Why do Dogs Lick Their Paws & What to Do About It

The “Dog Licking Paws” problem is one that I am very familiar with. I have a little Maltese Shih Tzu that simply “loved” to lick or chew his paws until they were totally red and agitated. I say “loved” because the problem is largely in the past now.

But at the time, I spent a lot of time looking for remedies, a lot of money looking for the one expert who might know of a solution, other than the frequently cited “oh he’s probably just bored” and a lot of time thinking that maybe it was simply a habit. It was even more puzzling because we have 2 dogs. If it was an environmental cause, why did one dog lick feet while the other “had better things to do”?

But boredom IS in fact one of the common causes of a dog constantly licking paws, among many others of course. If your dog suffers from stress or boredom, there might not be any apparent redness or skin agitation. The dog simply licks his paws for something to do. Or there could be a lot of irritation as a result of working the skin so vigorously and repetitively. The main goal however is to find a solution that will allow your dog to be comfortable again.

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It would seem that the general consensus is that licking paws is either a behavioral problem or a symptom of an underlying medical problem. Before looking for patterns in behavior, it is most important that a vet is consulted to either confirm or rule out any underlying medical problem. And of course there is also the possibility that a past medical problem initiated the licking. But now, long after any sign of the original health problem, the dog is left with the habit of licking and licking and licking.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

Causes that your vet might look for include:

Allergies

In our case, we were sure that our dog was suffering from some kind of allergy and with advice from our Vet, washed his paws in a prescribed solution in an attempt to keep the problem at bay. It certainly helped but we knew that we needed to find the actual cause so that we could prevent it from reoccurring.

Solution for Dog Licking Paws

Grass Irritants

In these cases, your Vet will probably prescribe medication of some description and perhaps a soothing cream or spray. We suspected that the allergy may have been caused by a kind of plant in our backyard.

Parasitic Activity

Medication can alleviate parasitic problems that might be leading to your dog licking his paws until red and sore. Your vet can take a “closer” look and ascertain if parasites are indeed the culprits.

Cysts or Abscesses

There could be a growth or a cyst between the toes or under the pad of the foot, in which case your dog would probably be licking just one of his paws rather than all four.

This is a cause that can usually be diagnosed quite quickly by the Vet and treated accordingly.

Grass Seeds

Again this would tend to lead to localized licking of just one paw. Once the offending grass seed is located, you can quickly achieve your goal of stopping your dog from licking excessively.

Infection of some kind, such as around the nails

Similarly, this is usually easily treated by the Vet. However, I am assuming, if you are reading this, that you have already gone down the path of looking for a medical cause and treatment. If a possible medical condition was ruled out, you are probably now exploring the idea that your dog licking his paws has become habit forming and you are now searching for ideas on how to direct your dog’s attention to other more meaningful pursuits.

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How to Stop Dog Licking Feet Problem

Ideas that have been suggested to break the “dog licking paws” habit include the following, but I stress again the need to check with your vet first.

  • Applying something that is not very palatable to your dog’s paws, such as something with a bitter taste.
  • Some have tried head collars in the case of agitated skin to allow the skin to heal but I wouldn’t even try this one unless the vet was sure that there was no underlying medical cause.
  • Others, as soon as they see the dog starting to lick, have brought out toys for a little distracting one-on-one play time. I think this is an excellent idea.
  • There are some topical solutions available on Amazon such as:

When it comes to the comfort or in this case, the discomfort of my dog, I prefer to err on the side of caution. So I covered all bases by taking the advice of my Vet as well as trying to distract my dog in order to shift his attention to more fun things to do. I do think that re-training the dog paw licking habit in this way helped to speed up his recovery. Success came all the faster because we happened to move to a new location. Whether it has been the fact that we are now in a cooler climate or the fact that the new yard has more concrete and less grass I’m not sure but the problem has not returned. I guess this serves to confirm our original suspicions of a plant-related irritant to begin with.

 
Solution for Dog Chewing Paws

Dogs’ feet seem to be an area of concern for a lot of dog owners, and of course more so for their afflicted pet. But I am happy to say that our dog’s paws are once again looking white and fluffy with only the occasional licked paw for old time sake.

~ Bright Dog Tips

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