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Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

Dog paws and caption of why do dogs lick their paws
Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal is the founder and lead veterinarian for Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic. Coufal graduated from State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in May of 2000.

As pet owners are spending more time working from home, it is much easier to observe the daily habits that their dogs partake in. Throughout their daily lives, dogs lick their paws on occasion which is a very normal thing to do. However, if you have noticed that your dog is licking his paws excessively, then that may be cause for concern. Increased frequency of paw licking can be a sign of allergies, physical irritants, emotional distress, placement of painful foreign objects under the skin, and more. At Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic, we want to educate our neighbors throughout Colorado Springs about how to tell the difference between when paw licking is common and when it is cause for concern.

Dog Grooming

Dogs often lick their paws after meals, playtime, and from the transition between outside and your home. This self-grooming technique is often passive and infrequent. It is typically not aggressive and does not cause emotional distress to your dog. If licking between meals becomes frustrating to your dog, then it may be a sign that the food is causing an allergic reaction.

Abnormal Growth

Deep-rooted health issues such as abnormal growths may occur within your pet’s paw. Tumors, cysts, arthritis, or injury can all severely impact your dog’s well being and equate to licking as an attempt to soothe the paw. With regard to negative impact to your dog’s soft tissue or bones of the paw, it is important to reach out to your veterinarian to schedule digital x-rays in order to determine if there are medical concerns that your dog is dealing with that cannot be seen by the naked eye.

Pet Injury or Foreign Object

Sudden paw licking can occur when there is something irritating your dog’s paw. When your dog experiences discomfort through stepping on sharp objects or hot surfaces then his reaction may be to care for his paw through licking. When your dog enjoys time outdoors but the time results in excessive licking and visible frustration then it may be a splinter, grass, bug bite or sting, or other outdoor irritant that he needs help recovering from. A good way to note if a forgeign object is embedded into your pet’s paw is by noting if one paw is being favored more than the other. If you believe that your dog has a foreign object that cannot be removed with the naked eye, please don’t hesitate to contact your local vet.


In the same way that humans react to allergies and irritants by scratching the affected area, dogs lick their paws for allergy relief. Food allergies tend to cause itchy paw pads and environmental allergens are triggered through grass, weeds, plants and pollens. In the summer months, it is vital to ensure that any chemicals that are sprayed on your lawn and around your home are pet friendly so irritation can be avoided.


Bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections are all responsible for excessive paw licking. Bacterial and fungal infections typically occur as a response to allergic reactions and the cycle worsens as a dog’s paws stay damp due to constant licking. Parasitic infections occur when fleas, ticks, and other insects infest your dog’s paws. Excessive paw licking is a natural response to irritants, but it needs to be addressed accordingly.

Behavioral Concerns

If another health concern cannot be identified by the help of your trusted veterinarian, then the excessive paw licking may be due to boredom, stress, fear or anxiety. In a similar manner to human ticks, such as teeth biting and fidgeting, dogs lick their paws as a way to calm their nerves. There are various ways to treat this habit including distraction and traditional behavior modification techniques.

Locate The Source of Concern For Dogs Licking Their Paws | Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic 

No one knows your dog better than you do, so if a habit of theirs is raising red flags in your mind then take it seriously. Excessive paw licking could be something as simple as boredom, but it could be as concerning as an underlying tumor. Through wellness exams and digital x-rays, there are ways to prevent these concerns. If a sudden onset of paw pad licking occurs, then contact our team of veterinary experts at Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic today to schedule an appointment and locate the source of concern together.

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