Many dog parents lie awake at night listening to the sound of dogs licking feet. Some dogs just love to lick themselves all the time, but their feet and paw pads often get the most attention. While a small lick now and then isn’t a big problem, licking frequently could be a concern. Not only can it be a bit unsettling to listen to, but it could also be a sign that something is wrong with your dog either medically or behaviorally.
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Feet?
There are a number of reasons as to why dogs lick their feet. It’s important to note that occasional feet licking is normal, but if the amount of licking becomes excessive, there might be a problem. Also, if your dog is only licking one specific foot, then you might want to take a closer look at that specific area.
Injuries or Heath Problems
If your dog seems to be licking too much, it could be a sign that they’re in pain. If the licking is focused on one specific paw, it’s possible that they could have a cut or torn nail on their foot. If they are nibbling at their foot too, there could be something stuck on their paw such as a thorn or bur.
A dog licking their feet could also be a sign of a skin condition. If your dog’s skin is irritated due to bacteria or allergies, they will likely lick it more frequently. These allergic reactions could be caused by an infection they got while being outside. However, it could also mean they’re allergic to an ingredient in their food. Their paw could also become extremely irritated due to a parasite infection such as fleas or mange. These are more extreme reasons, and if you give them regular flea treatments, you should be able to prevent it.
Another thing that could be causing your dog pain is arthritis. Any condition that causes your dog’s leg or foot to feel sore could result in them licking more. These are conditions that you won’t necessarily see, but your dog’s actions should reflect that something isn’t right. When in doubt, consult your vet if your dog seems to be licking too often.
If there doesn’t seem to be anything physically wrong with your dog, then the licking could be a sign of a behavioral problem instead. A lot of the time, your dog might simply lick their paws out of boredom. For example, if you’re about to go to bed, but your dog isn’t tired yet, they might just lick themselves to pass the time.
However, stress and anxiety could also cause your dog to lick more often. If something is worrying them, such as a loud sound or an unfamiliar place, you might notice them licking more often. Licking for behavioral reasons might not seem like a big problem, but if they do it too often, it could turn into a bad habit. So, try to find the root of the problem before the issues worsen.
What Should You Do if Your Dog Licks Too Much?
If your dog’s feet licking habits get out of control, you can’t just ignore the problem. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to fix this issue. If you know what the cause is, that’s the best place to start. However, if you’re unsure what’s causing it, pay close attention to your dog’s behaviors to better understand if something more serious is bothering them.
Examine Their Feet
First, you should always make sure there are no injuries on your dog’s feet. Inspect each foot closely, keeping an eye out for cuts, scratches, sores, and growths. Also, be on the lookout for items that could be stuck in your dog’s hair or paw pads. If your dog is licking one foot in particular, focus on that specific paw as much as you can.
If anything seems abnormal on your dog’s feet, that’s likely the root of the problem. Most minor injuries like these can easily be fixed with a first aid treatment. However, if you have no idea how to heal their wound, you should contact your vet for a better treatment option.
Find Ways to Keep Them Entertained
If you suspect that your pup is licking their feet out of boredom, then you need to find a way to keep them occupied. Dog parents often have busy schedules, so they don’t always think about their dog’s entertainment needs. Some dogs are just fine lounging around throughout the day, but most dogs need more attention. Taking them for frequent walks and playing with them more can prevent them from feeling bored. Also, if they try to lick their paws, you can give them a puzzle toy, such as a bone filled with peanut butter, to keep their mind busy instead.
Some of these methods could work for anxious dogs too, but not always. If you think your dog might be licking themselves because of fear or stress, then you should try your best to eliminate the thing that’s stressing them out. For example, if you stay at someone else’s house, your dog might be nervous, so you should bring something along to remind them of home. Even if it’s just a blanket, bed, or toy, your dog might feel more comfortable. However, if it’s a factor that you can’t avoid, such as nearby fireworks, just make sure you’re there to comfort your dog as needed.
Try Changing Their Diet
Sometimes, a poor diet can result in irritation, allergic reactions, or even yeast infections. Therefore, if your dog has been licking consistently for a long time, it’s possible that their diet is causing them discomfort. Many popular kibble brands are incredibly unhealthy for dogs. They often have very few protein sources and too many carbohydrates and fillers with no real benefits for your dog. So, consider the food you currently give them and look at the ingredient list closely.
Oftentimes, switching your dog to a fresh diet is much healthier for them. This is because fresh food usually contains higher quality ingredients and nothing that your dog doesn’t need. Fewer ingredients also means that it’s less likely that your dog will have an allergic reaction.
Consult a Professional
If nothing else seems to stop your dog from licking their feet, it’s time to contact a professional. Vets can help you find out if there’s a medical concern linked to the constant licking, and if so, they can inform you about proper treatments. However, if your vet doesn’t find any health problems with your dog, it’s probably more of a behavioral issue. If that’s the case, a dog trainer or behaviorist will have better luck finding the root of the problem.
So, if you notice your dog licking their feet every once in a while, there’s no reason to be alarmed. However, constant paw licking should be addressed as soon as possible. Small behavioral problems might not seem like a huge problem at first, but they could eventually worsen as time goes on. Therefore, it’s important to take any unusual behaviors with your dog seriously.