Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws

Your dog is a quadruped, which makes them quick, surefooted creatures. But do you know just how special your dog’s four paws really are? Not only are they a great form of padding and traction for walking, but they also have direct correlation to the health and wellness of your pet. So why do dogs lick their paws? Sometimes it is part of a quick grooming ritual, but if the licking becomes constant, to the point of injury or sores, it could be a sign of something worse.

Facts about Dogs and Their Paws



The anatomy of the dog’s paw includes claws, followed by four pads, the larger metacarpal pad (forepaw) or metatarsal pad (rear paw) that is shaped like a heart, and a dew claw higher up on the foot in some breeds. Also, the forepaw has an additional carpal pad for added traction. Humans walk on the soles of their feet, but dogs walk on their toes.

Dog’s pads on their paws contain fatty tissue. It keeps their feet insulated during colder conditions. The paws also contain sweat glands to help cool them off when they are hot. A dog’s paws can easily burn or blister when in direct contact with hot surfaces. Dog’s paws commonly become hypersensitive or itchy due to an allergen or pathogen. This is why it is important to pay attention to your pet’s feet and determine why a dog compulsively licks their paws.

So, Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

For many pet owners the constant licking of paws is a fairly common complaint. They are curious if this behavior indicates a medical or dietary problem. They want to know if the licking and biting of the paws is harmful to their dog. They also wonder how to make the behavior stop. Unfortunately, there may not be a simple answer for why dogs lick their paws.

Leading Reasons Why Dogs Compulsively Lick Their Paws

  • Allergies from food or environment
  • Bone, joint, or nail problems
  • Bacterial or fungal infection
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Pain or injury
  • Parasites
  • Boredom
  • Anxiety
  • Dryness
Reasons Why Dogs Compulsively Lick Their Paws

The question isn’t, why do dogs lick their paws? The more important question is, why is my dog constantly licking or biting his or her paws? Well, first you must rule out underlying medical issues. Once the underlying problem is treated then the licking behavior should subside. Or, if the foot licking problem starts out as a medical problem it can later become a compulsive habit, which will need to be corrected with training. To find all the answers you need to start asking yourself some more important questions.

Relevant Questions Regarding Constant Paw Licking and Pet Health

  • What is the dog’s breed and temperament?
  • Is the dog licking all feet, just front or rear feet, or one foot?
  • When did the licking begin?
  • Is this a new or ongoing behavior?
  • Is the dog showing signs of other conditions?
  • Is the dog limping?
  • Is there swelling in the foot or injuries?
  • Are the paws red, crusty, or flaky?
  • Are there any irregular lumps between the pads?
  • Is licking present with other signs of general itchiness?
  • Does something trigger the licking cycle?

How to Keep your Dog’s Paws Healthy

First, you should always start with a healthy diet. Many of the leading causes of illness and allergies in pets come from what they eat. Your dog’s meals should consist of mainly high protein dog foods only supplemented with fats, fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates.

This will keep your pet in great shape and good health. Keep your dog well groomed, including nails and paws. Some medicated shampoos can help with the problem. Also give your pet plenty of exercise and water. Immediately treat any paw infections or injuries. If necessary, you can try behavior modification to break their paw licking habits.

If you are still worried and want more answers for why dogs lick their paws, then please consult with a veterinarian. Go prepared with some answers of your own. Then the vet will be better able to help to identify what is causing your dog to lick his or her paws. Once the cause is determined you can work together and find the right solution for your paw licking friend.

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One Response

  1. The bad news is that veterinarians may not be able to cure the dog licking habit or pulling hair out of the front legs once it becomes a well-established habi or an obsession of licking. Again, the earlier it is recognized and treated the more hope there is for a permanent cure. If the problem is truly an acral granuloma or lick granuloma and if you can keep your dog from licking the area – it will heal. I prefer using a mechanical means of doing that like a leg cover, leg sleeves, or leggings which prevents the dog from licking instead of powerful oral or injectable medications. I found the posh lick protectors at http://www.DogLickingPaws.com as a very reliable solution to remind dogs and to stop dogs from licking or pulling the hair out. I have used the posh lick protectors for several months on my Chow Shep mix. The hair has grown back. Quick to remove when we leave for dog hikes and and quick to put on when we return the house.

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