Why is my dog licking its paws?

Constant Licking and chewing may cause a dog 's paw to turn raw

For anxious lickers

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It is a very frustrating scenario to watch, when your dog starts licking incessantly its paws, especially when your dog loses interest in its surroundings. Yet, dogs, more often than not, have a specific reason for engaging is such behavior. It is up to you as an owner, therefore, to turn into a detective and try to figure out what may be going on. Or better, the best thing you should really do is hire a veterinarian and have him do the investigative work with the right tools.

Why do dogs lick their paws?

  • Potential Cause number one: Pain

A good place to start is to observe your dog. Is he licking one paw or both? If the licking is only limited to one paw then this often suggests that the source of trouble is right there: within the paw. Very likely your dog has pain in its paw and the causes may be various ranging from wounds, insect bites, a thorn or piece of glass embedded, a broken nail etc.

  • Potential Cause Number two: Allergies

Allergies: in the dog world, it could be to just about anything. The food you are feeding, the chemicals in your yard, your carpet cleaning products, walking on weeds and so much more. Finding the real cause of the itching paws and licking can be a very frustrating ordeal to deal with. It may take some enormous investigative work to figure what your dog may be allergic that sometimes it is simply easier to just treat the allergy by giving anti-histamines.

If an allergy is suspected it may be helpful to have your dog undergo a ''pedicure'' by soaking your dog's paw pads in Epsom salts. Doing so may help give some relief. According to Pet Education you can make a foot soak by using 1/2 cup Epsom salts into one gallon of water. Soak the paws for 5-10 minutes up to 4 times a day.

  • Potential Problem number three: Boredom

Modern times have created the right soil for boredom in dogs. Once used to walk and hunt for up to 10 hours a day, nowadays dogs are often left at home in a small yard or worse, in a crate for many hours a day. High energy dogs may become frustrated often engaging in destructive activities that may include excessive licking and chewing of paws.

  • Potential problem number four: Anxiety

Anxious dogs often try to find relief by licking themselves excessively. The causes of such anxiety may be various ranging from separation anxiety to obsessive disorders. This habit can perhaps be somewhat similar to human nail biting. It is not unheard of dogs licking themselves raw this way. When this happens dogs may develop unsightly ulcers often referred to as ''lick granuloma''.


Treatment of course is based on the underlying cause. If a dog is anxious sedatives may be prescribe, pheromone plug ins may be helpful an so can Bach Flowers. Bored dogs need substantial life changes, they need more exercise, a purpose in life and when left alone a Kong may help them focus on something else than their paws. Injuries should heal on their own, while allergies may require anti-histamines and in severe cases only, steroid shots.
Dogs may be discouraged from licking on their paws by using products such as Bitter Apple spray or an Elizabethan collar.

Ways to stop licking

Grannick's Bitter Apple for Dogs Spray Bottle, 16 Ounces
Grannick's Bitter Apple for Dogs Spray Bottle, 16 Ounces

Bitter taste and smell work together to keep puppies and dogs from fur biting, hair chewing and hot spots

Remedy + Recovery E-Collar, Small
Remedy + Recovery E-Collar, Small

Folds and snaps to form a cone around the animal 's neck to prevent it from chewing or licking a sensitive area, bandages, wounds or open sores. Special holes at the neckline allow for attaching to collar to hold the snaps behind the head and allow for total peripheral vision.

KONG Classic Dog Toy, Large, Red
KONG Classic Dog Toy, Large, Red

Recommended by vets and trainers for dogs with separation anxiety, the Kong has a hollow interior that's ideal for stuffing with treats.


