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Is your dog constantly licking his paws? Many dogs suffer from itchy paws, and it can be frustrating for owners to watch their pet chew and lick their feet in an effort to enjoy some relief.
There are a variety of different reasons dogs can suffer from itchy paws, but these problems are often relatively easy to fix – you just need to identify the cause of excessive paw licking and treat it accordingly.
We’ll try to help you do exactly that below, as we discuss the most common causes of itchy paws and some of the most effective paw licking remedies.
To start addressing your pet’s problematic paw licking or chewing, you must begin by determining why his paws are itching in the first place. The following reasons are among the most common:
Food allergies are relatively common in dogs. But unlike humans, who often suffer hives or swollen mucous membranes after eating an allergic trigger, dogs usually experience moderate skin itchiness after eating something they’re allergic to.
Usually, food allergies will cause whole-body itchiness, but sometimes the problem is limited to the paws. Some of the most common ingredients that cause allergic reactions in dogs include:
Just like pollen, dander, smoke, and dust can trigger allergies in humans, they can also cause problems for your pet. But instead of causing a runny nose and itchy eyes, these types of allergies typically manifest in dogs as itchy skin.
This itchiness can occur anywhere, including your dog’s paws. This is especially likely if your dog’s paws are the part of his body that has the most contact with the allergen. For example, if your dog is allergic to grass, his paws are likely to bear the brunt of the allergy.
Fleas (and, to a lesser extent other biting bugs, such as lice and mites) can frequently cause severe itchiness.
In fact, some dogs develop an allergy to flea bites, which can cause lots of redness and swelling too. Flea bites aren’t particularly likely to be clustered around your dog’s paws, but it is possible.
A variety of bacterial infections can afflict your dog’s paws. Different types of infections can cause different symptoms, but many will primarily manifest as itchiness, redness, and swelling.
Some bacterial infections may have the potential to spread from your dog’s paws to other parts of his body, so it is important to treat them aggressively.
Bacteria aren’t the only microorganisms that can cause your dog’s paws to be itchy. A variety of fungi can also cause your dog’s paws to become itchy and irritated.
Be sure to check out our article about yeast infections in dog paws, if you suspect your dog is suffering from a fungal infection (yeasts are a type of fungus).
Dry skin is usually considered more of a minor nuisance than a medical problem, but it can make your dog uncomfortable and itchy.
And because your dog’s paws are frequently exposed to changing temperatures and moisture levels, they can become extremely dry in a short period of time. Your dog’s diet can also contribute to dry skin problems, as can some nutritional deficiencies.
Nervous dogs who suffer from high levels of anxiety may begin licking or chewing on their paws to help relieve their stress. And while it is nice to know your dog isn’t licking his paws because of a health problem, behavioral issues can be very challenging to treat.
Owners often forget that their dog walks around barefoot, and this can cause them to suffer a number of minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises. Dogs usually exhibit the same behavior when they’re in pain as they do when they itch: They lick the afflicted area.
If you believe that your dog may have injured his paw, you’ll need to inspect the area thoroughly. Be sure to check the areas between your dog’s digits (toes) as well as the entire pad on the bottom of his paw.
Note that splinters and thorns can be difficult to see, so you may want to gently feel the area with your finger.
Related: 10 Important Dog Paw Protection Tips
Now that you understand some of the primary causes of itchy paws, you can start trying to determine the best remedy for excessive paw licking.
The first treatment you employ may not provide success, so prepare yourself to try several different remedies until you stumble upon one that works.
The best way to address problems with food allergies is to work with your vet to put your dog on an elimination-challenge diet. This involves feeding your dog a very simple diet for several weeks (typically something like brown rice and boiled chicken), or until his symptoms abate.
Then, you’ll need to add different ingredients back to your dog’s diet, one at a time. Once your dog starts exhibiting symptoms again, you’ll have identified his trigger.
However, this requires a lot of time and effort, so many owners prefer to simply switch foods and see if that helps. If you take this approach, it is wise to select a limited-ingredient formula, as these typically lack common allergens like chicken, wheat, and soy.
Be sure to read our hypoallergenic dog food guide if you decide to go this route. We’ve put together five of the best options that are unlikely to trigger your dog’s food allergies.
As long as your dog’s shampoo is a high-quality product designed specifically for canines, it is unlikely to cause your dog’s itchy paws. However, you may be able to switch it out for another product, which will help alleviate the itchiness.
Additionally, many shampoos are designed to specifically address itchy skin. Such dog shampoos for itchy skin usually have oatmeal or other natural, skin-nourishing ingredients to help achieve the best results possible.
Just be sure that you don’t bathe your dog too frequently (no more than once per week), as this can actually cause dry skin and irritation.
Pro Pet Works Natural Oatmeal Shampoo is a fantastic example. It is made from all-natural ingredients and specifically formulated to help ease your dog’s itchy skin.
