Caitlin UltimoBehavior / Pet Facts

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

Most pet owners can agree that dogs love to lick. Whether it’s your face, your dog’s chew toy or even his paws, you can be sure the tongue of a dog is rarely sedentary. This pet behavior can be quite cute, as dog licking is seen as a sign of affection. When dogs lick, endorphins are released in a dog’s brain, which gives them pleasure and comfort. Dr. Sarah Wooten, a small animal veterinarian at Sheep Draw Veterinary Hospital in Greeley, Colorado, explains that dogs will also lick their paws as part of their normal grooming routine.

There is a point, however, when dog licking becomes excessive and can point to an underlying medical condition in the dog.

The most common cause of excessive licking in dogs is a skin allergy. “Dogs get seasonal allergies just like humans, but instead of sneezing and itchy, watery eyes, dogs get itchy skin, and one of the locations that itch are feet,” says Dr. Wooten. In this case, Vet’s Best Allergy Itch Relief Shampoo for Dogs might be a good solution. This dog shampoo uses essential oils and natural ingredients to help reduce skin irritation by washing away allergens and moisturizing the skin.

Other types of allergies that cause this dog behavior are food allergies and contact allergies (such as harsh detergents). Talk to your vet about experimenting with alternate food options or detergents if you suspect that this is the case. To eliminate the itch almost immediately, the NaturVet Aller 911 Allergy Aid Anti-Lick Paw Plus Aloe Vera Dog & Cat Spray is the go-to solution. Your pup will be grateful for the soothing effects from the aloe and other ingredients that discourage further licking and chewing. If your dog is sensitive to the noise the spray makes, try the NaturVet Aller 911 Allergy Aid Hot Spot Plus Aloe Vera Dog & Cat Foam that is quick-drying and calms the skin on contact.

Some other typical health-related causes of excessive licking in dogs are skin mites, skin infections or wounds on the paws. Dogs who suffer from arthritis will also lick and chew the affected area incessantly.

If you’ve ruled out any physical cause, keep in mind that it could be psychological. “Dogs that are bored or anxious can lick excessively to relieve stress,” says Dr. Wooten. If you suspect your dog is chewing at his paws from stress-related trauma, some more walks or games of fetch may be in order. If you need some tips on understanding dog psychology, we recommend reading up on some common anxiety triggers and how to calm your pup if you sense that your dog is stressed.

So, what can be done about excessive licking in dogs? It is important to find out the cause of the itching and/or licking and take the proper steps to eliminate the urge to over-lick and chew, as excessive dog licking can cause further problems with your pet.

Repeated licking can cause a skin infection with yeast or bacteria, referred to as moist dermatitis. “Pododermatitis, which is the medical term for infected toes, will need to be treated with antibiotics or antifungal medications,” explains Dr. Wooten. You can tell that the paw is infected by lifting the foot and inspecting the bottom of the paw and between the toes—if this area is red and raw, the paw is likely infected. Dog’s saliva also has an enzyme that turns fur brown, so if there is a darkening of fur around the toes, it’s a good chance your pup has an infection.

If your pet starts to lick excessively outside of normal dog behavior, Dr. Wooten strongly recommends that you visit your vet immediately to determine the cause and proper treatment.

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