If your dog is licking his paws it may be normal grooming. When it becomes persistent for long periods of time it can be a red flag. Paw licking can be a normal behavior. It is when it is paired with other symptoms that it can be concerning.
Finding and identifying the cause of the excessive paw licking is important. Left untreated excessive licking can cause some complications.
One of the main causes of excessive paw licking is allergies. These allergies could be from food, environmental, or fleas.
A food allergy is different from a food intolerance. The reaction from a food allergy is immediate. It is when the dog’s immune system reacts to proteins in the ingested foods. Food allergies in dogs are rare, but can happen. The common food allergies for dogs are beef, dairy, wheat, eggs, and chicken. Other symptoms that may go along with paw licking are itchy rash, hot spots, diarrhea, and vomiting. Your dog will lick their paws excessively to try and relieve the itch from their skin rash caused by the allergy.
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An environmental allergy in dogs is more common. This is caused by grass, mold spores, dust mites, or plant pollens. If you notice your dog licking its paws shortly after coming in from outside this could be the cause of it. With environmental allergies your dog may have increased ear scratching as well. A quick solution you can try at home is to wipe your dog’s paws as soon as they come inside. This will remove a majority of the allergens from their feet, hopefully helping relieve some of the itchiness. Your dog may also experience sneezing, runny eyes, itchy skin and rashes along with environmental allergies. The pads on your dog’s feet may have redness, dark pigmentation, or brown staining all are indicators of environmental allergies. There are topical sprays and creams you can rub on your dog’s paws. If the allergies are severe enough you will want to speak with your veterinarian and get a prescription allergy medication for your dog.
A flea allergy is when the immune system reacts to flea saliva. This allergy causes itchiness. A dog will scratch, lick paws, and lick rump to try to ease the itch. With a flea allergy other symptoms are fur loss, thickened skin, redness, and hot spots.
Dry skin can also cause increased paw licking. Your dog’s skin can become irritated, cracked and flaky. This can be caused by excessive bathing that dries out all the natural oils on the dogs skin, dry humidity, or allergies. It is important to have a good grooming schedule in place to help your dog and their skin.
Injury, Illness or Pain
Injury, illness, or pain can also cause a dog to excessively lick their paws. The pain or injury does not have to be in the paw itself. It could be pain somewhere else on their body. Licking can be a coping mechanism for discomfort in dogs. Arthritis, wounds, cysts, cancer, ligament sprains, and bony growths can all cause pain and discomfort to cause a dog to excessively lick their paws. Arthritis and cancer are common in older dogs.
There are joint supplements and oral medications that can ease the pain for dogs. Usually easing their pain will cause the excessive licking to decrease. Paw injuries such as a cut, scrape, thorn, bur, or foreign material can cause your dog to lick that specific paw.
Behaviors can cause your dog to excessively lick their paws too. Some dogs have obsessive behavior, like OCD in dogs, that will cause them to lick their paws constantly. It is sometimes a way for a dog to comfort themselves when stressed. A dog who suffers from separation anxiety may also like their paws excessively. Boredom is a big cause for excessive licking. It is something for the dog to do. Working breeds are more susceptible to being bored. Examples of working breeds are German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Irish Setters, Labrador Retrievers, and Pointers.
Excessive paw licking that is combined with a dog who can’t get comfortable, is restless from itching, has loss of appetite, or a depressed mood should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. These are usually indicators that there is something serious going on that needs to be handled by a doctor. Sometimes excessive licking can be managed at home with some home remedies.
Colloidal oatmeal baths are a home remedy that may help your dogs paws. Colloidal oatmeal is when the oatmeal has been ground down into a powder. Oatmeal is nontoxic to dogs so it is completely safe to bathe your dog in it. It can help with skin disturbances and itchiness. May help with redness and swelling too. Chamomile and green tea soaks or baths can also help inflamed skin.
Another home remedy is to use coconut oil. Look for high quality coconut oil. When it is solidified you can massage it topically onto your dog’s paws. Coconut can help soothe itchy paws. You can add some baking soda to the coconut oil as well. This baking soda paste remedy can help alleviate itching, redness, and inflammation. Adding it with the coconut oil just gives it some added moisture if your dog needs that too.
A balanced diet for your dog is essential for their overall health. Making sure their diet has healthy carbohydrates as well as omega 3 fatty acids can do wonders for their skin, and allergies if they have any. Finding the right food for your dog can be tricky.
Paw licking is not always a sign of concern. When it becomes excessive, persistent, and lasts a long time then it may be time to make an appointment at your vet. Dog’s can’t tell us how they feel so watching their behavior can be essential in helping them when something is bothering them.
READ MORE: Dog Health Checklist