My Dog Won't Stop Licking His Paws - Help!

Estimated Reading Time 5 minutes
My Dog Won't Stop Licking His Paws - Help!

Is your dog licking his paws incessantly? So obsessively that they seem to have lost interest in everything else around them? What does this mean, and is there a treatment for it? Keep reading to learn about possible causes and what you can do to help your dog stop licking his paws.

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Is it normal for my dog to lick his paws?

First of all, you should know that it’s normal for your dog to lick his paws now and then. However, when it seems that it’s the only activity they’re interested in, it's time to get a check-up at the vet's office. This is because there may be an underlying problem.

A few things to look out for when this behavior starts: Did it begin suddenly and has continued for an extended period? Is there bleeding, swelling, or limping? Is there any odor? Be sure to tell your vet about everything you’ve observed so she can give the most accurate diagnosis.

One of the main reasons to go to the vet’s office as soon as possible is that behaviors like these tend to become obsessive. Your dog may become addicted to licking his paws, and then it will be a habit that’s difficult to eradicate. In addition, excessive licking can cause light-colored dogs to stain their fur, and the moisture can create the ideal setting for infections.

If your dog's paw gets inflamed and infected, it will itch even more, causing more discomfort and licking. It's an endless cycle that will impair the healing process.

What are some causes for your dog to lick his paws?

Here are ten reasons why your dog may be licking his paws incessantly.

1. Pain

Something that can cause your dog to lick his paw can be pain or irritation. If the licking is limited to one foot, your pet may be experiencing pain. It could be the consequence of a bite from an insect, thorns, a small wound, embedded glass, a broken nail, and other reasons.

Even if you don't see anything, don't ignore this behavior. Take your dog to the vet. There may be something else on a deeper level, such as a muscle sprain or fracture.

2. Allergies

Allergies can also cause chronic licking. In addition, your dog may be allergic to his food, chemicals in the house or yard, weeds, grass, medicine, or others.

Finding the cause of itchiness in the paws may take some time and observation, but you’ll need to find out what your dog is allergic to in order to address the problem. Your vet may also recommend a blood test to get more information.

3. Gastrointestinal Issues

A study called Gastrointestinal disorders in dogs with excessive licking of surfaces, published by the Journal of Veterinary Behavior concluded that, in many dogs that displayed abnormal licking, gastrointestinal issues were present.

A total of 14 out of the 19 licking dogs had gastrointestinal abnormalities, such as lymphocytic-plasmacytic infiltration, chronic pancreatitis, or a gastric foreign body.

4. Boredom and Anxiety

One of the most common issues for a dog that won't stop licking his paws is boredom. Modern times have caused dogs to feel bored without anything to do in an apartment or small yard. These animals used to walk, hunt, and investigate. However, urban life can cause boredom and excessive licking.

Fortunately, you can be part of the solution! Taking your dog out for walks every day, playing with your pet, not leaving him alone for long periods, and allowing him to socialize are some of the things you can do to prevent him from feeling bored.

Anxiety can also cause a dog to lick their paws, just as humans bite their nails. Possible causes are separation anxiety, noise phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

5. Hormonal Imbalance

Hormonal imbalance can also cause a dog to lick his paws obsessively. When there is a hormonal balance, their body can produce too much cortisol or not enough thyroid hormone, for example. This may cause a dog to develop skin issues that can become itchy.

6. Dry Skin

Dry skin will sometimes be a breed-specific issue. It can also be caused by over-bathing or the environment (cold and dry weather). When a dog has very dry skin, it will likely become itchy, causing your dog to start licking in order to calm the itchiness down.

7. Fleas or Ticks

If your dog has fleas or ticks, the bites will become itchy. This can lead to compulsive paw-licking, as well as chewing. It can get worse if the pet is allergic to these parasites. To solve this issue, you need to get rid of the fleas and/or ticks. Your vet will likely need to prescribe medication for further treatment and prevention.

8. De-icing Salts and Cold Weather

Finally, our last reason on the list for itching paws that cause the dog to lick them compulsively is de-icing salts or sore paws caused by ice balls. De-icing salts are chemicals used to melt ice on driveways and roads during the winter, and they can lead to chemical burns on the dog's paws.

Alternatively, ice balls can form between hairy toes and can cause cracking, bleeding, and hair pulling, which can be painful.

Have your dog wear pet boots when going outside during the winter to avoid chemical burns. If ice gets caught on his paws, you can rub Crisco between the pads and into the fur to prevent snow from getting stuck between the toes. Be sure to keep the hair in the area trimmed.

What else can I try to prevent my dog from licking his paws?

Besides the ideas we already suggested (as well as taking your dog to the vet's office just in case), you can have your dog wear an Elizabethan collar or cone to prevent him from licking. Play with your dog frequently to keep them distracted to avoid boredom. If their mind is occupied, they will be less likely to develop obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

If you see symptoms such as inflammation, bleeding, redness, and pain in the area, do not hesitate and take the dog to the vet as soon as possible to address the issue.

Read more:

Ditch the Itch: Skin Allergies in Dogs

Hot Spots (Moist Dermatitis) in Dogs

What to Do If Your Dog Breaks a Nail

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog’s paw or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

Published: 6/11/2021
Last updated: 8/9/2021

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