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Comments 32 comments

happygiggle profile image

happygiggle 7 years ago from A long way from home

I have a dog that continually chews his feet. I will definitely make a batch of your foot soak to see if i can give him some relief. Thank you

alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 years ago from USA Author

Hope it helps, make sure he does not drink the water as it may cause diarrhea, best wishes!

fyxer profile image

fyxer 7 years ago from mt vernon

maybe it's the same as when people bite their nails--hope he did not see you biting your nails and decide to follow lol

My NJ Dog profile image

My NJ Dog 7 years ago from NJ, USA

My pup has a 'lollipop' paw.....it's been inspected, x-rayed, he's on allergy meds for it, and bitter apple ......and he just keeps licking the bottom of the one paw. It's never become raw. He's walked 3 times a day and we do PT exercises for a luxating patella. The house has 3 adults and a toddler - he's not bored or lonely. After 2 years of trying to hunt down a cause, I'm starting to think it's an obsessive compulsive thing and am getting used to the slurp-slurp on the floor next to me when I go to sleep.

Great article - wish I had come across it 2 years ago.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 years ago from USA Author

Wow, that must be a very frustrating ordeal to deal with. I know you have already tried a lot, but have you ever thought of saying ''no'' and redirecting to a Kong stuffed with hard to get goodies, like peanut butter at the bottom, hot dog slices in the middle and a bisquit on the top? What happens if you would do this? would he eat the kong's content and go right back to his paws? would he ignore the Kong? With quite severe OCD behaviors it is often very likely that he would ignore the kong and go on with his licking habit. 

OCD usually means the dog will appear disinterested in other activities. Is this the case? Will he for example lick his paw and ignore other interesting things going on in his surroundings? Or does he lick when there is not much going on, like before going to sleep or during quiet times? Just food for thought, even though I am sure with two years dealing with this you probably very much tried almost everything...

However, OCD is something that did not appear in nature in dogs in the wild, it is rather a result of domestication, if dogs engaged in OCD behaviors in the wild they would have not survived today.


Therefore, perhaps finding your dog something draining to do, will likely gradually wean the behavior. You want to see the behavior less and less because you are giving your dog less opportunities not to engage in this activity. Because dogs live in the present, if he is not thinking much about licking that paw, he may start forgetting about it...

Yes, he is walked 3 times a day and I am sure this does not take place during walking, so this means he is in a very balanced state of mind when outdoors (ie distracted, curious, alert) No offense, but could it be your toddler may make him slightly anxious?

Sometimes toddlers may be a bit rough on dogs not knowing the difference between a stuffed animal and a dog. Your dog may appear to tolerate the toddler well but he may do this because he knows he must respect your chiId. If your child ever plays rough, it would be best to crate your dog every now and then and provide some quiet time with a safe toy like a Kong, which by the way can be therapeutic.

I would normally recommend agility training that allows dogs to gain in confidence but with your dog's patella issues I guess this may not be an option. 

Did the licking start along with the patella issues? Sometimes dogs lick out of pain as a way to comfort themselves.. and then it turns into a habit...Ever thought of surgery for the luxating patella?

This is all I can think of,. I have seen OCD cases of tail chasing and running in circles,.. very frustrating issues to deal with! My very best wishes!

alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 years ago from USA Author

Here is a hub with some tips for ocd behaviors


My NJ Dog profile image

My NJ Dog 7 years ago from NJ, USA

Thanks for your response. He will leave the lollipop paw for a rawhide smeared w/ a film of PB, a stuffed Kong, etc....then go right back to licking. He was doing this before the toddler arrived....and he loves baby. She is really good with him too - not too rough and we make sure she doesn't drive him nuts chasing him, etc.

The dog has 2 replaced hips, so we are trying to avoid pinning the kneecap; hence the PT and minimum 3 walks a day. It seems to be working. He is also on phenobarbitol for seizures (behavioral seizures - he tries to climb or becomes blind/deaf or hyper-sensitive).

He has rotten genes, but the best temperment. I'll check out the OCD hub. Thanks!

alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 years ago from USA Author

Hmmm... interesting medical history! He sure sounds like a very happy fellow. I wonder if his licking issues started when his seizure activity started.

Phenobarbital in some cases may cause low thyroid levels and low thyroid levels may cause licking behaviors. Something to look into...

