Dogs lick. This is no revelation for any dedicated dog parent. Dogs lick when they love on us. Dogs lick when they bathe themselves. Dogs lick; it’s what they do. While it’s true that licking is a fairly normal behavior for all dogs, there are circumstances where licking should be worrisome.
If your dog suddenly begins paw licking or chewing his itchy paws, or if the licking and/or chewing seems to be chronic, you have cause for concern–and likely, the desire to stop the habit. It’s no wonder that “how to stop dog from licking paws” is a highly searched predicament on the Internet.
Be sure to take a look at Scout’s pick below for deterring your dog from chewing, the Grannicks Bitter Apple solution!
How can I Tell if My Dog’s Licking or Chewing is a Problem?
If you’re one of the many people who arrived here by searching for that keyword phrase, you’re likely already experiencing a problem. As dogs do paw licking so often, it can be difficult to determine whether your dog’s licking or chewing of his paws is normal or problematic. If you notice any of the signs described below, it might be time to talk to your vet about your dog’s licking or chewing.
Talk to your vet if:
- you notice your dog’s paws are stained a red or pink color. This discoloration will be more evident in dogs with lighter coats and can be a sign that the porphyrin pigments contained in your dog’s saliva are coming in contact with your dog’s feet often enough (too often!) to stain the fur. While normal licking will not be frequent enough to discolor the fur, habitual licking or chewing can be.
- your dog’s feet are swollen. This could be a sign of injury or infection, which may be caused by habitual licking or chewing. Conversely, your dog could be doing the irritating paw licking or chewing his paws in response to an injury or infection. This could be anything minor like dry skin or a skin irritation related to allergies or something more serious like a bacterial infection. Talk to your vet to determine whether the former or the latter is the case, as well as to address the issue.
- your dog’s paws smell foul. This could be a sign of an infection in an open wound.
- your dog is limping. If your dog is showing signs of discomfort, there’s a serious problem. Watch your dog’s body language.
- you notice blood or scabs on your dog’s paws. Open wounds, scabs or other signs of skin irritation could be indicative of a serious problem.
- redness or irritation is evident on your dog’s paws. Again, this could be something as simple as mild skin irritation or an allergic skin disease reaction to a food allergy.
One or any combination of the above signs and symptoms are reasons to talk to your veterinarian.
Why is My Dog Licking or Chewing his Paws?
There are many reasons dogs develop the habit of paw licking or chew their paws. Sometimes, you may notice the licking or chewing start suddenly. Fido is placidly lying on the couch and then, without warning or provocation, whips his head up and begins paw licking or gnawing on his paws, a behavior you have rarely noticed in him before–but that seems to be becoming more frequent. Or perhaps you’re out for a walk and Rufus suddenly sits down and starts chewing his toes. If your dog suddenly starts licking his paws or has recently begin licking them more often than before, there are several potential causes.
Sudden Licking and Chewing
If you are out for a stroll with Sadie when she suddenly starts licking or chewing her paws, there are several possible reasons to rule out. She may have:
- Stepped on something that injured her paw, such as a nail or tack that could cause a puncture wound. Any foreign bodies will need to be removed to prevent infection or further injury.
- An allergic reaction. A dog licking its paws can be a sign of an allergic reaction. This is a common occurrence if you start a new dog food that your pooch isn’t responding well to. Be sure to consult your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet.
- Made a misstep and strained, sprained, or fractured her feet, leg, ankle, etc.
- Burned her paw pads that’s why she’s getting to the habit of paw licking.
- Developed corn on her paw pads.
- Foreign bodies stuck between her toes, such as a stone or a tick.
- A burr in her paw pads.
Other potential reasons for the sudden onset of paw licking or chewing include:
- A cyst
- A tumor or cancer
- Flea bites
Chronic Licking and Chewing
If your dog has developed a seeming habit of licking or chewing over an extended period of time, there are many reasons–some physical, some behavioral, some endemic to his personality–that could be the cause.
As with sudden chewing, skin irritation or food allergies could be the culprit for chronic chewing or paw licking. Dry skin is another condition that commonly causes dogs to lick or chew their paws.
Some other reasons for chronic chewing include:
- Your dog simply enjoys it.
- Your dog has formed a habit.
- Your dog is suffering from some form of obsession.
- Your dog is battling boredom.
- Your dog is anxious. This could be caused by an event or separation anxiety, which a lot of dogs experience.
In many of the above cases, you can compare Rover’s paw licking or chewing to biting your own fingernails when you feel nervous or are experiencing boredom, or simply without even realizing it.
Why Should I Stop this Behavior?
Even if your dog simply enjoys licking and chewing his paws, and there are no insidious reasons for him to be doing so, you still might want to consider stopping the habit. Your dog licking his paws excessively and chewing his paws can lead to your dog suffering from skin irritation, pain, inflammation, open wounds, hot spots, yeast, or bacterial infection. While it might not be a problem now, stopping habitual licking and chewing before it becomes an issue is wise pet parenting.
How can I Stop this behavior?
Identifying the underlying cause of the licking can help you determine how best to curb it. For example, if your dog is suffering from a yeast infection between his toes, an anti-fungal medication might be the cure. If your dog has a bacterial infection, antibiotics would be the antidote. In the case of skin conditions, a prescription shampoo might be the route you take. If inflammation is a problem, short-term steroids can help. A special diet of prescription food can help solve the problem if the cause is a food allergy.
In the case that Fido merely enjoys chewing his toes, topical sprays such as bitter apple might deter him from his digits. If that fails, make sure you try a cone or collar that prevents him from chewing his toes. If you find he is experiencing boredom or separation anxiety, a fix as easy as taking him for more frequent or longer walks, teaching him to play with toys instead of chewing his feet, or purchasing stimulating play and training materials can all help.
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Natural Solutions You Can Try Now
If you’re trying to offer some relief while you wait for your Grannick’s Bitter Apple Solution to arrive, there are a few things you can try.
- Flea treatment – if you’ve determined that your dog has fleas, use a flea treatment to get rid of them as soon as possible. If fleas are the main cause of your dog’s skin irritation, getting rid of them should correct the issue quickly.
- Apple cider vinegar – you can probably guess the ingredients in Grannick’s. For a DIY approach, consider using apple cider vinegar to deter your dog from chewing or paw licking. Warning: do not try this if they have open wounds as it will hurt!
- Baking soda bath – bathe your dog’s feet in warm water and baking soda to help soothe their feet. A period of time spent with their paws soaking in a mixture of warm water and baking soda will help curb itching and discomfort, which will positively affect your dog’s behavior.
- Coconut oil – rubbing coconut oil on your dog’s poor paws will help soothe them while applying antifungal and antibacterial elements. Not only will this have a positive impact when curbing their itching, but it’s a natural helper in combating a yeast infection or bacterial infection (though you’ll still want to use your vet-recommended medication to be safe!)
- Look at your dog food – evaluate your dog’s diet and consider the fact that they might be suffering from food allergies. You’ll want to look for a high-quality dog food that is free of allergens and has plenty of fatty acids, as it has many benefits for dry skin. Talk to your veterinarian about changing your dog’s diet in a subtle, safe way.
We hope this post helped answer your questions about stopping your dog from paw licking or chewing its paws!