Is there more to licking paws?

I am speaking of dogs!

Speaking for myself I haven’t ever given any notice to a dog licking its paws. Jeannie, however, would spot if a dog was over-licking, (you know what I mean), and would find out the cause.

This comes to the fore because The Dodo published a post in May, 2020, that I reckoned was worth republishing.

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Why Does My Dog Always Lick Her Paws?

Here’s how to tell when it’s a problem.

By DANIELLE ESPOSITO , Published on May 5th, 2020

You’ve seen your dog do it a thousand times — that cute paw licking that can quickly turn to “Hey! Stop that!” once it becomes a total obsession.

In general, paw licking is normal behavior for many dogs. They do it after they eat; they do it after they’ve been playing outside; they even sometimes do it before taking a nap. While all these are expected, you should start to take it more seriously if you’re noticing a sudden increase in licking, raw or irritated spots between their toes, or even loss of fur.

When it crosses the line between normal grooming and excessive paw licking, it’s probably time to try to figure out the root of the problem — so we chatted with one of our favorite veterinarians to get some expert advice.

Allergies

“There are a number of reasons why dogs lick their paws, but one of the most common reasons is allergies,” Dr. Alex Blutinger, a veterinarian from BluePearl Pet Hospital in New York City, told The Dodo.

“This behavior can be caused by environmental allergies, food allergies and even fleas or ticks,” he said. 

Dr. Blutinger said many everyday substances can also cause an allergic reaction, including things like pollen, grass that’s been treated with insecticide, certain plastics or rubber materials on food bowls, and even certain medications or shampoos.

“There are other caustic chemicals that dogs encounter in their environment,” he said, “[like] deicing salts to melt ice.”

This means that if you’ve noticed your dog is licking her paws more than usual, she’s likely experiencing allergies. If that’s what you suspect, it’s a good idea to chat with your vet about how to help her feel better.

Trauma to the Paws

Aside from allergies, excessive paw licking — which includes paw chewing — can also be caused by various types of injuries.

According to Dr. Blutinger, some of these types of trauma can include burns from walking on hot surfaces like cement or blacktop, splinters, broken nails, injured bones or ligaments, or even insect bites.

It’s a good idea to inspect your dog’s paws to see if you can find any physical trauma, and consult your vet if you think it’s something that may need extra attention.

Gastrointestinal Issues

“Interestingly, dogs that have gastrointestinal disorders (like pancreatitis) have also been shown to lick their paws,” Dr. Blutinger said.

He added that certain hormonal imbalances like hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease can also cause dogs to lick their paws — which means a trip to the vet is definitely in order to sort out your pup’s health!

Anxiety

Finally, sensitive dogs can also display anxiety by licking their paws, in the same way some people bite their nails as a sign of nervousness. If you think this is the case, it might be a good idea to figure out why your dog is feeling anxious and find ways to help her feel better.

So while paw licking is generally normal for most dogs, if you worry it’s becoming obsessive, and you can’t figure out an obvious cause, it’s a good idea to check with your vet to make sure your dog doesn’t need extra care.

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I call that very sound advice.

Out of interest have any readers of this post had a case of excessive licking with their dogs?

6 thoughts on “Is there more to licking paws?

  1. My lab Mel would do that when her allergies would flare up. However, one time she actually alerted me to a thorn stuck in her webbing.

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  2. I like (Ed: should have typed licked.) my paws more often when I have been out in the snow. Most of the roads are gritted and all the sand/salt gets in between my toes. Usually I get my paws wiped with a cleansing wipe as the substances used to de-ice are actually quite bad for us. I also lick my paws if I have been through fields a great deal. Obviously we stick to the paths and not go through the crops but if the farmer has been spraying stuff, this could affect me.

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    1. Having now read your full response it strikes me that dog have a lot more to think about regarding their feet than we humans do. Mind you, if we didn’t have shoes if would be a different matter!

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