Dog Licking Paws Uncontrollably? Here’s What You Can Do About It

Chihuahua dog chewing and licking its paws.

Is the sound of a dog licking paws becoming the norm in your house? Are you being woken up at night by that jarring toe-slurping noise? Does your dog chew their paws and generally obsess over their feet? Don’t worry, we’ve got solutions for excessive paw licking! Read on to find out why your dog keeps licking their paws, and how to stop this common behavior.

Collage showing before and after of red and irritated dog paws.

Bailey was licking her paws all the time, making them red and inflamed, until her mom tried Paw Soother.

When Should I Worry About My Dog’s Paw Licking?

It’s totally normal for your dog to lick their paws occasionally as normal self-grooming, especially after a muddy walk or whenever their paws might be dirty. However, licking paws excessively is cause for concern and can indicate a number of health issues which should be addressed.

Look out for these signs of harmful paw licking:

  • Lick granulomas or hot spots — extreme licking can cause these painful lesions, which often result in a secondary infection
  • Limping — can indicate a wound or foreign object in the affected paw
  • Paw chewing — chewing feet beyond normal grooming habits
  • Red and irritated skin — particularly paws red between toes
  • Bleeding paws — licking paws until they bleed is a red flag

Any of these symptoms require further attention and possibly a vet visit!

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws Raw?

Paw licking can be caused by something as simple as a foreign object stuck between the toes or a cut paw pad. If the licking is persistent and neither of these simple issues are to blame, here are five common causes of paw irritation:

Dog wearing coat walking on a snowy sidewalk.

Salts and de-icing chemicals are not friendly to dogs’ paw pads.

Allergies and irritants:

Depending on where you live, your dog may be exposed to dozens of various pollens, mites, spores and other allergens which can trigger environmental allergies. Since your dog’s paws are constantly in contact with surfaces where these allergens can land, itchy paws are a common indicator of environmental sensitivities. Food allergies can also cause itchy allergic reactions in the skin and paws.

Winter ground hazards such as salt and de-icing chemicals can further irritate a dog’s sensitive paws, leading to excessive licking as they attempt to clean their painful paws. On warm summer days, hot pavement can burn a dog’s paw pads, causing pain and potentially a bacterial infection if not treated promptly. Also, some household cleaning products can cause your pets paw irritation, so take not if you’ve recently used anything new on your floors or laundry.

Yeast infections:

Yeast dermatitis is a common inflammatory fungal infection that can occur in warm, moist areas, including between the paw pads. A yeast infection happens when the skin overproduces certain types of normally-harmless yeast cells and becomes extremely itchy. Licking itchy paws can cause a secondary bacterial infection which makes skin even more irritated—a vicious cycle that often requires antifungal medication to control.

Besides itchiness and inflammation, one of the key symptoms of a yeast infection is rancid, rotten-smelling skin—it smells really bad. Dogs with a lot of skin folds, like Bulldogs and Pugs, are predisposed to this type of infection.

Yeast infections often indicate a compromised immune system, so it’s important to investigate their root cause. If you think your dog’s itchy skin may be caused by a yeast, head to your vet for a skin scrape and prescription anti-fungal to combat it.

Dog's paw with dry, cracked pads.

Dry paw pads are very uncomfortable and can cause excessive paw licking.

Dry skin and related conditions:

In winter months, humidity is low both in our homes and outdoors, which can cause dry skin in dogs and humans alike. Dog with dry paw pads may lick them to relieve the itching.

Paw pad hyperkeratosis is a common skin condition in dogs that results in thickened skin on dog paws; it will usually become evident in the first few years of their life. The excess keratin on these dogs’ paws makes their paw pads extremely thick and dry to the point that even walking can be painful.

Senior dog licking its front paw.

Older dogs may lick their paws in an attempt to relieve pains caused by arthritis.

Pain and arthritis:

Dogs have a strong instinct to lick and clean their wounds, even if there isn’t an actual wound to clean. A dog with painful paws may lick them to try and soothe the pain. If you notice that your dog is also stiff, reluctant to play, losing weight, or generally more grumpy than normal, take a trip to the vet to determine the underlying cause.

