Paws Are Not Popsicles: Reasons Why Your Dog Persists In Licking His Paws

Posted on: 22 June 2016

There are various reasons why dogs engage in licking their paws, and since most of the causes of this behavior require some level of treatment, it is important to determine which problem is vexing your furry friend to that you can seek out effective relief and prevent bigger problems.


If your dog is devoting all of his licking attention to one paw in particular, then the problem is isolated to that paw itself. The entire paw, including the toes, nails and pads, will need to be inspected closely for signs of trauma. Common problems that occur on one paw include the following:

  • A broken nail
  • A nail that has overgrown to the point of curving uncomfortably to the side
  • A nail that has overgrown until it has curled around completely and penetrated the adjoining pad
  • A nail that has worn too short
  • A splinter, thorn or burr that is stuck in one of the paw pads
  • A laceration that has been sustained anywhere on the paw
  • A tumor that has developed on the paw, a paw pad, a nail bed or in between two toes

You can prevent some of these problems by keeping your dog's nails trimmed. Be sure to handle and play with your puppy's paws frequently so that he becomes accustomed to having his paws touched. This will make future nail trim sessions and paw inspections much easier.


When humans experience allergies, such as hay fever, the symptoms most commonly appear as itchy, watery eyes, runny noses, and sneezing. In dogs, allergy symptoms most commonly appear as ear infections and skin irritations. The skin becomes inflamed, red and itchy, and the discomfort is not typically restricted to the paws. If your dog is sensitive to tree and grass pollens, mold spores, and other culprits that set off inhalant allergies, your veterinarian can provide the following forms of relief:

  • Cortisone drugs
  • Antihistamine drugs
  • Antibiotic drugs to prevent secondary infections

If such treatments do not provide adequate relief, or if your dog suffers from allergies throughout the year rather than seasonally, your veterinarian may recommend allergy testing in order to prescribe injections that will desensitize your dog to the particular allergens that are making him miserable.

Contact Irritants

Contact irritants are usually chemicals that, upon contact with the skin, cause irritation. Common suspects to cause such irritation on a dog's paws are dry carpet cleaner products and lawn fertilizers. If you notice that your dog often pays extra attention to his paws after coming in from outdoors, consider giving him foot rinses at the door to remove any outdoor chemicals from his paws.


Bacterial and fungal infections on your dog's paws can cause him to lick and chew at the affected paws. Other signs of a potential infection on his paws include the following:

  • Limping
  • Redness on the paw
  • Swelling in the paw
  • Foul odor to the paw

Any of these signs require a trip to the animal hospital. Depending on which type of infection your dog has, your veterinarian will prescribe a course of antibiotic or antifungal drugs, and bathing the area with a prescribed medicated shampoo may also be recommended as part of your dog's treatment.


External parasites, such as fleas, can cause your dog to lick his paws. You can prevent fleas from taking up residence on your dog by applying a flea preventative product as prescribed by a veterinary hospital. Another problematic parasite is the demodectic mange mite. These mites always dwell in the skin of mammals, and they often cause no problems. When the immune system is less than optimal, an overgrowth of these mites can occur and affect the integumentary system, which includes hair, skin and nails. Demodectic mange results in patchy hair loss anywhere on the body, including the paws. This condition can be treated with an appropriate antiparasitic product that your veterinarian prescribes.


If your older dog suffers from arthritis in his toe joints, he may be licking his paws in an attempt to alleviate pain. The pain of advanced arthritis, which is also known as degenerative joint disease, can be controlled with the following treatment options:

You can slow the progression of arthritis by giving your dog a glucosamine supplement, which helps to lubricate joints.

Psychological Reasons

If no physical problems are detected to explain your dog's incessant licking, then it may be time to consider that his reasons may be behavioral in nature. Boredom, obsessive compulsive disorder, stress, and anxiety can all lead a dog to lick excessively at his paws. Providing bored dogs with plenty of mentally stimulating toys and activities, applying behavior modification techniques and, if necessary, administering drug therapy are all ways to address these problems.

If your dog is licking his paws excessively, contact the pet hospital and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for an evaluation and treatment before this behavior results in compromised mobility, acral lick granuloma, or secondary infection. In the meantime, redirect your dog's licking focus to more appropriate and edible objects, such as a puzzle toy that has been filled with peanut butter and frozen or a few ice cubes made from frozen beef or chicken broth. 

For a veterinarian, contact a clinic such as Grove Center Veterinary Hospital.