Author Bri LaFluer / Sleepy Cotton Content Writer / Oct-10-2020
Why is My Dog Licking His Paws? Sudden and Chronic Signs
A common question for many dog owners is, "why is my dog licking his paws"? This behavior is a normal grooming routine for dogs. Although, it can quickly become relentless for them if there's a more complex cause.
The action of a dog licking and chewing at their paws could be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs attention from the owner. But most often, what irritates dog paws is the buildup of dirt, unhealthy bacteria, and germs. This can happen any time whether it’s going outside for potty time, or during a walk in the park. No matter the case, it’s best to stick to a grooming routine that best suits them to ensure their paws are in the best health. First, you’ll want to rule out some determining factors.
- When a dog is suddenly focused on licking one paw more than the others, it most likely means that there is a paw injury, stuck debris, or growth.
- When a dog is chronically licking at all paws, it is likely allergies, parasites, fungal or bacterial infections, or boredom and anxiety.
- You can eliminate the most common reason for paw licking by getting rid of bacteria and germs with a dog-safe sanitizing paw gel solution.
There could be multiple answers to "why is my dog licking his paws", but with some observation and the right resources, you can create a plan of action. Goodbye irritated paws!
Why is My Dog Licking His Paws?
When a dog is continuously licking and chewing at their paws, it is often their way of tending to any pain, wounds, or physical and mental irritations. Whether it's a splinter stuck beneath their paw, a fungal/bacteria infection across the skin, or simply boredom; your dog is looking for relief.
If your dog is licking more than one paw, it often means that allergies, parasites, fungal or bacteria infections, or simply boredom and anxiety is affecting them. To truly figure out the reason why your dog is licking his paws, pay attention to their symptoms and when the behavior started.
Irritated Paw Symptoms
Dogs' paws encounter a significant amount of bacteria and germs throughout their day-to-day activities. By keeping them clean and fungus-free, dogs can stay relaxed from constantly licking and chewing their paws. Check your dog's paws regularly for any issues, and look for these symptoms that may need assistance:
- Red and inflamed paws
- Lesions and discharge
- Scabbing and blisters
- Cuts, abrasions, and tears
- Foul smell
- Hair loss
- Cracked, torn, and overgrown nails
- Dry, cracked pads
- Flaps of skin on pads
- Cysts and growths
- Lameness, limping, or hesitancy to walk
Sudden Licking and Chewing Paws
Paw Injury, Pest Bite, or Stuck Debris
Dogs suddenly lick and chew at their paws oftentimes to provide relief to an injury or bite from an insect. They could also be attempting to remove a stuck foreign object such as ticks, grass awns, thorns, and burrs. Take a close look at the underneath of their paws on their pads and between their toes.
This sudden action could also be due to a toenail issue for a dog. Long nails are more susceptible to catching on something that could cause them to tear or fracture. This, as well as an ingrown nail, would cause pain as pressure was put on the paw. Make sure your dog is walking normally and that all toenails are intact and safely clipped.
Chronic Licking and Chewing Paws
Chronic licking and chewing is most often connected to allergies that are affecting your dog. Allergens could be traced to their food or treats, chemicals on the grass, pollen, flea prevention, and even dust mites at home. If you notice their paw pad is cracked, this likely means they have allergies irritating them.
Food hypersensitivity can occur at any age in a dog’s life as stated by Jessica Remitz of PetMD. Your dog could show signs by experiencing recurrent ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, gastrointestinal issues, itchiness, and lesions. Common ingredients that cause allergic reactions to dogs include various grains, dairy products, beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat, lamb, and soy. Dogs could also be allergic to artificial additives. Feed your dog an all-natural diet and avoid cheap options with unhealthy ingredients.
Do you notice a significant amount of licking and itching after your dog has been outside for a potty break or walk? A certain factor such as chemical pesticides, pollen, the grass itself, along with the buildup of dirt, germs, and bacteria is most likely what’s bothering your dog. Avoid letting your dog out after a freshly cut lawn as well. Whenever your dog comes in from outside, be sure to wipe or wash off their paws to prevent further irritation. In addition to this, take into consideration the weather when your dog is outside. Extreme heat changes on surfaces can wear at a dog's paw pads causing soreness and discomfort.
