Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws

June 24, 2024
Diana Bocco
Reviewed By: 
5 minute read

Ever wonder why your furry friend seems obsessed with their paws, turning them into their new favorite chew toy? From simple boredom to serious health issues, paw licking can be a sign that your dog is trying to cope with discomfort or stress. 

Understanding these reasons is crucial for any pet parent to act quickly and provide relief.

So, let's unravel this mystery together and ensure our four-legged companions are as healthy and content as they can be. After all, knowledge is the first step to providing the best care for our pawed pals.

Understanding the Behavior 

While paw licking is a perfectly normal behavior in the canine world, when this grooming turns into a marathon licking session, it's time to pay attention. Excessive licking, the kind that leads to wet fur, red skin, or even sores, is always a red flag. But how do you tell the occasional paw lick and problematic licking apart? It's all about frequency and intensity. 

A few leisurely licks here and there are no cause for alarm. But if your dog is fixated on their paws, licking them day and night, it's a clear signal for concern. This obsessive behavior could be their way of telling you something's up, whether it's discomfort, itchiness, or pain. 

Common Causes of Paw Licking  

Obsessive licking always indicates something is wrong – but what exactly? Let's check some of the most common reasons for this behavior.1


Just like us, dogs can fall victim to allergies, with reactions often showing up right on their paws. These irritants range from pesky pollen to household cleaners, leaving your pooch feeling itchy and uncomfortable. Their natural response? Lick, lick, and lick some more.

Food Sensitivities 

It's not just what's outside that can bother your dog, but also what's on their dinner plate. Certain ingredients in their food, such as beef, chicken, dairy, wheat, and soy, can trigger allergic reactions, leading to incessant paw-licking.2 Keep an eye on how they react after meals –it could be a clue to changing their diet.


Sometimes, the cause is as simple as a splinter, a small cut, or a broken nail. Dogs lick their wounds, and their paws are no exception. Objects like broken glass, sharp stones, or even burrs can also become embedded in their pads, causing discomfort. Regular paw inspections can help catch these hidden hurts before they become bigger issues.


Fleas, ticks, and mites love to make a home in your dog's fur, especially between those toes. This infestation can drive your dog to lick their paws in an attempt to soothe the irritation. Regular flea and tick prevention can keep these critters at bay.

Skin Conditions 

Infections from bacteria or yeast can turn your dog's paws into itchy, inflamed zones. Dermatitis, hot spots, and interdigital cysts are other examples of skin issues that can cause discomfort and excessive licking. These conditions require a vet's attention, as they're likely to prescribe medication to clear up the infection.

Changes in weather, especially during winter or dry seasons, can also lead to dry and irritated skin on your dog's paws and a need to lick to soothe the irritation. Dry skin might not always be visible to the naked eye, but excessive licking, especially in the absence of other symptoms, could be a sign. 

Psychological Factors 

Sometimes, the cause is all in their head. Anxiety, boredom, or stress can lead your dog to lick their paws as a coping mechanism. Obsessive-compulsive behaviors, separation anxiety, and lack of social interaction are specific conditions that can manifest as excessive licking. Providing plenty of mental stimulation through interactive toys, regular exercise, and engaging activities can help address these psychological needs and reduce unwanted behaviors.

Understanding the root cause of paw licking is the first step towards giving your furry friend the relief they deserve. With a bit of detective work and help from your vet, you can address the issue head-on, ensuring your dog's paws stay healthy and lick-free.

Symptoms to Monitor 

First up, check for redness and inflammation. This can be a telltale sign that irritation is present.

Next, scan for unexpected bald spots. If you're noticing more skin than fur on those paws, it's a clear sign that excessive licking has gone beyond a simple grooming ritual. A change in the skin's color or texture – think rough patches or discoloration – also signals that trouble is brewing.3

Finally, if you notice any smell coming off your dog’s paws, that odor might be shouting "infection" – healthy paws shouldn't have a strong smell.

Lastly, watch how your dog moves. Are they favoring one paw over others, or perhaps acting like the floor is lava? Limping or reluctance to put weight on a paw can indicate that the licking is more than just skin deep. 

Diagnosing the Underlying Issue  

Pinpointing the why behind the incessant licking is crucial, and that's where a professional diagnosis comes in. Depending on how your dog’s paws look, a vet will conduct a series of tests and examinations to find the cause of the problem, from skin scrapings to look for mites and fungal infections to blood tests that can unveil underlying health issues.4

When the cause of the problem isn’t so obvious, vets often turn to food-elimination diets to rule out allergies, and in some cases, psychological evaluations to check for stress or anxiety triggers. 

Remember, each dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another, so a tailored approach to diagnosis and treatment is necessary to address your dog's specific condition effectively.

Remedies and Treatments  

Depending on the underlying cause of the problem, there are a variety of paths you can take to soothe those troubled paws, ranging from medical interventions to home remedies and even tweaks in their daily routine.

Medical Treatments: Sometimes, the solution comes in a bottle – specifically, medications prescribed by your vet to kick infections and allergies to the curb. Medical treatments could include antifungal medications for yeast infections, antibiotics for bacterial infections, and corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and itching. For dogs with allergies, immunotherapy or allergy shots may be recommended. 

Don’t forget about the critters that might be causing discomfort. Anti-parasitic treatments, such as oral or topical medications, are essential for tackling fleas, ticks, and mites that irritate the paws.5

Home Remedies: There’s a lot you can do from the comfort of your home to provide relief. Soothing baths with oatmeal or gentle pet-specific washes can calm irritated skin, and applying aloe vera or coconut oil directly to the affected areas can soothe and moisturize dry, cracked paw pads. Aloe vera is known for its healing properties, while coconut oil serves as a natural moisturizer that can also combat fungal growth. 

For dogs with environmental allergies, wiping their paws with a damp cloth after walks can remove allergens. Consider natural supplements too, especially if allergies are the culprit. Ingredients like omega-3 fatty acids can bolster your dog's skin health, providing a layer of protection against irritants.

Behavioral Modifications: Sometimes, the issue is more about the mind than the body. Dogs that lack mental stimulation or struggle with anxiety might turn to paw licking as a self-soothing behavior. 

Introducing enrichment activities, such as puzzle toys or new tricks, can divert their attention and satisfy their need for mental engagement. Training sessions not only strengthen your bond but can also reduce anxiety, making them feel secure without resorting to incessant licking.

Combining these approaches can often create a comprehensive strategy against paw licking. 

Preventive Measures 

A mix of prevention and routine care can be a frontline defense against paw-licking. Keeping those paws clean and nails trimmed minimizes the nooks and crannies where irritants can hide.6

Then there's diet —incorporating wholesome meals from Cola's Kitchen, which are tailored to provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals, can help support skin health from the inside out, making your dog’s paws less itchy and more robust against allergens.

Don't overlook the significance of the world around them either. Sometimes, the solution is as simple as switching cleaning products or choosing hypoallergenic bedding to reduce environmental triggers that lead to paw-licking.

And, of course, regular check-ups with your vet can catch potential problems early on, before they escalate into a full-blown problem.


As pet parents, our job isn't just to love our dogs but to tune into their needs, ensuring their health and happiness. With the right care, including nutritious meals from Cola's Kitchen, and a watchful eye, we can ensure that paw licking is just a part of grooming, not a sign of distress. Here's to happy, healthy paws and the endless joy our dogs bring into our lives.

about cola's precision diet

Cola's Kitchen precision diet is the first truly tailored diet for a unique approach to nutrition. Our diets are individually formulated and balanced to address the most precise nutritional requirements of your pup.

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