Why Does My Dog Keep Licking His Paws?

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
Is he cleaning? Are they itchy? Why does your dog keep licking his paws? If you’re looking to curtail this habit, get to the root of the issue.

Cats are notorious for spending most of their lives sleeping and cleaning themselves. Unfortunately, dogs do not have the same affinity for keeping clean but many of them do have a tendency to lick their paws. What is the reason behind this behavior?

Potential Reasons for Licking

In many cases, licking his paws is something your dog does out of boredom with no real reason. In other cases, however, it could be a sign of a medical problem that should not be ignored. Especially if your dog suddenly starts licking his paws more often than usual, you should take a closer look.

Related: Why Do Your Dog’s Paws Smell Like Corn Chips?

If you notice areas of red, swollen inflammation – especially between his toes – it is definitely cause for concern. When your dog’s paws are itchy (potentially due to some kind of allergy), licking them is a natural response. The increased moisture, however, can sometimes lead to a secondary yeast infection or bacterial infection which is bad news for your dog. One of the most common reasons that dogs start licking their paws in the first place is poor diet.

How to Stop Your Dog from Licking

Before you can take steps to stop your dog from licking his paws, you first need to determine why he is doing it. If you take a closer look at your dog’s paws you may find some kind of foreign body stuck between his toes that is causing irritation – a burr, for example. If there is no foreign body but your dog’s paws are red and inflamed, it is most likely due to some kind of allergy.

Related: 9 Fresh Ways to Keep Your Dog’s Paws Clean

Dogs can develop severe reactions to flea bites, for example, so you may want to check your dog for fleas. If fleas aren’t the issue, it is most likely a reaction to something in your dog’s food. In many cases, dogs that develop food allergies develop them for grains (like corn and wheat), dairy products, or common proteins (like chicken or beef). Fortunately, remedying this kind of problem is fairly simple.

To solve your dog’s food allergy problems, your best bet is to switch him over to a limited ingredient diet (LID). This is a type of commercial dog food made with a limited number of ingredients including novel sources for protein and carbohydrates. The limited number of ingredients decreases the potential triggers for food allergies, and the use of a novel source of protein and carbohydrate (novel simply means something your dog has never eaten before) reduces the risk even further.

You should transition your dog onto the new food over the course of 5 to 7 days then keep him on the diet for 12 weeks, or until all signs of the allergy disappear. At that point you can choose to reintroduce potential allergens one at a time until you identify the culprit, or you can keep feeding him the LID.

While it may not be a sign of trouble if your dog licks his paws from time to time, excessive licking or chewing is frequently an indication of a medical problem. Talk to your vet about the potential causes for your dog’s behavior and come up with a treatment plan together.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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