Dog Paw Licking: Why Does it Happen and How Do I Fix it?

Paw licking is a common behaviour in dogs, unless it’s in excess!

Dogs lick their paws as a self-cleaning technique, so don’t be alarmed if you catch them from doing it from time to time. But do start to look for other clues if you notice them do it more often than normal.

The most common reason for a dog to lick their paws is an allergic reaction in the skin. The causes may be related to food sensitivities, dry skin, boredom, environmental allergies, fleas, age or anxiety.

 
dog licking paws

Food

An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to ingested food that your dog may be allergic or sensitive to.

A common symptom of a food allergy or food sensitivity is paw licking. This is your dog’s way of relieving the itching that is occurring around this area.

Look out for itching all over the body, hot spots or gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, gas, indigestion or yeast infections alongside paw licking. Consider using a Probiotic to rebalance the microflora in your dog’s that may have been disturbed by the food sensitivity or allergy.

Environment

Environmental allergies include surrounding such as grass, pollen, mould and dust – this is much like the human hay fever. Dogs that experience environmental allergies often lick their paws as well as showing other symptoms such as ear scratching and hot spots.

You may notice that it is worse after a walk in a particular spot or location. If this is the case, your dog is more than likely experiencing an environmental allergy. Consider using a supplement high in omega 3 to help strengthen the allergen barrier in your dog’s skin and reduce inflammation associated with environmental allergies.

Flea

Some dogs are allergic to fleas and have different allergic reactions to them if so. Flea allergies cause dogs to become extremely itchy and irritated on the skin. They will lick the area that is causing discomfort in order to soothe and relieve it. This is often accompanied by excessive scratching.

Other signs of fleas on your dog include hair loss, thickened or swollen skin, redness and hot spots. Always treat the fleas if your dog has them before anything else. Consider soothing products or shampoos for immediate relief from fleas. For long-term help, products containing omega 3 and zinc help to strengthen the skin allergen barrier and immune system. This may help your dog’s reaction to be less severe.

 
paw licking in dogs

Dry Skin

Dry skin is caused by many things such as excessive bathing, humidity or any of the allergies listed above. Dogs relieve itching caused by dry skin by licking.

Be aware of any other symptoms that your dog may be showing alongside their dry skin for a more accurate diagnosis.

Anxiety and CCD, (dementia in dogs)

Paw licking in dogs is a common anxiety trait. This is a behavioural trait where dogs seek comfort when they are stressed. It can be helped by using redirection training to break the habit of licking paws. It is also common compulsive behaviour in Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, (CCD) which is more commonly known as dementia in dogs.

Signs and symptoms of anxiety in dogs can include other behavioural attributes such as crying or whimpering when left alone, destructiveness, digging or even urinating indoors. CCD in dogs occurs in mostly senior dogs. Other signs include wandering, confusion, memory loss and anxiety. These two health concerns can show similar symptoms. The easiest way to determine which it may be is to consider the age of your dog alongside their symptoms.

Calming supplements can help to keep your dog relaxed during times of stress. You could also deter paw licking by using distractions. Playing games or keeping your dog mentally stimulated may help. Supplements to support the brain, (there is only one currently in Australia) are designed to help reduce the symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction.

Boredom

Dogs need mental stimulation. Certain breeds such as working dog breeds, (Border Collies, Kelpies, Labradors, etc) can become bored easily when they don’t have a job to complete. You may notice them start to show some destructive behaviour or take up the habit of licking their paws as a result.

It is important to keep working dogs active and their mental capacity fulfilled to avoid these behaviours. Note which other signs they are showing alongside their paw licking and consider the breed of dog when contemplating this cause as an option.

Brain games or teaching new tricks is a great way to keep dogs mentally stimulated

 
working dog breed licking paws
 

There are many ways to help all of these common causes of paw licking. It is best to find out the underlying issue that is causing your dog to lick their paws before starting any treatments. This will ensure that it is safe and effective for your dog.

Many symptoms are similar to each other (especially allergies!) and so it can sometimes take a little trial and error to find a solution.

Paw licking is more than likely paired with another symptom. It will help to diagnose your dog quicker if you look out for which other symptoms are present too. If you suspect there is an emergency, always contact your vet as soon as possible. 

 

Look at supplements such as a Probiotic or those high in omega 3, (such as Skin + Coat for Dogs) can help to balance your dog’s gut and strengthen their allergen barrier.
If it is anxiety or cognitive dysfunction that you suspect your dog is experiencing then natural calming supplements or Brain Support may help to ease this.