Your dog might be licking their paws for any number of reasons, such as an allergic reaction, feelings of anxiety or boredom, even an injury or skin condition. Be careful not to confuse grooming for a serious problem with your dog's wellness, as dogs often lick their paws to clean themselves and this is perfectly natural. It's only when the licking becomes a repeated behavior on a consistent basis that your dog may be trying to tell you something.
Here are some of the most common reasons behind frequent licking and attention to the paws.
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When humans have an allergic reaction to food, we can experience a number of reactions like a rash, an itchy or closed throat, or vomiting. Dogs can also have food allergies and one of the reactions is discomfort and itching in the paws. Licking is the natural course of action for a dog to relieve the symptom. It doesn't eliminate the problem but soothes it temporarily, just like when humans start scratching at chickenpox.
If your dog is licking his or her paws incessantly after a meal or when you've given a treat or snack as a reward, it's possible your pup is having an allergic reaction to an ingredient in that food item. You may need to meet with your vet and make some changes to your dog's diet.
Licking of the paws can also be a sign that your dog is suffering from a skin condition. This could be something as basic as dry skin or an issue that may be more complex to treat, such as an allergic reaction. Consider your dog's environmental surroundings as there could be something making your pup's skin uncomfortable. Your dog’s grooming schedule and the products you use to give them a bath could also be possible causes. Check to see if your dog is also sneezing or has watery eyes and a runny nose, as these are definite signs of allergies.
Boredom or Anxiety
A bored dog may turn to paw-licking as a way to pass the time or calm him or herself down. If a dog is nervous or separated from you, their beloved owner, licking the paws can be their way of easing their own anxiety at being left alone. You can tell if your dog is licking their paws out of boredom or anxiety if you also notice other bad behvaiors taking place around the home, like chewing or destroying things, scratching the furniture, and barking.
Parasites or Fleas
Another cause of itchy paws is a parasitic infection or flea bites. Since your dog walks around everywhere with bare feet and legs, it's all too easy for fleas, ticks, lice and other microscopic pests to find shelter in between your pup’s toes. Another sign of fleas is excessive itching and biting at other parts of the body as well. Your veterinarian can prescribe a medication to kill the fleas or parasites that are bothering your pup.
An injury to the paw would have your pooch licking at it incessantly. If the behavior is sudden and frequent, you should examine the paw or paws in question to see if you can find a wound. There may be something stuck between the toe pads, like a thorn or small stone. Dogs can also develop ingrown nails which could be the reason for all the licking. Blisters, bee stings, and even burns from hot asphalt are also possible causes. In any case, always check your dog's paws thoroughly to ensure that your pup isn't nursing an injury.
Finally, your pup may be licking his or her paws because they simply enjoy doing it. That's not to say it's a behavior that should be permitted. Boredom or anxiety could be the cause but there are other compulsive reasons that might have your pup focusing too much attention on their paws. Your veterinarian will help to diagnose what's causing the licking, but behavioral patterns are tough to properly diagnose from the outset. It may require some trial and error to figure out what's making your dog lick his or her paws. Toys and long walks can be helpful, though may not always solve the issue.Have more questions about your pet's wellness? Check out all our articles about dogs on the Two Tails Blog!