Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

Pet Care


September 14, 2021

A dog’s tongue is always busy. Dogs spend much of their day panting, and while they are, you can bet their tongues will be wagging. When they’re eating their food or licking you or another dog, their tongue is busy once again.

But what if your dog is using their tongue to lick their paws all day long? What’s the reason for your dog’s licking irregularities, and what can you do about them?

  1. Normal Licking

Before you start panicking over your dog licking its paws, it’s worth noting that there’s every possibility that there’s nothing wrong. Why do dogs lick their paws? There are many possible reasons, including the fact that licking its paws is perfectly normal — within reason.

As with so much else in life, the problem here is one of excess. They may not be clean freaks like cats, but still, a little licking is a normal part of dogs’ self-grooming process. Maybe there’s a bit of food on their paws they’re still eager to lap up.

However, if your dog does nothing but lick their paws for extended periods of time, there’s a greater chance of there being a problem.

  1. The Possibility of Fleas and Ticks

A dog that is infested with fleas, ticks, and other parasites can become incredibly itchy – and unhappy. Dogs licking their paws could be a desperate attempt to get rid of these parasites. The most obvious cause of fleas, ticks, and similar parasites is your dog having hygiene problems.

If you don’t bathe your dog regularly, it can become a flea and tick magnet. In addition, there are several treatments available for eliminating teas and flicks. Of course, the best way to deal with fleas and ticks is to prevent your dog from getting them in the first place. There are several kinds of flea collars that can help prevent fleas and ticks from attaching themselves to your dog.

If your dog already has a flea problem, there are still plenty of ways in which to deal with it, such as a topical prescription from your vet. There are also a wide range of flea shampoos as well as other specialty chemical treatments, including anti-flea pills. These can kill fleas within a few hours, though you should always check with your vet to make sure that they are safe.

  1. Maybe Mange

In addition to fleas and ticks, another common cause of parasitic problem is mange. It can occur if you don’t take good care of your dog’s skin. Mange can cause a whole host of skin problems, including hairlessness, sores, hardness, and crusty patches, all of which can cause your dog to lick the skin in hopes of fixing this massive source of discomfort.

There are a couple of different types of mange to be aware of, sarcoptic and demodectic. Sarcoptic mange is caused by small mites, is the more common of the two, and can be highly contagious. Demodectic is rarer, not contagious, and is more common in dogs that suffer from immune system issues. Either iteration should be a source of concern for dog owners.

The best thing you can do to prevent your dog from having to battle mange is to keep their skin soft and healthy. Having good hygiene, nutrition, and overall health is also essential. There is a reason why dogs that lack these qualities and are sickly are sometimes referred to as “mangy.” If you think your dog has mange, see a vet immediately.

  1. Dealing with Dermatitis and Food Allergies

In addition to mange, there are a wide variety of other dermatological problems that could be bothering them, from dry skin to bacterial issues to dermatitis itself. Dermatitis can be caused by a wide range of things, from a bad reaction to chemicals used on your lawn to some of the plants and weeds within it to other things that can dry out their skin.

In addition to dermatological issues as well as cuts and bruises, your dog may also be experiencing skin problems as the result of an allergic reaction to food. If your dog’s paw-licking and skin problems started just after you introduced it to a new type of food, that may well be the cause of your dog’s discomfort.

Make sure your dog has a bowl of water and a towel where it can clean and soak its paws. If the dermatitis persists, seek out a skin soothing agent and see a vet. Likewise, your vet can tell you if your dog has a food allergy and, if so, which foods you might be able to give your dog as a substitute.

  1. Cuts, Bruises, and Other Wounds

When someone’s pride or personal well-being has been harmed, we say that they need to “lick their wounds,” and such is the case here. If your dog has suffered a cut, it’ll instinctively want to treat the wound. Since your dog doesn’t have access to cleaning agents, licking the wounds is the best it can do.

Of course, you can and should do a lot better than that. Any wound suffered by your dog should be cleaned with soap, water, and antibiotics. The latter may sting and you’ll need to control your dog while applying it, but it is essential for making sure your dog doesn’t get an infection.

  1. Understanding Behavioral Issues

If you’ve already been to the vet and they have ruled out the above physical and infection-based issues, it may be time to consider the possibility that your dog’s paw licking problems are behavioral in nature. Dogs that are bored or anxious can sometimes lick their paws. It can also be a sign of compulsive behavior or nervousness.

If your dog is bored, it likely needs more exercise and activity, so more walks or playtime could be in order. You could also try giving your dog more toys. Either way, you want your dog to expend more energy so it isn’t so pent up that they release it in ways such as licking their paws.

Anxiety, meanwhile, can be caused by everything from loud noises to separation anxiety. You may want to see a vet who specializes in animal behavioral psychology.

  1. Age and Arthritis

If your dog’s problems don’t fall into any of the above categories and your dog is on the older side, it may be a sign that it is suffering from arthritis. Of course, licking alone is not indicative of this condition, but if your dog does so while having trouble or being in pain while walking, that should be a red flag. Once again, you’ll need to see a vet for help.

Some of these conditions are easier to spot and identify than others. Their seriousness ranges from mild to severe. Whatever the underlying cause, however, you should do whatever it takes to stop your dog from licking its paws while treating the underlying cause of the issue.