dog licking paws

5 Reasons Why Dogs Licking Paws Might Be Cause for Concern


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If you've ever seen your dog lick their paws, it's tempting to assume that it's just a bad habit, like chewing nails or scratching. While that can certainly be the case, paw licking can be an indicator of possible trouble ranging from allergies to serious medical issues. If this behavior becomes an ongoing thing, it's important to observe your dog for other signs that might solve the mystery of their paw licking. Take notes for your veterinarian so that you can present the information at your next appointment.

There are a few questions you can ask yourself if you catch your dog licking. Does your dog only lick after walks? Do his paw pads look swollen or red? Dog paw balm can help a lot with swollen paws, but if they're cracked, bleeding, or look infected, they warrant a trip to the vet. Limping also warrants a trip to the vet, or at least a thorough inspection to make sure there's no foreign body poking out from your pup's paw.

If you catch your dog doing this twice a year, usually during allergy season, you might break out the dog benadryl. Allergies can easily cause this strange behavior. Paw licking, however, can be caused by a multitude of issues besides pain and allergies. Here are a few reasons why dogs lick their paws and what you can do about it.

5 Reasons Why Dogs Lick Their Paws

dog licking paws

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1. Pain

Is your dog licking and limping at the same time? Your dog may have sprained or injured their leg, and excessive paw licking is their way of telling you they're in pain!

If you're not seeing an obvious limp, then there may be an insect bite, a foxtail or something sharp stuck in their paw pad. Do a really comprehensive exam and also look for broken nails. If you can't find an obvious sign of damage or if that damage is impossible to deal with on your own, make sure to see a veterinarian.

2. Allergies

Believe it or not, dogs suffer from allergies too! Not all allergies are of the seasonal variety, though. If you catch your dog licking excessively but the paw pads appear normal, the licking could be due to a skin condition (dermatitis), which often is the result of bacterial problems, allergies, or food sensitivities. Your vet can help diagnose this, and you should also let them know what you're feeding your pup! These types of conditions can easily be caused by an allergy to certain types of foods.

3. GI Issues

Gastrointestinal issues can also be linked to licking behavior. The science behind this is complicated, but suffice it to say, an unhealthy gut makes for an unhealthy pup. No one likes stomach problems, including your pooch, and licking can be his warning to you that he's very uncomfortable. Your dog might just be bored, but you shouldn't immediately dismiss his licking as something benign.

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4. Boredom or Anxiety 

Of course, boredom can still be a factor. Some dogs just lick their paws as a form of stimulation or as a way of dealing with anxiety.

Dogs tend to become anxious when they are left alone for long periods of time, when they are bored, feeling depressed, or are becoming ill. Licking a dog's paws is often a way to comfort themselves. However, excess licking can cause eventual irritation and possible bacterial infections of the skin. This licking can cause hot spots.

5. Fleas and Ticks

Always check for ticks after a walk or hike and make sure your dog is on preventative medication! Fleas and ticks can cause bigger problems than itchy paws, and it always pays to check your pup for these bugs.

There are so many different conditions you may want to consider if see your dog licking their front or back paws. Excessive licking can be the result of food allergies, yeast infections, allergens, dry skin & itchiness, a health problem, environmental allergies, dog food, skin problems, a foreign body, separation anxiety, dust mites, or a skin disease.

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This common behavior may need a dermatologist or vet to diagnose the problem, but don't chalk this dog behavior up to boredom as that isn't always the root cause.

Does your dog lick his paws? Tell us on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!

READ MORE: Why Does My Dog Love Sucking on Blankets?

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