Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

Dogs can have an abundance of behaviors that leave their pet owner with some unanswered questions. One of these common behaviors is paw licking. As with any behavior, paw licking can be due to a variety of different reasons. While occasional paw licking isn’t a big deal, excessive paw licking can be a cause for concern. If you notice excessive paw licking in your dog, be sure to get them checked by a vet for possible underlying conditions that may be causing this licking.

Some of the most common reasons for paw licking can include injuries, skin problems such as environmental allergies, a food allergy, a flea problem or even flea allergy, boredom, stress, and anxiety. Pinpointing what is causing your dog to lick their paws is the first step to addressing possible underlying conditions. Understanding various aspects as to why dogs lick their paws can help you provide your dog with the best life possible.

It’s important to note that some dogs may be experiencing more than one cause when it comes to paw licking. Sometimes, if addressing one cause doesn’t reduce the behavior, you may need to keep trying. Knowing the common causes of this behavior is the first step to eliminating it, no matter the cause.

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Injuries

When considering why do dogs lick their paws, injury is one important possibility. Sudden paw licking or paw chewing can be a signal that your dog may be injured. They may be licking their paw to try and soothe the irritation or pain that their injury is causing them. Some of the most common injuries to cause paw licking include cuts, growths, bee stings, or something painful stuck between paw pads. If you’re asking yourself why do dogs lick their paws, all of these can be an answer.

Your dog may be licking their paw due to irritation caused by stepping on a sharp object, such as a thorn, walking on sidewalks that have been salted or are too hot, getting stung by a bee, or developing a blister. Some of these causes for paw licking can be treated easily at home, while others may need to be addressed by a veterinarian. Be sure to address any paw injuries to avoid infection.

To look for a possible injury that’s causing sudden paw licking, be sure to examine your dog’s paw closely. Look at their nails, between their toes, on the top of their feet, and at the paw pad itself. Are there any cuts, splinters, or blisters? Perhaps you notice a torn nail or breakage. Whatever it is, if you notice any paw injuries that seem to be causing paw licking, be sure to take the necessary steps to get your dog back to being healthy and happy.

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Environmental Allergy

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from allergies. There are three main types of allergies that dogs can experience: food allergies, flea allergies, and environmental allergies. Environmental allergies, also known as atopic dermatitis, can affect dogs of all breeds and ages.

An environmental allergy is caused by a seemingly harmless substance, such as dust mites or pollen, that triggers an allergic reaction. The immune system views this substance as a threat and attacks it, which is what causes allergy symptoms. Some environmental allergy symptoms in humans can include sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, and coughing. For dogs, environmental allergy symptoms affect their skin. They may develop irritated and itchy skin, which can lead to paw licking.

Discovering what your dog is allergic to can be quite a challenge, and allergy testing will need to be completed by your vet. Once allergens are discovered, there are a few ways to go about combatting this condition. At home, you can help minimize paw licking that’s caused by environmental allergies by keeping a bowl of water near your door to quickly clean off your dog’s paws when they come inside, ridding them of potential allergens.

To help your dog’s skin fight against allergens and minimize paw licking that’s caused by them, consider using various supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help improve skin health and combat allergy symptoms. These supplements can be found at your local pet store and incorporated into your dog’s diet. Be sure to consult with your vet before beginning any new supplements or diet changes.

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Food Allergy

Along with an environmental allergy, a food allergy or allergies can also be a common cause of paw licking. Unlike environmental allergies, food allergies are triggered by specific ingredients that are ingested, rather than common substances such as pollen or dust mites.

Food allergies can be triggered by a wide variety of ingredients. Chicken, beef, soy, wheat, and many more types of food can cause an allergic reaction within your pup. When considering why do dogs lick their paws, many owners may not realize that their food may be the cause. Understanding the food that’s triggering an allergic reaction can be the first step to reducing excessive paw licking.

To identify the food that your dog is allergic to, your vet will perform an allergy test. They may also recommend an elimination diet. During an elimination diet, you will feed your dog limited ingredient food until symptoms subside. Once they have subsided, you will add each eliminated ingredient back into their diet one by one. If symptoms reappear, you will know which ingredient is causing them based on the most recent one that’s been reintroduced.

After identifying the food that your dog is allergic to, your vet will recommend a food that’s free of those allergens or put your dog on a special diet. This should eliminate paw licking, itchy skin, and all other unwanted food allergy symptoms.

Flea Allergy

Why do dogs lick their paws? Well, fleas may be a culprit of this behavior. Fleas themselves make your dog itchy with bites and crawling on their skin. No dog or owner ever wants to deal with these unwanted fleas!

In addition to flea bites causing skin irritation, flea allergies can make them even more uncomfortable. These allergies cause the skin to become inflamed and irritated, which can lead to paw licking.

When your dog seems to be experiencing excessive paw licking, be sure to check them for fleas. If you notice that they seem to have fleas, be sure to talk to your vet about flea medication and control. With the help of you and your vet, your dog will be free of fleas and the paw licking that they might be causing.

Mange

Trying to find the answer to why do dogs lick their paws can be very frustrating for any dog owner. There are a lot of possible causes, and narrowing down the one that’s causing paw licking for your pup can seem daunting. Through trial and error, you can help your dog combat paw licking and live its most fulfilling life possible.

Mange is a parasite condition that can affect the skin, causing excessive licking, scratching, dry skin, and even hair loss. While these parasites are on all dogs, having too many leads to the development of this condition. Typically, mange is seen in dogs with a lowered immune system, such as older dogs, puppies, and dogs who are taking medications that may affect immune functioning.