About hypothyroid dog licking- look under causes number 6


About phenobarbital causing low thyroid levels


alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 years ago from USA Author

the abcanimalhospital link does not work until you copy and paste the whole URL, sort of odd..


My NJ Dog profile image

My NJ Dog 7 years ago from NJ, USA

We have a vet appt in a week. They will be redoing his phenobarb levels. I'll ask about checking the thyroid at the same time.

The licking started about 2 years ago - seizures 4.5 years before that. I suspect that his 1st encounter w/ anesthesia may have precipitated the seizures....and each encounter afterwards requires a re-evaluation (and usually an increase) in the phenobarb dose. We decreased the dose last winter (worried about liver damage). He has had 3 encounters w/ anesthesia since...he startles more easily and spends a couple hours a day 'hiding' in the bathtub. *sigh* I'm looking at increasing the phenobarb again.

Thanks so much!

Camping Dan profile image

Camping Dan 7 years ago

Sometimes a dog gets something in their pads but more often than not the dogs I have seen doing this were bored.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 years ago from USA Author

Yes, boredom indeed can be a great trigger especially in under exercised dogs or dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. Having worked for a vet, the most cases I have seen instead were for allergies, to just about anything, food, pesticides in the yard, products to clean floors etc... The worst however, were those called ''idiopathic'' in other words, unknown cause... very frustrating!

Research Analyst profile image

Research Analyst 7 years ago

This is interesting because I have actually seen this happen with dogs and wondered what the cause was, it reminds me of nail biting for humans due to boredom and anxiety but it was surprising to hear that dogs have these same issues.

My NJ Dog profile image

My NJ Dog 7 years ago from NJ, USA

alexdry: An update: the pup's thyroid was low. A doggie endocrinologist advised that is was probably due to the phenobarb and not to treat it, as he is probably not a true low thyroid dog. However, my vet and I are in agreement to try him on a low-medium level thyroid replacement and re-evaluate it in 4 weeks. I picked up the pills this morning.

I don't know if this will help with the paw licking, but regardless, thank you for passing along the information. Neither my vet, the endocrinologist, or I had associated the phenobarb - low thyroid - paw licking. Thank you so very much.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 years ago from USA Author

Well, let's keep finger crossed that this may be a cure all! Keep me updated as this sounds interesting and may eventually help other owners as well. My best wishes.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 years ago from USA Author

FYI, hypothyroidism has been linked to seizures as well


lab dog 7 years ago

My 6 year old lab also does this, we walk him twice a day and take him to the lake every morning, along with doggy daycare everyday!!!

We have taken him to 4 vets over this and has added up to 600 dollars and nothing has worked, everything short of the collar, which would be hard to see him with!! Right now, the last vet has just given him anxiety medicine, hoping this will work

alexadry profile image

alexadry 7 years ago from USA Author

Wow, this doggy must be lucky, he surely sounds like he is kept busy! Checking thyroid levels never hurts according to:

http://www.k911.biz/Petsafety/Licking.htm QUOTED: ''Hypothyroidism has played a role in some cases of Acral Lick Granuloma. Especially in Black Labs with lick granulomas it would be a good idea to have the Thyroid Gland function checked. Thyroid medication may just be what the dog needs to have those skin lesions resolve.''

Best wishes!

Gift Experts profile image

Gift Experts 7 years ago

All of my dogs have done this. I always thought this was caused by allergies. Thanks for the info. I'm going to try your remedies. Thanks

akirchner profile image

akirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

Wish I'd read this last year when my poor Kodi boy was licking, licking, licking....I have the Bitter Apple now for our new malamute pup - and it WORKS! Even the little bit that our female mal has slurped up by accident is not meeting with her liking either! I have heard that sometimes they also lick because it is a referred pain from their legs but think allergies, etc. is more plausible! Great post!

Marian White profile image

Marian White 7 years ago from Hampshire

My dog Jack never ever licked at his paws, his mum did all the time but Jack never.

