Have you ever been lying in bed at night, just about to fall asleep, and heard the unmistakable sound of your precious pup making a meal out of their paws? As annoying as it can be to listen to it, it’s likely even more frustrating for your pet.
So, why do dogs lick their paws? Everything that our pets do is for a reason, even if neither of you understands it. Although they can’t speak to us and tell us what’s wrong (wouldn’t it be great if they could?) -- your dog is trying to tell you something through their actions.
It’s up to us to be able to interpret those actions, find the root cause, and help resolve your pup’s concerns. The pet lovers at WINPRO Pet are here to help walk you through the possible causes of foot licking.
Occasional Paw Licking Is Ok!
Before we dig into potential causes of dogs licking their paws, you need to know that some paw licking is normal! Unlike humans, who almost always wear shoes when we leave the house, dogs don’t often have that luxury (although there are some cute dog booties out there if you’re interested). That means anything they encounter going about their daily lives ends up on the bottom of their feet.
As part of a dog’s natural self-grooming process, most dogs lick and clean their paws. If they’ve been in an especially dirty area, you may also notice them pulling at the hair between their paw pads with their teeth. That is just your pup’s way of keeping themselves clean. It may not be as obvious of a process as cats, who may spend hours every day grooming themselves, but it is entirely normal.
When we look into why dogs lick their paws, we focus more on the obsessive, sometimes damaging type of chewing. Think of anything that seems over the top or concentrated on one specific foot.
Potential Cause #1: Injuries
If your furry friend is focusing all of their paw-licking effort on one foot, in particular, it may be a sign that they have an injury to address. These injuries can be anything, like a torn nail, a growth, or even a piece of glass. Make sure to check out your dog’s paw thoroughly. However, if they seem too painful, take them to a veterinarian to avoid getting bitten accidentally.
Not every injury is visible, though. In some cases, your dog may be dealing with the aches and pains that can come from arthritis. Just like with humans, dog’s joints naturally age over time. They get more stiff and sore when they walk, and you may see them having trouble jumping up on the couch or the bed.
While we may be able to say, “Hey, my back hurts,” many dogs deal with the new discomfort by taking it out on a front foot. Just because they’re licking a paw doesn’t mean that’s where they’re having all the trouble. It’s just a sign to dig a little deeper.
Potential Cause #2: Allergies
Have you ever dealt with a seasonal allergy? The constant sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes are enough to make you not want to leave the house. But what do you do if you’re a dog and you can’t tell anyone what the heck is happening?
Many dogs, especially those with food allergies, tend to be obsessive foot lickers. Along with other common symptoms like “hot spots,” gnawing at the skin, and head shaking, dogs have many ways to tell us they’re itchy without being able to say it out loud. It’s all about paying attention and developing a tight bond with your dog.
If you’ve noticed signs that your dog may be dealing with allergies, contacting your veterinarian is an excellent place to start. They’ll have plenty of advice on what to do and may even recommend a special diet or medication. A good vet is your pet’s biggest ally and can help you keep your dog around for as long as possible! That’s one of the biggest reasons that establishing a relationship with a vet is an essential part of dog care.
We also have the pleasure of helping a lot of dog owners avoid extra medications with our Allergy supplement. Our plasma-powered soft chews are great at targeting the source (not just the symptoms) by reducing inflammation at the root of those allergies.
Potential Cause #3: Stress
Not every answer to the “Why do dogs lick their paws?” is physical. In some cases, obsessive foot licking can have a behavioral cause.
For instance, take separation anxiety. As much as we’d love to, we can’t spend every waking hour with our furry friends. Inevitably, we have to go to work or out with friends. While we understand this on a logical level, your pup does not. Even the act of preparing to head out for the day can trigger anxiety and start up some of those obsessive behaviors like foot licking.
Treating behavioral causes of paw licking is more complicated than a straightforward injury or allergy, unfortunately. To manage these concerns, you may have to resort to medication or consulting with an animal behaviorist, but you can also explore an all-natural route… WINPRO Calming supplements! It’s also often recommended that you make sure your dog is getting enough daily activity, as this can help reduce anxiety overall (for both of you!).
More frequent walking can also help relieve boredom, another common trigger of obsessive behaviors. Dogs need exercise and mental stimulation and often resort to “naughty” behavior when they don’t get it. While this usually ends up in chewed-up slippers or a destroyed couch, some dogs take that boredom and turn it inward.
Potential Cause #4: Parasites
Although we don’t like to think about it, there are all sorts of small critters dying to make a meal out of our pets. Most of the time, using appropriate flea and tick medication can help your dog avoid issues, but occasionally they can still sneak through.
If you think about it, our dog’s feet are the first things that come into contact with potential parasites. That can include the more common fleas and ticks, but it can also be things like mange and various parasitic worms (gross, we know). If you stay vigilant and keep your pet up to date on all of their shots, exams, and recommended medications, you’ll hopefully avoid dealing with this issue. But, if you’ve lapsed on your dog’s vet care (no judgment, it happens to all of us!), you may want to have them checked out to make sure they’re not dealing with any parasites.
Watch For Secondary Infections
It isn’t just the foot licking that can be a problem. In some cases, especially with obsessive, paw lickers, there is an increased risk of your pup developing a secondary infection.
These infections mainly happen due to the moisture involved. You likely already know that yeast thrives in warm, moist environments, and adding saliva between the toes provides precisely what yeast needs to grow out of control. Secondary infections take an already not great problem and make it a lot worse, so jump on any new paw licking right away.
To Wrap Up
The bond between humans and dogs is possibly one of the closest bonds we’re lucky enough to experience in our lifetime. But with that bond also comes responsibility. Your precious pup can’t verbally explain what is happening in their body, so it’s up to you to correctly interpret the signs.
For instance, why do dogs lick their paws? Hopefully, we’ve helped you to feel more confident about potential causes so that you can start the appropriate treatment more quickly if it happens to your pup. Our dogs are family too, and no one understands this more than those of us at WINPRO Pet. Give your pet an extra head pat for us.