Anxiety:

Licking is a self-soothing act for dogs, so a dog who feels anxious or nervous may obsessively lick their feet to try and relieve these stressful feelings. Other signs of anxiety include compulsive behaviors like pacing, excessive panting or drooling, avoiding interaction, and unusual vocalizations. Separation anxiety in particular can result in self-destructive behaviors like obsessive-compulsive paw-licking, so consult with a behaviorist if you think your dog is dealing with anxiety.

How To Stop Your Dog From Licking Paws

Before you can truly help your dog, you need to figure out what’s causing all the licking. Here are a few steps that will help you identify the underlying issue and determine if you should call you your vet.

Check for injuries, debris, and bites.

A dog's owner inspects their pet's paw pads after time in the snow.

Checking between your dogs’ paw pads is a good habit to get into, especially in winter.

The first thing you should do is inspect your dog’s feet. Do you see any foreign objects like glass, pebbles, seeds, or ice balls? Is a burr stuck between its toes? If the paw pad is cut or bleeding, then your dog is probably licking to clean the wound. If the paw pad is cracked or skin is inflamed, it’s likely your pup is suffering from either dry skin, allergies, or an insect bite.

Treat symptoms with an all-natural balm.

Chewing on irritated paws can make the problem worse, so it’s important to help your dog manage the symptoms while you investigate the root issue.

A high quality soothing balm is one of the best ways to reduce itchiness and start the healing process. Once applied, try brushing or distracting your dog for about five to ten minutes so that most of the balm soaks into the skin. Natural Dog Company’s Paw Soother is a great solution for itchy paws caused by allergies, environmental irritations, paw pad hyperkeratosis, and more.

Collage of a pug's toes before and after application of Natural Dog Company Paw Soother.

Snickers’ toe beans are smooth and healthy after using Paw Soother.

Snickers has had an obsession with paw licking ever since he was a youngster. As a result, he often gets nasty fungal infections on his paws and his pads had become severely dried out. We have tried multiple other ointments but nothing helped. However, after applying Paw Soother and Skin Soother twice a day for a week, the results were amazing! Snickers’ fungal infection is gone and his pads look better and feel softer than ever before. — Rachel; Bethlehem, PA

Try a soothing paw soak.

A soaking bath is another great option. Here are three all-natural recipes to try:

  1. Colloidal oatmeal — Yep, the same thing you bathed in as a kid with chicken pox works for dogs too. You can use an oatmeal shampoo that’s hypoallergenic or labeled for dogs with sensitive skin, or create a DIY soak at home with colloidal oatmeal powder or liquid. Mix with lukewarm water and allow to soak on the paws for five minutes.
  2. Epsom salts — Salts can raise your dog’s natural pH level, which can help to kill bacteria that causes inflammation. Follow the directions on the product to determine the appropriate amount of salt and soaking time and don’t let your dog ingest the salts.
  3. Baking soda — Baking soda can also impact skin pH and acts as an anti-inflammatory to soothe the skin. It will also help freshen your dog’s coat if you opt for a full-body bath, just keep it away from their face.

When To See Your Vet About Itchy Dog Paws

If the paw licking hasn’t lessened after a week or so, or if your dog is showing other concerning symptoms, consult with your veterinarian. Some conditions, like allergies or hyperkeratosis, can be easily managed with good habits, soothing balms, and limited ingredient dog foods. But others, like arthritis or chronic yeast infections, require more intensive care and can be far more uncomfortable for your canine friend.

Get Real Results With Paw Soother

Natural Dog Company Paw Soother is an ideal all-natural solution for itchy paws, and the reviews speak for themselves! If you’re dealing with constant paw-licking due to dry paws, paw pad hyperkeratosis, allergies, minor wounds, extreme weather, or other common paw issues, try our Pawdicure Pack for the best deal on all-around paw health.

Collage showing a Frenchie's paws before and after using Natural Dog Company Paw Soother.

Winston’s paws were red and inflamed before his mom tried Paw Soother.

I am very particular when it comes to products that I use on my dog because Frenchies are prone to being pretty sensitive and can have a lot of allergies. I wanted something that was as natural as possible and wasn’t going to cause further issues with his problems areas. Since the weather has gotten a little colder and wetter, in between the pads on Winston’s paws were becoming raw and irritated.

Within 4 days of using the Paw Soother, the raw and irritated skin on his paws completely cleared up! I absolutely LOVE these products and will definitely be buying more! — Blake; Cleveland, OH