Then when Mollie died suddenly at Christmas Jack can't leave his paws alone. Being a Westie he now has the stains on all paws from his constant licking, he sleeps under the bed and his licking wakes me up!

Someone told me its anxiety....

Lyria profile image

Lyria 7 years ago

I can vouch for the bitter apple spray...it works like a charm! My dog licks from nervousness and boredom and this stops it immediately. The smell/taste of the bitter apple will last a little while too, and hopefully breaks the cycle.

Ray Chan 6 years ago

Thanks so much. i wish i had thought about this 3 years ago

i have finally found a way to help my dog from not licking his paws. But pls he cant stop! i tried and i tried. Anybody please please help?

Philip Pickersgill 6 years ago

I have a 6 year old Boston Terrier who has a busy life now, but came from a stressful previous owner I believe it is an anxiety based problem .I am reluctant to feed him phenobarbs

TheSweetcupcake5581 6 years ago

My toy poodle/maltees lick his paws but only when he is bored like before bedtime and then stops after a minute or 2 by the way what happens if the paw gets raw .is that bad?

alexadry profile image

alexadry 6 years ago from USA Author

If its just a minute or two I do not see much harm, but to prevent problems why not get her a kong toy to be occupied for a few minutes before bedtime? if the paw gets raw it is extremely hard to heal as the dog may want to lick it all the time, so your best bet is to give something else to do. If this continues, a vet visit is in order to rule out allergies or other skin conditions. best wishes!

adjgonzos 5 years ago

my 4 year old pom has been licking and licking constantly at his paws that they are black and his hair has fallen out! he is still beautiful but I feel terrible about his licking. he will even cry while he is licking. he is on steroids from the vet and childrens benedryl which seems to help some. i have tried the epsom salt soaks too but I work full time and my mother is home with him and can't do that for him during the day. my concern is the black skin now. is there any help for that?

alexadry profile image

alexadry 5 years ago from USA Author

You really need to go at the base of this problem to solve the issue. Watch where your dog walks as some lawns us pesticides. Invest in an Elizabethan collar to minimize licking and offer a stuffed Kong to distract him from the licking. The only way to take care of the black skin is by investing in topical products to prevent infection and promote healing (ask your vet for these) and stopping the dog from licking them as this is what is causing problems in the first place. Ask a bout a hypoallergenic diet in case this is triggered by dog food.

beaglelady 5 years ago

My 10 yr old beagle starts licking her paws continuously Mid-August every year. This is due to allergies. Our Vet has said this time of year allergies are common place. So she is put on prednisone It helps to alleviate her lickin and the allergy symptoms greatly, BUT makes her thirsty, increases urgency to urinate and increases her appetite. if you are familiar with beagles, having their appetite increased is NOT good !! But 4-6 weeks of treatment is tolerable to get her to stop licking.

dino 5 years ago

my 3year old dog started liking its pawe i dint now what to do and then i hade another looke at it the next day it was vary red so i pot some sea salt in a bole and put his paw in it and let it stay thar and then i put his cone on and now it is starting to heale

debby 4 years ago

i have a pom he had his teeth cleaned he has been licking the spot on top of paw were the needle was inserted ,i have tried every thing amocacillian predasone genisis tropical spay bitter apple cocanut oil ,long ago he broke his little leg jumping and it cost five thousand dollars to fix it they say he shoulnd jump or run much, he went trew a lot the poor little thing .he is like my child very spoiled cant seem to find any thing to work for him ,we put a cone on him and he bite through it the vet badaged it he took it off ,any more i can do he has tones of toye and lots of beds ,,any thing would help ty

alexadry profile image

alexadry 4 years ago from USA Author

I had to train my dog the "leave it" command and slept at night with a flash light so to check on him, very frustrating ordeal! Did you try comfy cones? I am not sure if it would work, this hub below addresses my ordeal and has some tips, but sounds like you already tried many! Hang in there and try monitoring as much as you can.


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