Whether or not your dog’s excessive paw chewing is the result of a flea infestation, all dogs should be regularly treated with a preventative flea medication.
After all, fleas are not only irritating, they can also be a source of tapeworms, so you owe it to your dog to prevent these biting bugs from infesting his coat.
We have written extensively about the best flea treatments for dogs, so be sure to check out our comprehensive guide on the subject before you start shopping.
If your dog is chewing his paws because he is anxious, bored or frustrated, instead of a medical condition, you can try spraying his paws with a chewing deterrent that is safe for his skin.
Grannick’s Bitter Apple Spray is a good choice, that is not only non-toxic and safe, but effective.
Again, this is not a suitable solution for dogs who have a bona fide medical problem, such as a yeast infection or flea allergy, so only use a chewing deterrent if you have ruled out these types of health problems.
Often, the best way to get a frustrated or bored dog to stop chewing on his paws is to give him something better to chew. Chew toys will not only give him a more suitable place to focus his chewing behaviors, but it’ll also help prevent him from damaging his paws (which may lead to bacterial or fungal infections).
But you can’t just throw your dog any old chew toy – you’ll need to give him one that is safe and durable enough to last. We’ve written about exactly these types of chew toys in our Guide to Indestructible Chew Toys article, so be sure to give that a read before you decide on a toy for your pet.
If your dog can’t access his paws, he can’t very well chew on them, so some owners have had success by fitting their pet with slip-on boots or socks. Just make sure that your dog’s chewing is a behavioral issue before you do so – you don’t want to prevent him from scratching his paws if they are truly itchy.
Additionally, you’ll want to be sure that you select a good pair of dog boots, that will stay put. Otherwise, he’ll just rip them off and resume his paw-chewing ways.
The My Busy Dog Water Resistant Shoes are a great choice, as they not only feature a non-skid sole to ensure your dog’s footing, but they also come with Velcro straps to keep them secure.
Note that booties may also help eliminate environmental allergies, as they’ll form a physical boundary between your dog’s skin and the grass or pollen that is bothering him. They’ll also offer some protection from further irritation or injury.
There are a number of ways to help treat your dog’s anxiety if that is what is leading to his paw-chewing behaviors. As with all of the other treatments discussed here, you may need to employ a bit of trial and error until you find one that is successful.
For starters, make sure that you are providing your dog with enough exercise. Exercise will not only help elevate your dog’s mood through the release of endorphins, but it’ll also wear him out. And as the saying goes, “a tired dog is a happy dog.”
It may also be helpful to provide your dog with a snug and secure crate. This will provide him with a safe place into which he can retreat when he is feeling stressed or anxious.
Related: 8 Anxiety Remedies for Dogs
Wounds may not only cause your pet’s paws to itch (thereby triggering licking behaviors), they can also become infected, which will make the problem much worse. Visit your vet if the wound is severe, bleeding heavily or shows signs of infection, but you can tend to minor wounds yourself.
Start by washing the wound with warm water and soap, and then pat the area dry gently. You can also apply a little bit of a triple antibiotic ointment to the wound if your dog won’t lick it off, but if he can’t be trusted to keep his mouth off of the wound, just skip the antibiotics.
Consider providing your dog with some type of protective footwear (such as the booties referenced above) while he heals.
If none of the dog chewing paws treatments listed above provide your dog with some relief, you may need to consult your vet. You don’t want your dog to be forced to endure constantly itchy paws – it’ll greatly reduce his quality of life, and it may even lead to depression or further health problems.
Additionally, it is always important to contact your vet if your dog’s paws begin to bleed, they exude any type of discharge, or they begin losing hair. These types of symptoms can indicate that the problem has become serious, and it may even have become infected.
Fortunately, your vet will likely be able to put an end to your dog’s itchy paws and incessant paw-licking or chewing.
Your vet will likely start by performing a physical evaluation of your dog and taking a detailed history. He or she may ask you things like:
After gathering the information, your vet may take skin samples from your dog’s paw. These samples can be then be analyzed by a laboratory, and your vet can determine whether a bacteria, fungus or parasite is responsible for your dog’s itchy paws.
Once armed with a diagnosis, your vet can recommend a prudent course of action.
Bacterial or fungal infections will require antibiotics or anti-fungal medications, respectively, while simple skin irritation may respond best to a protective ointment or shampoo change. Rarely, autoimmune disorders could lead to itchy paws, which may necessitate the administration of cortisone or some other steroid.
Excessive paw licking or chewing is certainly frustrating for you and your pet, but you’ll likely find that one of the treatments discussed above helpful.
Just remember that you may have to try several of the remedies before you find a solution that works. Also, be sure to solicit your vet’s help if you can’t fix the problem or if your dog exhibits any of the troubling signs discussed above.
Have you found an effective dog licking paws remedy that we haven’t covered? Feel free to share in the comments below!