Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

Too much licking of the paws can be a sign of a problem, although it’s normal for dogs to lick their paws sometimes. Frequent licking may mean it’s time for some behavioral or medical intervention on your part.

Some of the Reasons A Dog Will Lick their Paws

Self Grooming

Self grooming is one of the most common reasons why dogs lick their paws, and licking after coming in from outdoors, while taking a nap or after eating are all common behaviors. It’s probably no cause for concern if you see your dog licking his paws every now and then; occasional cleaning of the paws is common for dogs who don’t spend a lot of time grooming.

However, your dog may have behavioral issues or a health problem if you notice frequent paw licking, or licking that seems aggressive.


Irritated, painful or itching paws may be the reason that your dog seems to be licking his paws excessively, and with any abnormal or frequent licking, trying to determine if your dog has a health issue should be your first step.


If a dog steps on a hot surface or a sharp object, it can cause discomfort and that can lead to excessive paw licking. An insect bite or a bite from another dog or animal can also cause your dog to lick his paws frequently and seemingly for no good reason. And splinters and other sharp objects can become embedded in the paw, leading to irritation and frustration and also causing a bout of frenzied paw licking.

Tumor, Cyst or Growths

A tumor, cyst or other abnormal growth can also cause your dog to practice excessive paw licking. And it isn’t always possible to see what is causing him to lick his paws a lot, if it’s an injury to the paw’s bones or soft tissue, or perhaps arthritis.

In all probability, it’s probably a growth, foreign object or injury in the paw if one paw is being licked more than the other three. However, it is possible for more than one paw to be affected by one of these issues.


Licking the paws to get some relief is common if a dog has an irritated or itching paw that’s caused by allergies. Paw itching is common when a dog suffers from food allergies, although itching paws can be caused by other allergies.

Although the reasons aren’t fully understood, dogs commonly suffer from fungal or bacterial infections in their paws, and frequent licking can make it more likely for a dog’s paws to have this problem, as the paws remain damp.

Excessive and agitated licking can also be a result of itching paws caused by mange or flea bites.

If Your Dog is Licking His Paws Too Much

A close inspection of the paws should be the first step if you feel your dog is licking them too much, and that includes carefully looking at the toenails, top and bottom of the feet, and in between the toes. What you’re looking for is anything that seems out of place or appears to be causing your dog pain; this can include scabs, redness, bites, bruises or cuts, a sharp object embedded in the paw, or anything else. You may need to provide first aid or take your pet to the vet.

You may see saliva stains on your dog’s hair close to his paws if he’s licking them too much, and these rust colored stains are easier to spot on light colored hair.

It’s always possible that too much paw licking is a behavioral issue, although it’s important to consult your vet first so that any health issues causing the licking can be eliminated.

A veterinary surgeon, veterinary dermatologist or other specialist may be needed if your vet feels your dog needs extra testing or further treatment.

In all probability, it’s probably a behavioral issue if there seems to be no physical reason for the excessive paw licking.

Paw Licking and Behavioral Issues

Fear, anxiety, stress or simply being bored can all cause a dog to lick their paws too much, and one of these causes is probably behind the paw licking if anything physical has been ruled out.

Your dog may find licking his paws to be satisfying or relaxing, although the behavior may have started out to relieve boredom. Obsessive paw licking can be caused by obsessive-compulsive tendencies in some dogs.

Distracting your dog and keeping him busy is one obvious and effective way to deal with too much paw licking. Your dog shouldn’t be rewarded with a treat, but you shouldn’t be scolding him for licking, either. Taking your dog for a walk, making sure he has his favorite toy, or just spending more time with him are all effective solutions.

A behaviorist or dog trainer may need to be consulted if the paw licking doesn’t get better.

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