Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws? 7 Common Causes

Shar-pei puppy dog licking his paw

Dogs with itchy, red, or scabby skin may lick their paws. When dogs lick or chew their feet compulsively, it is time to schedule a vet appointment. Skin issues, fleas, or food sensitivities typically cause some form of inflammation, and it is maddening for pets.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

Skin problems and allergies are the most significant reasons. In terrible cases, your dog may need to wear the recovery cone of shame. The most common causes of skin inflammation are fleas, atopic dermatitis, and food allergies. These conditions may require conventional medical treatment and are all reasons for concern. Pet lovers need to talk with a vet and create a plan to redirect their best friend to another safe activity.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Dogs with a flea allergy are itchy, and their paws may look red with scabby skin. Some dogs have terrible reactions to only one bite and need medication from a vet.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopy dermatitis is also known as environmental allergies. These include grasses, pollen, and dust mites. A vet needs to diagnose which allergen is the source of the problem with diagnostics.

External Parasites

The most common parasite that causes your dog to lick his paws is either demodectic manage or sarcoptic mange. Mange is painful and requires a skin scrape to diagnose the type of mite. Your dog's paws may look patchy, red, and swollen.


Fungal diseases can cause your dog to lick his paws. The red, hairless patches on your dog's entire body, including the feet, may potentially be ringworm. This condition needs to be diagnosed by a vet. A medicated bath is the typical treatment.

Food Sensitivities

Dogs with any food sensitivity or nutritional deficiency have inflammation and itchy feet. These dogs almost always have gastrointestinal issues and must complete a diet trial under a vet's guidance.

Stress or Anxiety

Stress, anxiety, and boredom are all reasons a dog may compulsively lick their paws. Separation anxiety in dogs is common when their pet parents leave for an extended period. A vet or vet behaviorist help with a treatment plan and prescribe medication to stop this behavior. Puzzle toys that pet lovers fill with food help distract dogs from inuring their paw pads, but a vet needs to be involved if the condition is serious.


A dog with a foreign object, blade of grass, or object stuck between their toes will obsessively lick their paws. Always check your dog's paw pads after a hike or walk on the beach. A vet can remove the object and determine if there is an infection.

Dog licking his paw on cement floor

Common Symptoms

When your dog continuously licks his paws, the symptoms only get worse. Many of these are similar for all of the above allergy and skin conditions. Diagnostics will need to be done by your vet to get to the root of the problem. Your dog's paws may be warm when you touch them.

  • Mild redness and inflammation
  • Loss of hair
  • Staining or a dark pigmentation near the paw pads
  • Itchiness
  • Swollen and warm

Herbal Therapy May Be an Option

There are endless herbs and supplements to help dogs with skin allergies and related health issues. Many of these target inflammation in the body. Always work with an integrative vet on which herbs are appropriate.

  • Omega fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Nettles help with itchiness.
  • Dandelion flushes toxins and allergens from the body.
  • Cannabis or CBD oil helps with chronic pain.

Compulsive Paw Licking Is the Symptom of A Larger Problem

When your dog is constantly licking his paws and causing brown staining and irritation, it is time to see the vet. Even when the reason is stress, anxiety, or boredom, a treatment plan needs to be in place to help your best friend. You can always use a recovery cone to prevent your dog from licking, but puzzle toys are an excellent distraction from the itchiness caused by allergies.

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Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws? 7 Common Causes