Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws? An Informative Guide

Dogs are known for their grooming habits, and one behavior that can stand out is frequently licking their paws. But, why do dogs lick their paws? Is it simply a matter of cleanliness, or is there something more to it? In this article, we’ll explore some possible reasons behind this common dog behavior.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

why do dogs lick their paws

We have some solid explanations as to why your dog might be licking its paws. Hear us out:

Grooming Habits

Dogs naturally groom themselves by licking their paws, which helps to keep their fur and paws clean. This is especially important for dogs that spend a lot of time outside, as they are more likely to get dirt and debris stuck in their fur and paws. 

Licking their paws also helps dogs remove parasites or insects that may have gotten stuck in their fur. However, paw licking to an extent is normal, but excessive licking must be addressed.

Skin Irritations

If your dog is continuously licking their paws, it might be a sign that they are experiencing itching. Skin irritation is frequently caused by environmental allergies. Allergies in dogs can cause itchy skin and inflamed or dry skin, which can lead to excessive paw licking. Various things, including pollen, mold, dust, and certain types of food, can trigger allergies.

If you think your dog is experiencing allergies, it’s important to consult a veterinarian who can help diagnose and treat the problem. Your veterinarian may recommend medications or other treatments to help alleviate your dog’s symptoms and reduce paw licking.

Pain and Discomfort

Your dog may experience pain or discomfort in the paw area for various reasons. Your dog might step on a glass shard or an insect or linger too long on a burning sidewalk and develop a blister. A split nail could also be a reason for some discomfort. Another typical cause of paw licking is arthritis pain – your dog licks the affected skin to relieve joint inflammation.

Overgrown nails are another possibility. It may make it uncomfortable for a dog to walk, encouraging them to lick their paws constantly. In some instances, overgrown nails will curl back toward the dog’s paw pads and reach past the bottoms of the toe pads. Regular nail trimming can help stop this.

Food Allergies

Just as humans face food allergies that cause an itchy throat, pooches experience a similar condition. They have an uncomfortable feeling or irritation on their paws, which they lick. 

What foods make dogs lick their paws? The answer is different for each dog and situation. Dog snacks and diets containing dairy, soy, grains, and chicken may trigger allergies. If your dog only does this after meals or when given certain foods, it’s time to find out what food is safe for them.


Since dogs explore on four legs, various parasitic organisms make their homes on the dog’s paws. These parasites — fleas, lice, ticks, and mites — can irritate your pet’s skin and cause your dog to lick the infected area. Even while parasites may be focused mainly on a single paw,  your dog likely has parasites if it frequently scratches or licks other body parts. 

Examine your dog’s skin carefully for parasites, and see your veterinarian for advice on treating the problem. If your dog frequently visits woods or grassy areas during plays or walks, adjust your routine since these environments are home to many parasites.

Yeast Infection

Yeast dermatitis is a typical inflammatory fungal infection that can develop in warm, moist spots, such as in the space between the furry paws. The skin overproduces harmless yeast cells, leading to intense itching and a yeast infection.

Licking itchy paws can result in a secondary infection, which aggravates the skin even more — a vicious cycle that frequently necessitates antifungal medicine to stop. Yeast infections in dogs can cause various symptoms, including itchiness, greasy skin, and an unpleasant odor. 

It is essential to address any infection as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading and causing further problems for your dog.


Injuries to the paws can cause dogs to lick the affected area to clean and heal the wound. This is a natural instinct for dogs and can help prevent infection and promote healing. However, monitoring your dog’s injury and seeking veterinary care if necessary is important.

Left untreated, injuries can become infected and cause further problems for your dog. It is also important to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place, such as keeping your dog’s paws trimmed and protected when walking on rough or uneven surfaces.

Anxiety or Stress

Dogs may also lick their paws to cope with separation anxiety or stress. This can be particularly common in dogs left alone for long periods or experiencing other stressors. Licking their paws may provide comfort and security for dogs and help them feel calmer and relaxed. 

You can do several things to help reduce your dog’s anxiety or stress, such as providing them with plenty of mental and physical stimulation, attention, and affection and helping them feel safe and secure in their environment.

Tips for Preventing Excessive Paw Licking in Dogs

black dog licking the paws

Let’s look into some tips to prevent paw licking in dogs:

Keep Your Dog’s Paws Clean and Trimmed.

Wipe clean your dog’s paws after a walk if they are allergic to or sensitive to things they encounter outside. Regularly shower your dog in a product designed especially for dogs, and if you suspect your dog may be experiencing skin irritation, think about using hypoallergenic, fragrance-free products. 

Keep the area around their paw trimmed. Regularly cleaning and trimming can help to prevent dirt, debris, and parasites from building up and causing irritation.

Keep an Eye on Your Dog’s Diet

Changing your dog’s diet would be good if they have a history of allergies. You can use an ELISA test or an elimination diet to determine exactly what your dog is allergic to. A diet high in allergens or lacking certain nutrients can lead to itchy, inflamed skin and excessive paw licking. 

Consult with a canine nutritionist or a veterinarian to ensure your dog’s diet is well-balanced and meets its nutritional needs.

Use a Deterring or Bitter-Tasting Spray

There are sprays available with a bitter or unpleasant taste that can help discourage your dog from licking its paws. The bitter spray is a plant-based chewing deterrent that is often prepared from apples and, on occasion, lemons. The fruit’s bitter flavoring elements are removed and mixed in a base. It won’t have a sweet, sour, or tart flavor.

Imagine the flavor of a cup of triple-strong black coffee with just-cracked peppercorns. That’s how your pet will react to bitter spray. You can apply these sprays to the paws or areas your dog tends to lick excessively.

Engage Your Dog Both Physically and Mentally

The key to lowering stress and irritation is exercise. When your dog exhibits signs of stress or boredom, you should increase their exercise. A weary dog is often happier and has less energy to focus on habitual actions like licking its paws. Safe chew toys and doggie puzzles are great ways to keep your dog entertained and engaged.

Consider good pet daycare or more puppy playdates if they are left alone for a long time. Regular, constructive training sessions are also a fantastic way to strengthen your relationship with your dog and engage their mind, providing them with additional mental stimulation.

Invest in Protective Footwear

To minimize paw discomfort, buy your dog protective footwear during winter weather to protect from salt on the ground and excessively hot days. With these booties, your dog won’t be able to gnaw or lick its paws, preventing further harm. 

However, this does not mean you can simply slap these booties on your dog and walk away. You still need to take care of the underlying issue that’s making them uncomfortable. Fleas, food allergies, and bacterial infections can all cause issues beyond itching.


So, why do dogs lick their paws? There are many possible reasons why, and it’s important to address the issue to help your dog feel more comfortable and reduce any discomfort or stress they may be experiencing. By understanding the cause of your dog’s paw licking, you can take steps to manage the behavior and help your dog feel its best. 

It is always a good idea to consult a veterinarian if you are concerned about your dog’s excessive paw licking. By following the tips and strategies mentioned above, you can help prevent excessive paw licking in your dog and keep them healthy and happy.

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