Why is My Dog Licking Its Paws? 14 Possible Reasons

Most pet owners have observed their pets licking, slurping at and chewing their feet at one point or another, but when a dog continuously licks its paws, some wonder if it is a cause for concern. They’ll ask us, “Why is my dog licking his paws?” and the truth is that it could be everything from mundane boredom to yeast infections to painful growths. So, we hope this list will help point out what other symptoms to look for as well as when paw licking is more of a problem.

Dogs Licking Paw - Tips & Advice

Why do dogs lick their paws?

This type of self-grooming behavior is normal to a certain level, but frequent licking and chewing may happen for a number of reasons:

Reason #1: Injury

If your dog is experiencing a type of pain from their feet, they’ll lick. Often, if they’re licking only one paw, that means your dog might have some sort of injury on that foot: a thorn between its toes, an incision from a sharp pebble, or some other injury. Gently check the foot and consider bringing the pup in to the vet for any bad splinters or injuries.

Reason #2: Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD)

If the fleas keep biting, the dog keeps licking. Paws are affected by flea saliva, which leads to irritated, itchy skin. If the licking is a result of FAD, you’ll often see hot spots, fur loss and other symptoms of fleas.

Reason #3: Mange, Dust Mites or Other Parasites

Of course, fleas aren’t the only parasites that can bother your dog. Chewing paws might be your dog’s way of attacking dust mites or mange.

Reason #4: Food Allergies

Allergies to soy, corn, wheat, egg, and specific meats (like chicken, pork, and beef) are possible. In this case, you may see several behaviors with your dog: licking paws, hot spots, rash and severe gastro symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. Your vet will likely recommend switching food or trying a special diet that eliminates specific ingredients after taking an allergy test.

Reason #5: Other Allergies

Unfortunately, there are many, many things your dog might be allergic to that can lead to atopic dermatitis: pesticides, molds, weeds, types of grass and types of pollen are all common. If your dog has gone hiking with you recently, check on your dog’s feet to see if the irritation subsides.

Reason #6: Cleaners, Shampoos and Perfumes

Sometimes your dog might walk in recently cleaned areas and experience a reaction from some cleaners. For instance, if you’ve had a flea episode recently, dogs will usually have a strong reaction to flea-control powders. Avoid letting your dog walk on powders, perfumes, and cleaning products.

Reason #7: Yeast or Fungal Infection

For overly licked dog paws, redness between toes may indicate a secondary infection. This may come in the form of either a bacterial infection or a fungal (yeast) infection.

Reason #8: Bacteria

Bacterial problems in the skin may cause several forms of dermatitis. The bacteria may be the root cause of the issue, but more often it’s a secondary problem that arises after a dog has licked too much.

Reason #9: Dry Skin

Winter weather can make your dog’s skin dry. Also, excessive baths and harsh soaps can dry their feet out. Sometimes, your pet might be on a prescription where dry skin is a side effect. In that case, contact your veterinarian to see when and how to switch to a different drug.

Reason #10: Road Salts

Winter can do a number on both human hands and dogs’ feet! Luckily, in Jacksonville, Florida, we don’t’ have to worry about salt on the roads or balls of ice between pets’ toes very often, but those customers who might spend some time up North should be aware that this is a factor.

Reason #11: Arthritis Pain

Again, paw licking can just be a reaction to pain. Older dogs may be reacting to the pain of arthritis. Watch for limping and stiffer movement.

Reason #12: Cysts or Growths

While it’s somewhat rarer, your dog may get a cyst, tumor or abnormal growth, which should be something easily visible if you gently spread out their toes.

Reason #13: Anxiety

Why do dogs chew their feet if they’re anxious? One might think of it like a nervous human chewing their fingernails. The might lick while separated from their humans or before going to sleep. Anxiety in dogs can happen for many reasons, and there are many strategies to combat it, like compression vests, training, and routines.

Reason #14: Boredom

Like molting for birds, dogs chewing their feet may be a result of stress and boredom. Make sure your dog has a toy, time to socialize and places to walk or roam around.

Of course, this is just a few of the many more dozens of ways to answer the question, “Why is my dog licking her paws?” But those who are worried about this persistent behavior should consider contacting your nearest vet location.