Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

Have you ever been home and caught by a strange sound? You get up from your seat to search for the source to no avail.

Then… you see it! The unfamiliar sound if finally sourced to your dog licking their paws.

Unusually this isn’t a cause for alarm, and it would go by unnoticed by most people. However, when dogs excessively lick their paws it can become concerning.

If you’re looking to answer the question why dogs lick their paws, there are many possibilities. Today, we explore some possible causes to excessive paw licking.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

Dogs lick their paws for many reasons. There may be a physical problem with your dog, or your dog might have stepped in something sticky and is trying to clean up. Paw licking encompasses both possibilities where there could be absolutely no problem, or it could be a big problem that requires a trip to the vet.

For the most part, there are two reasons for why your dog would be licking their paws.

  • Medical Issue: Obviously, if your dog is having an issue with their paws, it may cause them to lick. They may have allergies, a yeast infection, dry skin, or something may be causing them pain. Whatever the case, you’ll have to figure out why your dog is licking their paws.
  • Behavioral Issue: If you cannot find a medical reason for why your dog is excessively licking their paws, their issue might be behavioral. This means that your dog simply has adopted this behavior. The cause could be something like boredom, stress or they simply like to lick. If no medical reason for licking is found, behavior management can begin to help mitigate some of this behavior.

How to Help A Dog Who Licks Excessively

If you’re trying to figure out why your dog is licking their paws, figuring out the root cause is the first step. If your dog will let you, inspect their paws yourself. If you can see or smell a problem with their paws, you may be able to self-diagnose the problem. If you cannot, your vet will be the next step.

Either route you take, here are some problems you may find when investigating why dogs lick their paws.


If your dog has suddenly started licking their paws, they may be experiencing acute pain or irritation. They may have stepped on something sharp like glass or a thorn. They may have been bit by a bug and the bite can be causing discomfort. They could have simply broken a nail while playing. Whatever the cause, inspect your dog’s paw and see if you can clean up the wound.

If you cannot find a wound and your dog is limping, they may have a more serious problem. A muscle sprain or broken bone can be the cause, though your vet will be able to make certain.

Allergies or Other Irritants

Sometimes dogs can develop allergies that make them itchy. This can be a pain to solve because the only real way to stop the itching is by elimination. But what to eliminate?

If you recently changed your dog’s food, they may have an allergy to the new diet. Switch back and see if the itching goes away. If spring just rolled around, your dog may have stepped onto grass that has been treated with chemicals. They may have also developed a sensitivity to cleaning products you use at home.

Another common irritant is the salt that is used during winter to help prevent ice. Many companies make a paw friendly formula to help you de-ice your driveway and sidewalks but are less likely to cause your dog irritation.

If you are having difficulty tracing the culprit, your vet should be able to take a simple blood test to help you narrow it down.

Dry Skin

If your dog has dry skin, it’s obviously going to cause them to scratch and lick. Some breeds are prone to dry skin, while other dogs may experience dry skin as part of weather changes or improper grooming. If your dog is experiencing dry skin, you can consider using a vet approved dog lotion or adding a bit of oil to their food. Also avoid bathing your dog too frequently and brush them at least once a week. This will help your dog retain and distribute their natural oils.


While dogs have historically been hunters, today’s dogs usually live a very comfortable life. There is no need for most dogs to hunt for their food, and they can rely on the companionship of humans. But if you are giving your dog enough attention, they can become bored.

Not always, but when dogs get bored, they become destructive. Sometimes this means they’ll start chewing on the furniture, and sometimes this means they start chewing on themselves.

If you suspect your dog is licking themselves because they are bored, there are some things you can do to make their life a little more fulfilling.

  • Try to give them a bit more playtime either with you or with other dogs.
  • Make sure you do not leave your dog home alone for long periods of time.
  • Always leave your dog with something interesting when you do leave. You can give them a frozen Kong filled with peanut butter. Or you can leave treats around the house for your dog to find. Whatever you choose, make sure your dog has something to occupy their attention while you’re away.

Your dog licking their paws may not be a huge cause for concern, but if they are unable to stop, you’ll have to act. These tips can help you diagnose your dog’s issue at home, but you should always consider your vet the best source of advice when dealing with a dog that licks its paws excessively.

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