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Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws? 6 Reasons + How to Reduce It | Pupford

January 31st, 2024

Filed under Health + Wellness

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It seems like our dogs are always up to something either endearing, bizarre, or just plain intriguing. After all, sometimes we just don’t know why dogs do the things they do.

But sometimes, we do know! That’s the case with your dog licking their paws, which is something almost all dog parents have witnessed at one point or another.

And while occasional paw-licking is completely normal, when it becomes regular you might need to look into it a bit more to figure out the cause -- which lets you find the solution too.

Here are 6 main reasons your dog might be licking their paws:

  1. An injury
  2. Dermatitis
  3. Parasite infections
  4. Food allergies
  5. Pain
  6. Stress, anxiety or behavior-based

Let's dive into the main reasons dogs lick their paws. ⤵️


dog licking hurt paw | Pupford


If paw licking comes on very suddenly, it could be a sign of injury. This is most often the case when your dog only licks at one paw, or even one spot on the paw.

If there’s an injury, your dog is probably licking in an attempt to keep the wound clean or to dislodge anything that may be causing pain.

If you suspect a paw injury, take a close look for a cut, broken nail, thorn, bite, or something stuck between their paw pads. If you see any of those, give your vet a call for the best course of treatment.

For additional help when it comes to dog first aid, this course offers information about Preventative tips and medicine, DIY & at-home remedies for common ailments including paw care and CPR, Emergencies and how to handle them as a pup parent, and more.

Related Reading: Why Do Dog Paws Smell Like Fritos/Corn Chips?


Dermatitis is a skin condition most commonly caused by allergies or bacteria. If there is no apparent injury but there’s some irritation, it could be dermatitis.

If this happens to your dog, think about any products used on your yard or sidewalk, or if your dog walked on any new surfaces and encountered new plants -- they may be having an allergic reaction that caused dermatitis.

If that’s the case, clean your dog’s paws with warm water and a towel, keeping an eye on the irritation. To prevent it from happening again, be sure to thoroughly clean your dog’s paws when they come in from walks or trips outside.


Parasites like fleas can make themselves at home on your dog’s paws and in between their pads. They make your dog’s skin super itchy, but since dogs can’t really scratch their own paws that well, they’ll lick for relief.

While only your vet can provide treatment for parasites like fleas, it’s typically a pretty quick and easy treatment process. Be sure to look into preventive treatment options too, to keep fleas away from your fur baby for good!

🐶 Keep your dog's paws healthy, moisturized, and proteced with Butter Up Paw Balm. Shop here! 🐶


While food allergies are not uncommon in dogs, they’re a little harder to pinpoint. But one of the known signs of food allergies in dogs is itchy paws.

If you can’t figure out on your own why your dog is licking at their paws so much, take a picture of their food and treats label and bring it to your vet. They may recommend a specific diet or try to eliminate certain ingredients in your dog’s food to figure out the trigger.

a small dog licking their paw because of allergies | Pupford


We never like to see our dogs in pain. But unfortunately, excessive paw licking can be an indication that something is hurting your dog.

Arthritis, joint or muscle injury, or other leg and foot conditions may cause your dog to lick their paws. Some dogs will even try to lick their paws when the pain is present in other places in their body.

That’s why paw licking shouldn’t be ignored -- it could be a sign of a serious condition. Your vet can do a full head-to-toe exam to help uncover the cause of the pain and officially diagnose your pup.

Related Reading: Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?


Similar to behaviors like barking, destructive chewing, or digging, paw licking can be a behavior dogs use to cope with stress or anxiety. If it happens in conjunction with other compulsive behaviors or only in a certain situation (when home alone, when bored, etc.) then stress is likely to blame.

Combat this by giving your dog plenty of engagement and exercise when you’re able to, as well as enrichment toys and engaging dog chews when you are not able to be with them.


dog laying on grass showing paw | Pupford

While a dog or puppy licking their paws once in a while is normal and nothing to be worried about, if it happens consistently there may be cause for concern. There are two main reasons why:

  1. Repeated licking can further irritate the skin or even cause breaks and tears. Open wounds can easily get infected, especially on the paws since they are exposed to so many different surfaces.
  2. As you can see from the reasons above, dogs licking their paws is often a sign of an underlying issue. If those go untreated, it could cause your dog serious discomfort, pain, or even health issues down the road.

That’s why it’s so important to stop the licking and work with your vet or a certified dog trainer (depending on the situation) to permanently resolve the issue.

🐶 Keep your dog's paws healthy, moisturized, and proteced with Butter Up Paw Balm. Shop here! 🐶


dog shaking | Pupford

The most important thing dog parents can do in this situation is get to the root cause of their dog’s paw licking. Your first course of action would be to assess for any acute injury, bite, sting, or parasite.

If you are not able to identify the cause, or it looks serious, the next step would be to contact your vet. They may offer guidance over the phone or ask to see your dog for an evaluation.

If the issue is determined to be behavioral and adding enrichment activities does not improve the situation, work with a certified dog trainer to learn additional ways to improve the behavior.

While the issue is being investigated, it’s also important to soothe your dog’s itchy paws and protect them from future irritation.

A dog paw balm like Butter Up can moisturize skin, protect from hot spots/other skin issues, and soothe itches and irritation. With natural ingredients like babassu, sunflower, mango butter, and beeswax, Butter Up can instantly leave your dog’s paws soft, smooth, and pain-free.

It even works on dry noses and hot spots too!

Learn more about Butter Up Paw Balm here.


While some paw licking can be normal, any excessive or frequent paw licking should be addressed. If paw licking becomes a concern you should consult your vet to rule out any serious health issues.

Again, here's a recap of the main reasons dogs lick their paws:

  1. An injury
  2. Dermatitis
  3. Parasite infections
  4. Food allergies
  5. Pain
  6. Stress, anxiety or behavior-based

Be sure to rule out any cuts, thorns, or other similar issues with their paws. And again, if it continues to happen be sure to consult your vet.

One key to making sure your dog's paws are in tip-top shape is to use a paw balm on a frequent basis. Shop our all-natural paw balm Butter Up here!

Have other questions about paw licking? Let us know in the comments!

Also, learn about why dogs lick people here.

🐶 Keep your dog's paws healthy, moisturized, and proteced with Butter Up Paw Balm. Shop here! 🐶


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