If you’re worried that your dog may be experiencing paw licking due to mange, be sure to get them into a medical professional. Mange needs to be diagnosed and treated by your vet. Once they’ve addressed mange, your dog will be able to live a healthy, happy life without excessive paw licking and other symptoms of this condition.

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Pain

One answer for why do dogs lick their paws can commonly be pain. There are many conditions that can cause dogs pain, including arthritis, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and more. To cope with this pain, dogs may lick their paws for comfort and soothing. Even if the pain isn’t located in their paw, they still may exhibit excessive licking because of it. This can be quite confusing for any dog owner and may make pinpointing the pain that’s causing paw licking even more difficult to identify.

If you notice that your dog seems to be in pain and is licking its paws a lot, be sure to get them to a vet. They’ll be able to diagnose and treat your dog to help with these symptoms. In no time, your dog will be back to its healthy and happy self.

Behavioral Causes

Answering why do dogs lick their paws can be a complicated process that depends on a variety of individual factors for each pooch. Sometimes, paw licking can be due to psychological factors rather than physical ones. This can be very confusing for dog owners who are looking for answers as to why dogs lick their paws. Sometimes the reason can’t be seen with the naked eye, but instead takes some investigating!

If your vet has ruled out possible causes such as injuries, allergies, parasites, and more, then they may begin to consider possible psychological causes. Some of the most common psychological reasons behind why do dogs lick their paws include boredom and anxiety.

Boredom

Dogs like to keep themselves busy and have things to do. Some breeds are naturally busier than others, such as those who are used to herding, hunting, or being used for other working tasks. Because of this, all dogs can be prone to developing boredom when they don’t have enough tasks to keep them occupied.

Bored dogs can develop unwanted behaviors such as paw licking. This paw licking can be troublesome for both you and your pup and may lead to other health conditions. Because of this, it’s important to get to the bottom of your dog’s boredom and find ways to prevent it.

Thankfully, there are a variety of different products that can help stimulate your dog’s brain and keep them from becoming bored. Puzzle toys are toys filled with a treat that makes your dog work to find a way to reach the food. These toys keep them engaged and prevent them from becoming bored.

In addition to puzzle toys, feeder bowls are another great way to keep your dog from getting bored. Simply put their kibble into one of these feeder bowls, and the dips and small spaces in the bowl will make your dog need to find a way to reach their food. These bowls will help keep your dog engaged, avoid boredom, and even have a variety of health benefits.

Socialization is a great way to mentally stimulate your dog and prevent boredom and paw licking. When meeting new dogs and people, your dog is hard at work to learn everything about them and how to behave around them. During this process, their brain is constantly active, and this can prevent them from becoming bored when you return home. If you’re looking for a way to combat boredom, consider going for a walk or trip to the dog park!

Anxiety

Just like humans, dogs can be prone to anxiety, which may be forgotten when considering why do dogs lick their paws. While anxiety is a psychological condition, it can still have physical symptoms. Pacing, whining, drooling, yawning, and paw licking can all be signs that your dog is feeling anxious.

Canine anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors. Does your dog begin to whine when the garbage truck goes by? They may feel anxious because of loud or unknown noises. Do they begin to pace when new people come over? New dogs or people can be a common trigger for canine anxiety. Maybe they begin to lick their paws when you get your car keys, signaling that they have separation anxiety.

No matter the cause, getting to the bottom of your dog’s anxiety is the first step to combatting the paw licking that it may cause. Once you have identified a possible cause, try to normalize this experience. Comforting and soothing your dog when new people come over or when there are loud noises can help them to feel less anxious during these situations.

CBD can be a great way to combat canine anxiety and the paw licking that it may cause. CBD is a naturally calming compound that can be added to your dog’s diet through treats or oil. Be sure to consult with your vet before beginning any new supplements, including CBD.

If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety, consider crate training them. Crate training can provide your dog with a safe space to relax and rest when you’re away. This can help reduce their separation anxiety and the paw licking that it might be causing. With some trial and error, you can reduce the anxiety and paw licking of your beloved pup.

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Dangers of Paw Licking

Even more important than why do dogs lick their paws is the question of, what can paw licking lead to? While paw licking may seem harmless, this behavior can lead to other unwanted conditions. Once you notice excessive paw licking, be sure to talk with your veterinarian about possible causes and solutions. They’ll be able to guide you on how to combat this behavior at home.

Be sure to work with your vet regarding paw licking in a prompt manner. Excessive paw licking can contribute to excessive moisture, which can cause secondary bacterial or yeast infections. These conditions can cause even more itching, redness, swelling, and paw licking. If this happens, your dog will likely be given antibiotics, steroids, and, possibly, anti-itch spray. These infections can be very serious and should be addressed immediately.

In order to avoid them, be sure to get your dog into the vet as soon as possible when you notice excessive licking. They’ll be able to answer why do dogs lick their paws so much in your dog’s specific case and go about a treatment plan to avoid further health conditions. The sooner that your dog gets help for whatever is causing their paw licking, the healthier they’ll be.

Wrapping Up

Why do dogs lick their paws can be a difficult question to answer given there are so many possible answers. Injury, allergies, parasites, and psychological factors can all contribute to paw licking. Some dogs may even be experiencing more than one potential cause of paw licking at once.

Nevertheless, all dog owners should work with their vet if they notice excessive licking in their pup. Doing so can help combat this behavior and avoid possible infection that paw licking can cause. No matter the cause of your dog’s paw licking, with the help of you and your vet, they can go on to live a happy and healthy life. Don’t hesitate to get your dog into the vet for paw licking and help uncover the answer of why do dogs lick their paws in your specific case! You and your pup will be very happy you did so!

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