If your dog licks his paws, it’s best to figure out the cause and whether it’s an issue that needs a vet visit. There are many reasons why dogs chew or lick at their paws.
Dogs occasionally lick their paws as normal self-grooming. But, when they are constantly licking, or you realize he keeps licking one paw, there is probably another explanation.
Skin Irritations and Paw Licking
It could be dandruff and flakes. Flakes in your dog’s fur might indicate dry skin, which typically happens in certain body locations or certain seasons. A moisturizing cream rinse that is specifically made for dogs and has supplemental omega-3 oils might improve the itch.
It could be hot spots. These are local areas that have inflammation caused by repetitive licking in that area. It’s a response to extreme itchiness and sometimes happens overnight. There’s often loss of hair with red, moist, itchy skin. Topical anti-inflammatories and antimicrobial sprays made just for dogs might help treat hot spots on the paw until you can determine the cause. Topical hydrocortisone spray may also be helpful.
Infections and Paw Licking
Bacterial infections can sometimes be the culprit. These infections develop when skin is damaged and bacteria overgrows. There may be scabs combined with flaky skin, redness, and hair loss.
Yeast is another suspect. It is another source of infection when, if it’s allowed to overgrow, it contributes to odor, itching, and a greasy feel to the skin. To treat these infections on a dog’s paw, you need to use a medicated dog shampoo and dog wipes that are combined with anti-fungal to control the yeast on the skin.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that is spread easily through contact with infected animals or soil. It’s commonly seen on the paws as well as the ears, head, and limbs of dogs. Red skin and hair loss might be seen, but some pets can have ringworm and the pet owner would not know it. Topical shampoos, creams, and dips are useful for clearing ringworm. Animals with long hair may need to be shaved to prevent reinfection. Only do this with pet clippers and use a guide comb so the hair’s not clipped too close to the skin.
Allergies and Paw Licking
Dog paw allergies may be the cause. Paw allergies are common and can be caused by food, the environment, or irritants that meet the skin. Dark pigmentation, redness, or brown staining on the paw from constant licking might be signs of allergies. Wiping or bathing the paws after going outside reduces the allergens on the dog’s skin. Topical sprays or creams with hydrocortisone marketed for dogs might temporarily reduce the itch, but more severe licking requires systemic medication for control.
Toenail Injuries and Paw Licking
Toenail injuries are common in dogs and so are nails that are partially torn off. This happens by getting caught in fabric, grass, or carpet. Most of the time, there is bleeding from the nail, the paws are swollen, and the dog is uncomfortable.
Toes improve when torn portions are carefully removed. Medications for inflammation and infection also help. Make sure you see the vet to help remove the torn part of the dog’s nail and for medications.
Overgrown nails can cause discomfort when dogs walk. They also lead to extreme licking of the affected paw. These ingrown nails grow beyond the bottom of the toe pads and curl back toward the paw pads. Trimming the nails regularly helps prevent this. If you don’t want to cut your dog’s nails, or they are already overgrown, seek your vet’s assistance immediately.
Other Possible Culprits for Paw Licking
Burns occur on paws from walking on hot surfaces, such as pavement, or from chemicals that are undiluted, like cleaning products for floors. You might see cracked or red dog paws that blister or peel. Medicines for secondary infections or pain relief might be needed. See your vet immediately.
Ticks are parasitic, living in brushy, wooded areas. They may lodge between a dog’s toe and foot pad. This causes discomfort and results in your dog licking the paw. The entire tick should be carefully removed with a tool made specifically for tick removal. Keep your dog on tick and flea preventative, to prevent this from happening in the future. We
Pain that comes from arthritis, bony growth, ligament sprains, or fractures might cause a dog to lick their paws. The pain might be in an area that is out of reach, and the area affected may be sensitive and look swollen. Supplements for joints and oral medications can help the discomfort from this orthopedic condition.
Just paying attention to your dog and its behavior can keep you alert to these paw licking issues.