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Why Do Dogs Lick and Chew Their Paws?

So your dog is chewing and licking their paws more than usual, even when you try to distract them by calling their name or offering their favorite toy. Why is this happening?

Dr. Valentina Henao, a veterinarian and medical director, explains that a dog licking and chewing their paws could be doing so for many reasons, ranging from common issues like fleas or allergies to paw injuries.

Below, Dr. Henao helps us explore the most common causes and potential treatments for paw licking and chewing.

5 Reasons Your Dog Is Licking Their Paws

Dogs licking their paws is a fairly common behavior. Most often, it’s usually nothing to worry about. Dogs lick their paws as a means of exploration, self-soothing, or simply to clean off muck left over from their afternoon walk.

But if your dog is licking and chewing their paws excessively (they don’t stop when you call them or try to distract them with toys, food, or a walk), to the point where they're causing themselves harm, then it’s time for a closer look at what might be going on.

Here are some of the most common reasons dogs excessively lick and chew at their paws:

  1. Injuries or General Pain While occasional paw licking is normal, aggressive licking or chewing could indicate pain or injury. Signs of pain like limping, avoiding stairs, or decreased activity might also be present if your pet is experiencing pain from: If you think your dog may have been stung, look for an embedded stinger. If you find a cut or suspect pain from other causes, reach out to your vet for diagnosis and treatment.

  • Stings

  • Cuts

  • Ingrown or broken nails

  • Dry, cracked paw pads

  • Fractures

  • Paw pad burns from hot surfaces or winter chemicals

  1. Fleas and Ticks Fleas and ticks are common parasites that can make dogs itch, lick, and bite themselves. These pests can live just about anywhere dogs frequent, including bedding, carpets, toys, soil, tall grasses, and wooded areas. The simplest way to check if your dog has fleas or ticks is by physically looking them over. Signs of fleas include small moving bugs on your dog’s skin and the black spots (flea dirt) they leave behind. Ticks most commonly burrow between the toes, under the legs, and behind the ears. If you find a tick, carefully remove it with tweezers by grabbing the base as close to your dog's skin as possible. Ensure when you remove a tick that the entire tick is removed, including the mouthparts. A tick can cause a serious skin infection if any parts of it are left behind, embedded in the skin. Fortunately, parasites such as fleas and ticks can easily be prevented and treated with flea and tick preventative medication. Talk to your veterinarian about the options available.

  2. Allergies Allergies can cause a reaction almost anywhere on the body, including infections of the skin and paws, hot spots, and ear infections. Identifying the allergen can be challenging because they can originate from: If your dog has any bothersome infections related to their allergies, they may need topical and oral medications and a recovery cone to keep them from licking and worsening the affected area. To address the underlying allergies, vets typically take a comprehensive approach, including allergy medications, injections, special diets, topical medications, and/or medicated shampoos.

  • Food: Culprits may include proteins like chicken, meat, pork, and eggs.

  • Seasonal factors: Triggers like grass and pollen can cause flare-ups.

  • Environment: Laundry detergents or other household products might be problematic.

  • Fleas: The itchiness of fleas is caused by an allergic reaction.

  1. Arthritis Arthritis is a common condition in older dogs. It can affect not just large joints like hips and legs, but also the toes. This progressive disease occurs when joint cartilage breaks down, leading to pain, inflammation, and difficulty using the affected paws or limbs. Fortunately, there are several ways to help provide relief and improve your dog's mobility:

  • Environmental modifications: Make navigating your home easier for your dog by placing rugs on slippery floors, blocking access to stairs, and providing orthopedic beds.

  • Veterinarian-approved dietary adjustments: Ask your veterinarian whether supplements like glucosamine or a joint-healthy diet could be beneficial.

  • Weight management: Keeping your dog lean and not overweight helps to put less stress on their joints, which can help the arthritic process by easing the pressure and pain on affected joints.

  • Exercise or physical therapy: Low-impact exercise and keeping the joints moving can help to decrease the pain felt by a dog with arthritic joints.

  • Anti-inflammatory and pain medications (as needed): Depending on the severity of your dog’s arthritis, your vet may recommend medication to help manage the pain.

  1. Behavior Issues “Just like people, pets can have behavioral and mental health problems that require support from their veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist,” Henao says. In some cases, even after addressing underlying medical conditions like infections or allergies, a dog might lick and chew their paws due to:

  • Habit

  • Boredom

  • Stress or anxiety

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Working With Your Veterinarian To Treat the Issue

Paw licking isn't usually considered an emergency, but Henao recommends seeing a vet as soon as possible if your dog experiences:

  • Bleeding from their paws

  • Swollen paws

  • Limping

  • Pus or other discharge, indicating infection

  • Whimpering, wincing, or crying out when touched

It's important to work with your veterinarian to figure out why your dog is licking their paws so the cause can be addressed quickly. Dr. Henao warns that if the cause isn't treated, the licking can become a bigger problem.

“Paw licking can lead to bacterial infections of the paws called pododermatitis,” she says. “This condition can be painful and lead to infections that can be hard to treat.” Catching the issue early on can lead to a simpler solution.

For more information and to schedule a visit, visit

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