While they might not be at cat level when it comes to keeping themselves clean and tidy, dogs definitely do indulge in a bit of self grooming! One of the grooming habits they do is lick their paws. This is totally normal if they do it every now and again, but if your dog is excessively licking their paws it could be the sign of an underlying issue.
It’s not because they’ve been hanging out with the cat too much. It’s way more likely due to a discomfort they’re experiencing! Today I want to discuss some of the reasons that could be behind the discomfort and the excessive paw licking. I’d suggest taking them down to your local vet for a check up too, as they’ll want to perform some tests to see what’s up.
Common Causes of Over Licking
Constant or aggressive paw licking definitely isn’t normal, and could be down to a behaviour or health problem with your pooch. These could include:
There may be an injury to a paw or paws causing excessive licking. Dogs like to lick their wounds to help them manage pain. Walking on a hot bitumen surface may have burnt their pads, or they could have stepped on something sharp or been stung by something. There also may be a foreign object trapped between their toes, or a thorn in their foot. Do a physical inspection first to see if anything is noticeable, then get your vet to have a look.
Your dog's paws could be really itchy from the presence of fleas or other parasites. Flea saliva in particular can cause an immune system overreaction in the dog. We call this ‘Flea Allergy Dermatitis’, and it's super uncomfortable for your little buddy. They’ll lick at their paws incessantly to try and get relief, and you may notice they have some redness and fur loss too.
We all have that one friend who just has to look at a flower in bloom and gets laid low by hay fever. Well, dogs can also suffer from allergies to things in the environment around them. Pollen, mould spores and even freshly cut grass can cause an allergic reaction that makes their skin itch and gets them licking their paws.
Excessive paw licking could also be an indication of something being out of step in their doggy diet. They might be having a reaction to one of the ingredients in their meals. It can be hard to nail down exactly which ingredient, so if you’ve tried a few different options without any success I’d suggest asking your vet for advice around what we call a ‘food elimination trial’.
Dogs are like humans, we all have coping strategies in place to deal with our underlying anxieties. It would probably look kinda weird if we licked our hands though, but for dogs, it's one of the things they do! There may be some changes in their environment making them feel unsettled. Perhaps you moved home, or there have been disruptions in their routine? Exercise often helps in this case, so don’t forget those long walks every day.
If you have a working dog like my golden retrievers, they need a lot of entertainment. You’d be forgiven for thinking my dogs were bred for lazing on the couch, but originally they were bred for hunting and tracking! If they get bored, you might find them digging up the garden, barking non-stop or licking their paws excessively. Again, lots of exercise helps, and you can also keep them distracted with chew toys or a favourite food dispensing toy.
What Should You Do About Excessive Paw Licking?
Nobody knows your dog better than you. If you notice them licking their paws more and more regularly, to the point of obsession, you need to take action. It could be the symptom of an underlying cause for concern, and you want to get to the bottom of what it is.
A visual inspection will show if there are any red spots or swellings. Give their paws a wash in lukewarm water too, as this will provide temporary comfort for them. Then get them down to your vets so they can assess the situation further.