Why do dogs lick their paws?

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Dogs have many behaviors that can tell us things about their health. One of these behaviors is excessive paw licking. While some licking is normal, persistent licking may mean something is wrong.

The guide below covers the most common reasons why dogs lick their paws and when you should see a vet for treatment.


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Reasons why dogs lick their paws

There are many reasons why your dog might lick his paws, from normal habits to medical problems or behavioral triggers.

Some paw licking is not a cause for concern – your dog may simply be cleaning his feet. However, the behavior can also indicate medical problems. For example, your dog may try to tell you that he is uncomfortable or in pain.

Additionally, if done excessively, paw licking can cause additional health problems, such as bacterial infections.

Here are some reasons why your dog might lick his paws and what to watch out for.


A common reason dogs lick their paws is to groom themselves. You may notice that your dog occasionally licks or chews gently on his paws and paws. They may also rub their paws on their faces. This is generally normal, healthy behavior, unless the licking becomes excessive or you notice something wrong.

Allergies or irritations

Allergies and dermatitis can cause itching and cause your dog to lick his paws to try to relieve discomfort and dry skin.

Two common categories of skin allergies are as follows:

  • Environmental allergies: Allergens that your dog may come into contact with outdoors or indoors and may be allergic to (e.g. plants, dust mites, pollen and more)
  • Food allergy: Ingredients in your dog’s food that he may be allergic to (e.g. grains, soy, dairy and more)

Your dog may have other allergy symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, discomfort around the eyes and itchy skin. If your dog suffers from food allergies, you may notice that he licks his paws more often after eating.

Allergies can also cause interdigital cysts — red or purple bumps — to form between your dog’s toes. They can be painful, so it’s important to take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice them.


Excessive paw licking can also indicate that your dog is in pain. There could be many causes for the pain, including something stuck between your dog’s toes or an injury to his toes, toenails, paw pads, or feet. Licking in this way could also be caused by pain elsewhere in the body (such as arthritis).


Scratching and itching could mean your dog has flea bites or other parasitic problems, such as mange. When fleas bite, their saliva can cause intense itching. Examine your dog’s skin and look for small red bumps.

Fortunately, your dog’s veterinarian can develop a treatment plan to relieve itchy paws and eliminate fleas or other mites and the diseases they cause.

Anxiety and other behavioral reasons

If you don’t notice any irritation or lesions, your dog’s paw licking may be a behavioral problem. Some dogs lick their feet when they are bored, stressed or anxious.

Your veterinarian may recommend an animal behaviorist or dog trainer, depending on the problem. Your vet may also prescribe medications for anxiety or recommend other things to try, such as exercise, alternative therapies, and more.

Secondary infection

Rampant licking of your dog’s paws caused by one problem in the first place can also lead to other problems, such as yeast infections. Moisture from licking can cause a buildup of bacteria, which can be uncomfortable and itchy. You may notice redness, hot spots, or blisters around your dog’s toes.

It may be difficult to pinpoint the root cause, so it’s best to visit your dog’s vet. They can treat the original cause of the licking and the secondary infection.

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Should I take my dog ​​to the vet if he licks his paws?

In many cases, taking your dog to the vet for excessive paw licking is helpful. The only reason your pet may not need a vet is if the behavior is part of their normal self-care routine.

Dr. Shannon Cabell, DVM, medical lead of pet care dermatology at Zoetis, says, “If you have any concerns about your dog’s paw-licking behavior, consult your veterinarian. Veterinarians are there to help you understand what is happening with your dog, discuss treatment options with you, and create the best treatment plan for your dog and your family’s lifestyle.

Dr. Cabell suggests taking your dog to the vet if you notice the following behaviors:

  • Your dog licks his paws often
  • Your dog’s skin has changed (i.e. you notice anything unusual, such as dryness or blistering)
  • Your dog is so focused on licking his paws that it interferes with normal routines or behaviors

Note that you should visit the vet even if your dog’s skin looks normal because there may still be a problem that you may not notice.

Paw licking treatment

Fortunately, various treatments are available to ease your dog’s discomfort.

Treatment may include the following things, according to Dr. Cabell:

  • Diagnostic tests, such as skin cytology under a microscope
  • Procedures to remove foreign objects or resolve other problems
  • Medications to relieve itching, pain, infections, anxiety, antifungals and more

“We recommend you make an appointment with your vet to get to the bottom of the matter quickly. Putting off a visit to the vet can prolong medical conditions, delay appropriate treatment, and prevent your dog from getting the relief he needs,” says Dr. Cabell.

If you have pet insurance, you may be covered for your pet’s veterinary visit and treatment. The best pet insurance companies cover treatment of accidents and illnesses, which can include allergic reactions, injuries, infections, behavioral problems and more, unless the cause is a pre-existing condition.

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Frequently asked questions about why dogs lick their paws

How can I get my dog ​​to stop licking?

The best way to get your dog to stop licking his paws depends on the cause of the behavior. If your dog experiences skin irritation, lesions, allergies, anxiety, or other medical reasons for licking, take him to the vet. Your veterinarian can create the best treatment plan to relieve the problem.

If your dog licks his paws because he’s bored, try adding activities to his daily routine, such as walks and exercise, games and mental enrichment toys.

Should I be worried if my dog ​​keeps licking his paws?

Dogs occasionally licking their paws is normal and usually not a cause for concern. However, if you notice the behavior is consistent or see any changes on your dog’s skin (such as red growths or spots), you may want to take your dog to the vet for an evaluation because there may be an underlying problem with the paw licking. Additionally, excessive licking can lead to bacterial or yeast infections.

How do I know if my dog ​​licks his paws too much?

How do I know if my dog ​​licks his paws too much? If you’re concerned that your dog is licking his paws too much, try checking the skin around his toes and feet. Irritation or redness may indicate a skin problem. If you suspect there is something out of the ordinary, it is best to visit your vet to have it checked.

Summary of Money’s guide to why dogs lick their paws

While some paw licking is normal, persistent licking and chewing may indicate a problem. Some of the most common causes of dogs licking their paws include self-grooming, allergies, infections, pain, parasites, and anxiety. Constant licking can also lead to secondary infections.

Paying attention to your dog’s behavior is important because it can signify a problem. If you suspect the behavior is not normal, it is best to visit your dog’s veterinarian for a diagnosis. They can treat the underlying cause and any secondary problems that develop.

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