Self-grooming is a normal behavior for every dog. Dogs will often lick their paws to give themselves a quick clean, especially after coming in from the outdoors where their paws may have picked up dirt or debris.
But if you start to notice your dog licking his paws excessively or beginning to chew on them, this can indicate a deeper issue.
Before you attempt to relieve your dog’s irritation, it’s important to understand the potential underlying causes.
Why is My Dog Licking His Paws?
Excessive paw licking likely means Fido is uncomfortable.
There can be a number of potential causes, including:
- Allergies (food, environmental, seasonal)
- Skin Conditions
Your dog may be licking his paws to relieve an itch caused by an allergic reaction. If it’s a food allergy, your pup will likely experience an immediate reaction after consuming the ingredient causing the immune response. If it’s just a sensitivity, your vet may recommend an elimination diet to pinpoint what’s causing the irritation. Take inventory of what you’re feeding your dog and keep a close watch on when the licking starts. Common foods that tend to cause allergic reactions in canines include dairy, beef, chicken, egg, and wheat.
Like humans, dogs can also experience environmental allergies from elements like mold, moss, dust mites, grass, and pollen. These allergies may be accompanied by sneezing, a runny nose, and skin rashes. Observe your dog after trips to the park to see if there appears to be a flare up.
We’ve all seen those viral photos of poor pups that have an unfortunate encounter with a bee.
An injury caused by a bee sting, thorn, torn nail, or growth could also be what’s causing the excessive paw licking. If the licking is accompanied by a limp, this is also an indication that there may be an injury. Check beneath your dog’s paws and between his pads to make sure there’s nothing stuck and causing pain. If you find something and you’re not sure how to safely remove it, it’s best to go to the vet so your dog can get some relief.
Dogs can suffer from a wide range of skin conditions caused by allergies, food sensitivities, bacterial infections, and over-bathing. Dermatitis (itchy inflammation of the skin) likely indicates an allergy or yeast infection, while flaky, dry skin and fur loss may point to an overaggressive bathing schedule. Make sure you understand the proper bathing frequency for your dog’s particular breed. Excessive grooming can result in a loss of the dog’s natural oils and compromise a healthy coat. If your pup’s problem persists, your veterinarian can help you uncover the cause and recommend proper medication for relief.
If you can’t find any physical signs of injury or an allergic reaction, it’s possible that your pooch is suffering from anxiety or obsessive behavior.
Dogs experience anxiety for a number of reasons. If your routine changes drastically, you’re apart for an extended period of time, or your dog experiences fear with loud noises like thunder and fireworks, they may be suffering from anxiety as a result. In addition to paw licking, symptoms of anxiety may also include destructive behavior, excessive barking, restlessness, pacing, and accidents in the house. If you suspect anxiety, work with your vet or an animal behaviorist to determine the best course of action.
Keep in mind that dogs can also resort to compulsive activities like paw licking to pass the time if they get bored. Try kicking your activity time up a notch and go for longer or more frequent walks, and opt for an extra game of fetch every once and a while to keep Fido entertained.
Fleas and mange are common parasitic infections that can cause very itchy paws. If a parasite is the problem, you may also notice skin redness, fur loss, and hot spots. Your veterinarian can help you diagnose the problem and provide a solution for relief.
Solutions for Long-term Skin Health
Although there are some unavoidable mishaps like bee stings and parasites, the good news is that most causes of excessive paw licking can be treated at home. And if not, your vet will have the expertise and remedies to help your pup feel back to normal.
There are steps you can take to help avoid future bouts of itchiness and irritation and keep your dog’s skin healthy for the long haul.
- Get your pup on a good diet. The best dog food for skin allergies often features limited, grain-free ingredients and novel protein sources, but it’s best to work with your veterinarian to determine the best diet.
- Keep a consistent, appropriate bathing schedule. Learn as much as you can about your dog’s coat and breed so you know how often to bathe them and what soaps and shampoos you should use.
- Give your dog a dietary supplement. Introducing a supplement that’s rich in probiotics, prebiotics, and omega-6 or omega-3 fatty acids to your dog’s diet can help keep their coat and skin healthy.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do for your dog’s wellness is to heal skin issues from the inside out and set them up for long-term success.