Why do dogs lick their paws??

Why do dogs lick their paws??



Dogs are carnivorous animals that can live freely as both wild and domesticated animals. Dogs are fascinating pets, often loved and cherished by pet owners worldwide.

Dog paws:

Paws are the distal parts of the fore and hind limbs of dogs, facing and touching the ground directly, and consist of five parts: claw, digital pad, metacarpal on the forepaw and metatarsal on the hindpaw, dew claw, carpal, and tarsal pads.

Licking the paws, is this an awkward habit or normal behavior?

In dogs, there is a noticeable habit in which dogs touch the paws with their mouths, called licking paws. 

Occasional licking:

It is common for dogs to lick their paws now and then without any reason when they are free mentally and physically. This is an innocuous practice and incurs no loss for dogs.

Persistent and focused licking:

When dogs lick their paws constantly and wholeheartedly for an extended period, there may be underlying reasons that compel dogs to do so. If such behaviors are observed, it is advisable to seek proper veterinary intervention immediately so that the causes can be figured out.

Why do dogs lick their paws?

Excessive licking is no doubt a concern for dog owners. In this article, we will fathom the reasons behind this bizarre behavior of dogs. There are many reasons why dogs lick their paws. Here, some are discussed thoroughly.

Reasons for dogs licking their paws:

Pain or injury:

It is not uncommon for dog that is suffering from a pain or has hurt itself to exhibit uncomfortable behaviors like licking, lying down, being lethargy, and intentionally avoiding movement. 

The way forward: Immediately observe for any signs of injury and pain, treat that without delay, and apply creams or anti-inflammatory ointments to eliminate burns or other pain sensations. Cuts and fractures should be restored with medications and manual therapy.

Parasitic infestation:

Ectoparasites are parasites that reside on animal outer surface body, mostly in parts like the legs, ears, toes, etc. Due to parasite infestation, dogs itch, scratch, and lick surfaces. Parasites like fleas, lice, and ticks present between the toes cause excessive licking. Physically examine the paws with care if any parasites are witnessed; remove them with the help of tweezers; ensure that while the parasite has been removed, otherwise small parts or the head may prolong the licking concern. External parasites can be prevented by using prescribed as well as over-the-counter medications. Consult a trained and specialized veterinarian to permanently eliminate this cause.

Allergic reactions or hypersensitivity:

Licking may be due to allergies, which may affect different parts of the body like the paws, ears, skin, etc. Allergy is caused by many substances called allergens. When they enter the body, the immune system reacts excessively or exaggeratedly, causing harm to the animal itself. 

Allergens: allergy-causing agents or allergens may be 

Food ingredients: food ingredients like eggs, milk, protein, etc. cause allergies.

Parasites: parasites may cause an exaggerated reaction from the immune system, causing allergies.

Environmental factors: innocuous particles in the environment may be the reason for allergic reactions.

Treatment and prevention: 

If the dogs exhibit any allergic signs, treat them with antiallergic medication, wash the paws with antiallergic shampoo, and use topical treatments and medicines prescribed by a licensed veterinarian. 

Prevent the dogs from coming into contact with potential allergens to prevent allergic reactions.

Joint health issues:

Licking may be due to underlying joint health problems like arthritis, joint dislocation, joint stiffness, etc. Arthritis not only affects large joints like the hip joint and the glenohumeral joint but also affects small joints like the toes.. Due to cartilage breakdown or decreased lubricant production, joint health becomes compromised. Consult a specialized veterinarian and get your dog's paws assessed. Several strategies can be adopted to improve joint health and prevent licking due to joint problems.

Some are listed here:

Making the environment favorable for joint health:

Create an environment conducive to joint and bone health. Make floors soft to avoid bone and joint regression.

Joint health promotion diets: 

Feed on diets rich in constituents necessary for bone health, which reinforce bones and joints.

Weight control: 

Controlling the weight of dogs can lessen the impact on joints; keeping dogs lean and slender lessens the burden on the joints, and it increases the motility of joints.

Regular physical exercise:

Make the dogs do regular physical exercise, as this improves joint motility and health. Also, subject them to physical therapy so that they remain fit physically.

Using anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medicines:

Use the drugs prescribed by the veterinarian after examining the joint conditions of the paws; it will reduce the paw-licking vice in dogs.

Behavioral problems:

Paw-licking may be due to some behavioral health problems due to stress, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or underlying medical conditions. Remove the behavior-related problems instantly so that the paw-licking vice can be eliminated. 

Effects of paw licking: 

Paw-licking has a mammoth impact on the overall health of dogs.

Eating disorders: 

Paw licking affects the eating habits of dogs, as excessive licking prevents them from taking foods as needed.

Bleeding from paws: 

Intense scratching and licking cause bleeding due to blood vessel rupture.

Swollen paws: 

It causes the swelling of paws because of licking for an extended period.

Bacteria infection: 

Paw licking may lead to an infection of the paws called pododermatitis; this is a serious medical concern.


In short, examining and assessing the causes and reasons for paw licking and seeking immediate veterinary intervention to address the causes of licking, will promote the overall health of dogs as well as mitigate the concerns of owners.

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