Many dog owners ask the question: “Why is my dog licking his paws all the time?” So, if this is a question you have, know that you are not alone. It’s a very common issue and when it’s not treated, it can cause some major skin issues due to damage from self-trauma.
The very first thing you are going to need to do is figure out why your dog keeps licking his paws. This is often the hardest part of the process. In some cases, the cause of the licking is going to be obvious- but others are going to require an exam and the help of a vet.
Below, you will learn more about the potential causes of constant, excessive paw licking and tips that will help you keep your dog from constantly licking his paws. Of course, you don’t want to go crazy and try all of the tips at one time. You want to take your time and systematically use them, taking notes on what is working and what is not.
Causes of Constant Paw Licking
When a dog is constantly licking his paws, the owner wants to know why. They question whether it could be a medical problem or simply a behavioral one. They want to know why the dog won’t stop. They want to know if it’s harmful for their dog to be licking their paws. Well, the truth is this: there’s really no simple answer to any of these.
When it comes to questions about your dog’s behavior, it’s necessary that you take the time to rule out any medical reasons for the behavior. Once you have ruled this out, you can start to handle the issue as a behavioral one and begin to implement behavioral modification techniques.
In the end, it’s really your vet that will be the only one to pinpoint the exact cause of your dog’s constant licking. However, following are a few guidelines that he is going to want to know about and what he will be checking for when he examines your dog.
- Does Your Dog Have Crusty/Flaky, Swollen, Red Feet
If your dog has red, crusty/flaky, and/or swollen pads on his feet, it could be an indication that there’s some sort of local irritant, or possibly inflammation or infection caused by a fungal, bacterial, or parasitic source. Even if the source of the irritation/inflammation is gone, your dog could be caught up in a cycle of licking/chewing, causing trauma to his skin and keeping the area inflamed.
- Is Licking Attributed to an Allergy/Infection?
In addition to possibly being due to a local irritant or contaminant, your dog’s constant licking could be caused by an allergy of a food or inhalant- causing a general itchy feeling.
Foreign bodies are also often painful and can sometimes be causing an infection in his feet. Arthritis and other internal problems can also be one of the causes of your dog licking his feet without there being a visible sign of infection on the foot. Cysts are also a possibility, as they cause your dog to be uncomfortable and lick his feet to get some relief.
- What If There Is No Evidence Of Anything Wrong?
In some cases, foot licking is actually a habit that your dog has developed when he’s trying to relax/unwind, he’s bored, or he’s stressed out. Some dogs (like humans) will even chew on their nails.
Depending on what your vet finds upon examination, the treatment will be aimed at the cause. If your dog has an allergy, you may need to change his diet or put him on medications. If he’s in pain for some reason, the cause of the pain will need to be dealt with. If he has an abscess, surgery will need to be done to remove it.
Of course, one thing you will need to remember is that behavior changes are not going to happen overnight. You will need to have plenty of time, patience, and as always, be consistent.
15 Ways to Stop Constant Paw Licking
Following, you will find 15 ways that you can keep your dog from always licking his paws.
- If you have a flea issue, you are going to need to start a flea control regimen as soon as possible for your dog, your house, and even your yard. Fleas are a very common reason why dogs lick their paws, so you might want to put a flea control regimen in place, even if there’s no obvious evidence of fleas.
- If your dog is licking his feet because of an environmental cause such as allergies, you can break this itch-scratch cycle with a variety of prescription and/or natural medications that you can get from your vet. There are many of them on the market- do your research and talk to your vet about what is best.
- Another solution to this chewing or licking issue could be to put dog booties on your dog’s paws. At least this would be a good way to give any irritation or lesions a chance to heal and you can have time to get to the root of the issue. You might want to also consider using a shea butter rub on his paws before putting the booties on to help heal, protect, and soothe them.
- If your dog’s paw licking is a psychological issue- yes, it does happen- you might want to consider canine behavior modification therapy. This treatment is definitely going to take some time, but as long as you are consistent and have plenty of patience and time, this treatment alone has proven to work for some dogs. In addition, your dog may require more training, more exercise, or even a canine companion to keep his mind active. A behaviorist might suggest that you use anti-anxiety meds to the treatment, but an all-natural dog relaxer given twice daily can help keep his mind off the itching without any side effects of medication.
- In most cases, when a dog is distracted by eating, chewing on chew toys, or playing, he will forget about the discomfort he is experiencing. Therefore, distraction is a great method of treatment to keep him from licking his paws. Make sure to provide your dog with plenty of games, toys, and bones/toys to chew on to occupy him. You may even want to consider putting all-natural peanut butter into a hollow toy and freeze it to make it last longer.
- Get rid of the collar and use a harness on him instead. When dogs pull on the leash, a collar could cause nerve damage. The nerves in his neck supply impulses to the extremities and if those are damaged, it can result in pain or discomfort. In addition, avoid using a retractable leash, as the pullback could result in tension.
- If your dog has skin damage due to excessive, constant licking, then treat the damage. This is because the damage can serve to continue the cycle of itching/licking. You, as his owner, must do everything you can to promote the healing process. In some cases, you will need to give him antibiotics, but if the case is minor, once the itchiness is treated, it should subside.
- If your dog continues to lick his feet even after the possible cause has been treated, your vet should examine him to rule out any health issues such as the presence of foreign substances or skin infections.
- As a dog owner, you know that he loves to go for walks. When you take him out for exercise, this will get his mind off of the itch. When he is exercising, your dog’s body releases endorphins- which trigger positive emotions in the body and act as an analgesic, which reduces pain.
- Make some changes to his diet, getting rid of the excess carbohydrates. Try switching him to a grain-free food with higher protein.
- Unfortunately, the truth is that most dogs are not getting the fatty acids they need from their food. This has an effect on their mood, their blood chemistry, and even their skin health. By giving your dog 1000 milligrams a day of fish oil, all of this should balance out and he should stop licking his paws so much.
- Try keeping a bucket of baking soda and water by your door and when you bring your dog in for a walk, put his paws in the bucket one at a time and swish them. This will remove any allergens and soothe his irritated paw pads. You only need 1 to 2 tablespoons per gallon of water. Do not rinse his feet.
- You might want to consider getting out your chamomile tea bags. This is very soothing. Simply make a cup of tea, as directed. Then, allow it to cool and dip your dog’s paws in it one at a time. Do not rinse his feet.
- Epsom salt is very effective for disinfecting the itchy area. This is because it contains potassium, nitrates, and sodium chloride- all of which help to restore the natural balance of bacteria on his skin. Plus, salt raises the pH level of his skin, which regulates normal ratios of bacteria. Do not rinse his feet afterwards.
- While the antihistamines typically do not discourage licking of his paws, it might possibly calm your dog down or make him sleepy, which is great if your dog has made himself crazy with the licking. However, check with your vet on proper dosage and frequency.
All dogs lick their paws at some point. However, at some point, it does become an issue- especially when it is incessant or it starts causing sores to form on his feet. Try out some of these remedies and you should be able to get him to stop.