone to Paw Licking

While paw licking can occur in any breed of dog, some breeds may be more prone to certain underlying issues that can lead to excessive paw licking. Breeds that are more prone to paw licking include:

Paw licking in dogs can be a sign of an underlying issue and it’s important to properly diagnose and treat the issue to prevent further complications.

Paw Licking by Breed

Are you trying to find out how prone to licking paws a particular breed is? See below for detailed paw licking information on all of the most popular breeds.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws – Is It Normal & Top 9 Causes?