Why does my dog lick his paws?
Dogs can lick their paws for a variety of reasons, including pain, allergies, fungal infections, to self-soothe, to clean themselves, if they’ve got a foreign body under the skin or hairballs. It’s not always a big problem, but most of the time you will want to know how to stop a dog licking paws to prevent the issue worsening. Plus, if you can work out why your dog is licking their paws, it’s much easier to prevent it – and you might even be able to solve the root cause, too.
This could be caused by arthritis in older dogs and they may need medication from the vets to make them more comfortable. I am currently at this stage with my oldest mastiffs. Lower neck pain can also cause them to lick. In some cases, it may even be cancer and when my ridgeback had osteosarcoma, licking his paws was a sign.
How to stop dog licking paws due to pain
If you think your dog is in pain, you need to seek advice from your vet as soon as possible. Medication and pain relief are used frequently in the older dog along with laser treatments. Hydrotherapy is another wonderful way to help your dog’s stiff spine and joints, and a qualified canine physiotherapist may be able to help alleviate symptoms, too.
If your dog has cancer, there are various treatments available, but if it’s a case of palliative care, your vet will be able to prescribe strong medications to keep them comfortable and enjoy the time they have left.
Wounds or cysts are another cause of excessive licking. Foreign bodies, such as grass seeds, thorns, burrs or foxtails, can also get stuck and embedded in paws, which will cause your dog to lick the area. It is imperative that you remove the objects where possible before cleaning. If they’re embedded too fair, then your vet will have to remove them under sedation or with anaesthetic.
How to stop dog licking paws due to injury
The wound, scrape, cut or thorn that you remove needs a thorough clean. I like to have an antimicrobial and antibacterial cleaner, such as Hibiscrub (which you can get on Amazon) in my first aid kit, along with saline water to flush it through. If it’s a small wound or scrape, I would suggest putting some Sudocream on it, then covering it with a sock. You can also use a dog cone – I prefer the soft cone alternatives or inflatable neck rings – to stop your dog licking a wound once clean.
Skin conditions, such as dermatitis, can trigger licking and lead to secondary infections, as can bacterial and fungal infections. These will most likely need veterinary intervention.
Grass and environmental causes can also cause itching and licking. Food is another cause of allergy, with grain, yeast and fillers mostly found in kibble likely to be the main culprit, so it would be worth trying some of the best dog foods for allergies. Fleas, dust pollen and mould are other environmental factors that can adversely affect your dog.
How to stop dog licking paws due to allergies
Make sure you always wipe your dog’s paws dry after being out in the wet – in some cases a pair of the best dog boots can help both in the winter, spring and summer months if your dog is particularly prone to allergies. Antihistamines can alleviate their symptoms under guidance from your vet, but if your dog has severe allergies you’ll need medication from your vet. Regular flea treatments, as well as treating the home for fleas (see the best ways to get rid of fleas), air purifiers for pollen and dust may also help.
Boredom, anxiety, self-soothing and obsessive-compulsive disorders
It is normal for dogs to clean themselves and to self soothe, but this becomes a problem when it starts happening in the extreme. Separation anxiety, boredom and phobias, such as fireworks or strangers, can cause your dog to lick their paws excessively. Compulsive disorders, such as acral lick dermatitis or canine compulsion disorder, are usually triggered by a stressful event and require professional help.
How to stop dog licking paws due to boredom and anxiety
Most dogs will become destructive before they start compulsive licking. A change in the dog’s life, such as moving house or being in kennels, can trigger it, especially if your dog is a little anxious. To help an anxious dog, make sure they have plenty of enrichment items and toys, such as dog puzzle toys, that are swapped over regularly so they don’t become bored. Increase their exercise and, if necessary, look at adding calming supplements for dogs, such as Zyklene (which you can get on Amazon), or an Adaptil room spray (also on Amazon).
If you have a hairy dog or a shorter-coated wire-haired breed, it’s important to keep the area in between the dogs’ pads clean and knot free. It’s similar to having a ponytail tied too tightly – it pulls and hurts your head – the same applies for dogs when the hair mats and knots between their pads, leading to gnawing and licking.
How to prevent hairballs and knots
Make sure you groom your dog regularly. I have always clipped out the hair in between the pads of my Irish Terrier’s feet as they always get tightly knotted very quickly.