During the summer, feel the pavement with the palm of your hand for a few seconds to see if it isn't too hot for your dog's paws. Constant high heat will suck up the moisture from paw pads, resulting in cracking and dryness. In the winter, ice melts, salts, and deicer chemicals can irritate paws and cause them to crack. Wash your dog's paws off after they come in contact with any. You can then apply a protective balm to provide moisture and guard against dryness.
🐾 Tip: An antibacterial and antifungal paw sanitizer is a healthy approach to clean and heal your dog's paws. Dogs come into contact with a significant amount of bacteria and germs every day. This could enter through their system causing more health problems. Sleepy Cotton’s Afterwalk Sanitizing Paw Gel Cleanser utilizes a medical-grade key ingredient combined with healthful essential oils and natural honeyquat to give dogs quick relief from licking and chewing their paws. No alcohol, no harsh ingredients. Just grab a towel, rub the solution into your dog’s paws, and wipe off any extra.
Biting insects such as fleas, bedbugs, ticks, and ants can cause further irritations to some dogs on their skin. Your dog could also be licking the wound from the pest in an attempt to heal it and ease the pain. Flea saliva commonly causes an allergic reaction in both dogs and humans that makes them itch all over. FAD is the most common skin disease in dogs in the U.S. also known as flea allergy dermatitis or fleabite hypersensitivity as stated by Camille Noe Pagán of WebMD. To avoid pests infesting your home and your dog, put them on a veterinary-approved form of flea prevention.
🐾 Tip: Your dog can benefit from a natural all-day repel conditioning balm that is applied to the skin and fur. The scent of natural rosemary and cedarwood essential oils deters irritating pests from coming near your dog and causing them harm.
Dogs' paw pads are normally a bit rough to give them traction on smooth surfaces as they walk. However, dry and cracked paws can be painful and put them at risk for infection. Certain factors such as extreme temperature changes, dry air, chemicals, and excessive licking can all cause further discomfort to the pads.
🐾 Tip: Coconut oil can restore the skin's protective barrier. Its nutrient-rich fatty acids soothe dryness along with other skin irritations and conditions including eczema. Any wounds and bites on the skin can also heal quicker with coconut oil's natural ability to fight off bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Sleepy Cotton often utilizes this naturally beneficial ingredient, especially in the Healing Coconut Balm. You can use this on your dog’s paws anytime! Just melt the balm between your hands, and massage it into your dog’s paw pads.
All of the scratching, licking, and chewing that dogs do as a reaction to something may worsen their conditions. A secondary infection, such as a bacterial and yeast infection, can occur with inflammation. Once a skin infection occurs, medical treatment is often needed. A veterinarian may provide antibiotics, antifungals, steroids, topical treatments, medicated shampoos, or an alternative depending on the severity of the condition.
🐾 Tip: For an all-over natural solution, oatmeal can provide soothing vitamins and minerals to the skin for major relief. It naturally can balance the skin's pH levels. Colloidal oatmeal in a dog shampoo is formulated to calm dry skin, itches, redness, flakiness, and other symptoms of allergies during bath time.
Behavioral (Boredom & Anxiety)
Similar to a human biting their nails, dogs will often lick or chew their paws if they are bored or anxious. Anxiety may arise from obsessive-compulsive disorders or separation anxiety from their owner or pet sibling. Because many owners leave for work most of the day, dogs must be content so they don't get into trouble. Keep them well-exercised and occupied throughout the day. A simple game of fetch, an interactive mind toy, or a nice long walk before work is a great way to tire them out for a while.
Discovering Why Your Dog Licks Their Paws
So, why is my dog licking his paws then? All dogs are different with their sensitivities to food, the outdoors, as well as grooming products. Firstly, take note of if they're licking all paws or singling out just one paw. Then figure out if the licking has been sudden or chronic. These will both be the deciding factors of what plan of action to take.
If your dog is suddenly licking their paws, it's most likely a stuck foreign object or injury to the paw. Although it could also be a sign of a growth that could need further attention from a veterinarian. If your dog is licking chronically, there is most likely a long-term issue of allergies, skin sensitivities or infections, or stuck behavior habits. Before digging deep into what the issue could be, it’s best to apply a dog-safe paw sanitizer as mentioned above. This will rule out the most common factor of germs, bacteria, and dirt buildup that often causes paw irritations.
All of these factors may take time and patience, but the good thing is that they can be fixed. By paying attention closely to your dog's behavioral habits, activity routine, and daily diet, you can become closer to figuring out what may be the problem.