It's normal for a dog to lick its paws. Yet, what generally constitutes standard grooming behavior can mean that your pet has irritated paws or is living with a health condition, based on frequency and a closer inspection.
In caring for your pup, keep the following in mind:
Normal Paw-Licking Behavior
As a part of self-grooming, your dog will occasionally lick its paws. This is to both manage its hair and to scrape away any dirt picked up. As you observe this habit, you'll notice that your pet prefers one paw to the other.
Outside of this scope, paw licking can indicate one of the following concerns:
A Skin Condition
Dry, cracked and irritated paws can indicate your dog has developed dermatitis, resulting in itchy, uncomfortable skin that your pet is trying to control.
Dermatitis may result from dryness alone, or it may stem from a bacterial issue, food sensitivity, allergy or exposure to various chemicals, including deicers and for maintaining your lawn. In response, focus on bathing your dog with a product like Eye Envy® Moisturizing Pet Shampoo to wash away these substances and deliver hydration. Follow with a protectant like Eye Envy® On the Paw Therapy Balm.
Aside from dermatitis, your dog may be contending with:
- An abscess, which may have started as irritated skin or a sore and is now oozing pus.
- A growth, like a cyst or a tumor that may be sitting between its toes.
- A corn - more common for greyhounds - which can indicate your pet spends too much time on hard, unresponsive surfaces.
- A build-up of porphyrins, caused by a dog licking its paws excessively. This pattern can turn the fur around the area being licked pink or rusty red. Similar in appearance to tear staining, this discoloration can be cleaned away with Eye Envy® Tear Stain Facial Cleanser and Beard Stain Remover Spray.
A dog licking its paws may signal an injury. Potentially, your pet stepped on a rock, pebble, thorn or other sharp object, and the skin of this area is now torn, punctured or has the object embedded inside. Based on the time of year, your pet may have been stung by a bee or other insect, or walking on hot pavement burned its paws and it's now licking a blister. These injuries increase in frequency with outside time.
In these cases, your dog chews in addition to licking its paws. You're advised to check its paws and nails, in between the toes and the top of each foot before scheduling an appointment with a veterinarian.
A Health Condition
Licking its paws may be a sign your dog is living with a more serious health condition:
- Arthritis: A dog dealing with stiff, achy or painful joints may start to lick its paws to manage or distract itself.
- Pain: Your dog may attempt to manage internal pain in a similar fashion by regularly licking its paws.
- Infection: Your dog may try to control redness, itching and swelling from an infection by licking the area. Unfortunately, if bacteria or yeast is the source, this action and the moisture generated can cause it to spread further.
Your dog may be trying to control an itch in response to one of the following factors:
- Parasite: Bites or activity from fleas, ticks or mange can cause your dog to start licking its paws.
- Food allergy: Dogs can be sensitive to beef and chicken, as well as wheat, dairy and soy. A food allergy can emerge as a gastrointestinal issue or dry, itchy skin.
As you make an appointment with your vet, provide your dog with temporary itch relief with Eye Envy® On the Spot Healing and Itch Relief Spray.
Pets without proper stimulation become bored and, in turn, start acting out. Chewing is a common result, but so is frequently, nearly obsessive paw licking. As an owner, take this behavior as a sign that your pup needs more walks, toys, puzzles or interactive play.
At the same time, the behavior may be in response to a particular stimulus, like a loud noise, or a sign of separation anxiety.
In these cases, bring the behavior issues to the attention of your vet to explore various calming and positive reward strategies.