Dogs express themselves in various—and sometimes curious—ways. For example, dogs will chase their tail, sniff everything, and tilt their head multiple times a day. So how can you rule out that dog licking is part of their routine or decide that it's excessive licking?
Dog's constant paw licking can be problematic for dog owners. They may feel powerless and watch as their dog's paws get red and even worse. We asked veterinarians and dog owners worldwide for reasons why dogs lick their paws, and we may have a solution for you. Please keep reading for our best soothing remedies.
Why do dogs lick their paws?
Occasional paw licking is considered normal self-grooming behavior, especially after walking on hot asphalt or if your dog wants to groom himself. However, excessive licking or excessive paw licking often means a more serious underlying issue. So let's look at the common causes of paw licking.
8 Causes of Paw Licking
We identified the seven most common causes of a dog licking excessively his paws.
1. Environmental allergies
Allergies can appear in various forms, and some are related to the dog's environment and the time of the year. For example, grasses, weeds, dust mites, pollen, and gardening products potentially trigger your dog's allergies. One of the symptoms of an environmental allergy in dogs is excessive licking of the front paw or several paws.
Your dog may be subject to environmental allergies if he has:
- watery eyes
- runny nose
- itchy, flaky skin
- hair loss
- head shaking, or repeatedly scratching his ears
One way to help is to regularly bathe your dog with hypoallergenic shampoo and look at the natural remedies we mention below in the article.
2. Obsessive behavioral issues
If you suspect that your dog is constantly licking because of compulsive behavior and no specific underlying issue, you may try the following:
- Take your dog for more walks or runs
- Try puzzle toys
- Give him safe chew toys
- Classes with a dog trainer or animal behaviorist
These tips will tire your dog and keep his focus away from his paws. However, if, despite trying these, your dog still has itchy paws, it may be another issue.
3. Injury or illness
We recommend carefully inspecting your dog's toes to find anything out of the ordinary. For example, a tiny foreign object that your dog is trying to get out might be stuck. If your dog is licking at the same paw, it might be caused by a torn nail, burn, sting, cut, or bite. If you haven't found any foreign material despite a thorough exam, and the licking continues, it may be due to pain or an illness.
Your dog may be experiencing pain due to arthritis or another condition. Even though your dog feels the pain elsewhere in the body, dogs may lick their paw pads as a coping mechanism. If you suspect that to be the case, consult your veterinarian so he can rule this out.
Dermatitis is another word to suggest that your dog may have a skin condition due to allergies. Even though allergies are difficult to diagnose, they share common symptoms. For example, if your dog frequently licks his paws or other parts of his body, he may have dermatitis, itchy skin, or dry skin. Look at our suggested remedies below to help your dog.
5. Food allergies
Food allergies are another condition that is difficult to diagnose. Nowadays, dog food includes numerous ingredients that could potentially cause allergies. Even worse, your dog may start developing allergies to ingredients he had no issue with before.
I made a list of 11 common food allergens that could cause a food allergy or allergic reaction. Common proteins such as chicken or beef could be the culprits.
6. Parasites: flea allergy dermatitis, and more
Parasites like fleas, ticks, lice, mites, or infections like mange can cause paw injury and constant licking. Dogs can be allergic to flea saliva and develop allergic reactions. It can be particularly true if you notice your dog specifically licks one paw or part of his body. Consult your veterinarian for the best ways to treat and prevent these parasites.
7. Boredom or separation anxiety
If your dog is prone to destructive chewing or other unhealthy habits when you leave him alone for long periods, he may have separation anxiety. For example, a dog's paw licking is a common symptom of boredom or separation anxiety. Please read our article on separation anxiety for 12 ways to help him.
8. Secondary infections: bacterial or fungal infections
The American Kennel Club suggests that dogs licking their paws excessively can lead to a secondary infection like a bacterial or yeast infection. This issue can worsen over time and cause swelling or redness. When this happens, your vet may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medication.
Keep in mind that this is a secondary infection, and you should also find a way to treat the primary reason your dogs lick their paws in the first place. However, many dogs are prone to these infections, and pet parents can take care of their dog's skin by using some of the remedies below.
How to stop dog from licking paws constantly: 5 proven soothing remedies
Dogs lick their paws: it's a fact. They may lick one paw or several. If you have ruled out the flea infestation and some other common causes we saw above, you can still help your pet to stop licking his paws. Read our list of proven soothing remedies if your dogs have dry skin and constantly lick their paws. In addition, you can find a complete list of 21 natural home remedies for dogs with allergies.
1. If the licking is only on your dog's paws: a nourishing balm remedy.
Do your lips ever get dry in the winter or summer? Mine do, and I tend to lick my lips when that happens. The solution to your dogs' paws licking is the same as for us humans: apply a nourishing balm.
- Home remedy solution: make an oatmeal paste with blended oatmeal and lukewarm water. Apply the paste to the paws and cover with a warm towel for 10 minutes. Repeat up to 3 times a day.
- Proven soothing product: get a balm specifically made for paws, like our Organic Paw Balm. It has the right consistency for paws and only organic ingredients, so it's safe for your dog to lick.
2. If itchiness affects various parts of your dog's body: a nourishing oil remedy
Scratching and licking might be happening all over your pup's body. If that's the case, a balm might not be a practical solution. So here is what I recommend instead.
- Home remedy solution: olive oil. It's an oil you probably have at home already. Gently massage into your dog's coat and skin. It might be a little messy, but it works.
- Proven soothing product: get a coconut oil specifically made for dogs, such as our Organic Coconut Oil for Dogs. You can use it as a balm or liquid oil and gently massage. It has an incredible natural coconut scent.
3. Food remedy
Your pup's kibble or food may contain food allergens. Often, you can fix your pet's itching and licking by simply choosing food without allergens.
- Quick solution: read my article on common food allergens and how to choose a kibble or pet food without these allergens.
- Homemade solution: feeling like a cook? Search for homemade dog food recipes, and do not include the common allergens. This solution, while more time-consuming, also yields the best results when done correctly.
4. Immune system remedy
Boosting your pet's immune system is a great way of soothing their skin and paws from the inside out.
- Home remedy solution: add some Omega-3s to your pet's diet. Add some sardines (make sure sodium is as low as possible) or cook some fresh salmon fillets.
- Proven immune-boosting product: adding fish oil to your pup's daily food can help soothe his skin and paws in two weeks. Grab a bottle of our Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for Dogs today and watch the licking fade away.
5. For immediate relief: oatmeal bath remedy
Another immediate relief solution is to give your pet an oatmeal bath. While this won't fix the root cause, it will still cover the short-term itch.
- Home remedy solution: add 3 cups of blended unflavored oatmeal to a bathtub filled with lukewarm water. Let your pet stay in the bath for 10 to 20 minutes. You can spread peanut butter on the bathtub wall to keep him busy!