Picture of a dog licking its paws - why do they do that?

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

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Licking is a normal part of a dog’s grooming routine. However, there are cases in which you may wonder why dogs lick their paws so much.

Read on to learn why dogs lick their paws raw, what happens when a dog licks themselves too much, and how to stop them from excess licking.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws So Much?

Licking can be a normal activity, but in excess, there may be a reason for concern. When a dog excessively licks their paws it can be painful and concerning for both the dog and owner. However, there are plenty of explanations for this behavior. Let’s take a look at common circumstances in which dogs lick their paws.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws Raw?

Dogs may lick their paws raw when they are plagued with allergies or food hypersensitivity. Some dogs can be allergic to anything from seasonal pollen to grass, making it hard for them to potty or exercise without a flare-up.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws After Eating?

Your dog may lick their paws a lot when they are grooming itself. And a common time for grooming is after they eat. Typically, dogs will not lick their paws raw due to grooming.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws At Night?

Your dog may lick their paws excessively if they are in pain or have a foreign object stuck in one of its pads. When a dog settles down for bed they notice the pain more, so you might find them licking more at night than during the day.

How To Stop Dogs From Licking His Paws

Getting your dog to stop licking its paws may take plenty of time and patience, but it can be addressed. Some cases may require a visit to your dog’s veterinarian to ensure there is nothing medically or emotionally wrong with your dog.

Here’s how you can stop your dog from licking its paws so much.

Frequent Bathing

Giving your dog a frequent bath can help them refrain from excessively licking its paws. Although this may not stop the activity, it can make your dog feel cleaner and more comfortable.

Apply a Bitter Paw Butter

A bitter paw butter can make your dog less likely to lick their paws. The taste can make them disinterested in licking their paws and keep them from hurting themselves.

See a Veterinarian

Seek professional assistance from a veterinarian if you can’t get your dog to stop licking its paws. There may be an underlying issue that is causing your dog to feel compelled to lick its paws excessively that may need the help of specialized equipment.

Tips from Our Vets

Dogs make excellent companions and bring so much joy to our lives. Unfortunately, however, they cannot speak to us.

If your pet exhibits odd behavior, it can be worrisome and difficult to know if the behavior is normal or a reason for concern.

Not sure why your dog is exhibiting a specific behavior?

  • Some behaviors can seem very odd but may be completely normal.
  • Others could signal illness or injury.
  • Due to the lack of ability for a dog to communicate with us verbally, it is imperative to pay close attention to what the dog is telling us through their behavioral changes.

The most important takeaway is that if you are ever concerned about a behavior that your dog is displaying, your best resource for information is your veterinarian.

In general, a new behavior that is not typical for your dog should be investigated. Examples would be:

  • Not eating
  • Suddenly sleeping more than usual
  • Being reluctant to go on walks or to play
  • Becoming aggressive or grumpy when interacting with other people or pets

These behavior changes most commonly indicate that something is wrong, and your pet needs to see their veterinarian as soon as possible. It is much easier and more likely to be successful, to treat an illness early in its course as opposed to waiting until the dog is very sick.

Other odd behaviors include:

  • Eating feces
  • Chasing their tail
  • Sudden bursts of activity (known as the “zoomies”)

These may be completely normal. However, if you notice a drastic change in your dog, for example, they never exhibited one of these behaviors, and now they suddenly are, it is prudent to have them examined by their veterinarian as soon as possible.

Even if the behavior is normal, it may lead to unintended issues.

For example, young dogs consuming their feces or the feces of other dogs can be a normal behavior but can lead to gastrointestinal upset as well as intestinal parasitism.

Parasites from your dog can cause serious health complications, not only for your dog, but also for you and your family, as many are transmissible to humans.

Licking of the feet or scratching may seem like normal dog behavior but typically indicates a health issue such as allergies, fleas, or skin infection.

Left untreated, these issues will worsen and cause additional discomfort for your dog.

Remember that your best source of reliable health information for your dog is your veterinarian. Because dogs cannot verbally communicate with us, it is essential to be proactive with any possible health concerns.

Working with a trusted veterinarian as your partner will ensure many happy and healthy years for both you and your dog.

Final Thoughts: Why Do Dogs Lick Paws?

Dogs may lick their paws for a variety of reasons, but many of them may not pose a danger or issues. You may need to seek the help of a trained veterinarian to figure out why dogs lick their paws at night or why dogs lick their paws after eating.

Keep the following facts in mind when considering what to do next about your dog’s excess licking:

  • Dogs who lick their paws may be feeling uncomfortable or in pain.
  • A veterinarian can check for foreign objects or advise a specific product to help.
  • Excess licking is a sign of allergies.

Excess licking may be challenging to handle or concerning for both dogs and owners, but there are ways to address the issue without too much fuss, fear, or worry.

If you’re looking for answers to explain your dog’s behaviors, you can check out our series of guides on why dogs do what they do:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.