Dog Licks his Paws? Hidden Dangers – How to end it

Sometimes, it’s kind of cute to see a big dog, daintily licking his paw, like a kittycat.  It is important, however, for the health of your dog, to check up on him, and find out why he is doing so.

In answer to “Why does my dog lick his paws,” it is usually one of these reasons:

  • Pain from injury
  • Germs
  • Contact with an irritant
  • Allergy
  • Parasites
  • Germs
  • Arthritis
  • A growth (such as a tumor)
  • Behavioral

An injury would be so obvious, you would probably be treating the wound right now; instead of searching the Internet, still mystified as to why your dog is licking his paw!  With the above list in mind, let’s move you toward a resolution.  Here, you will read about the most common situations in which a dog does this behavior, why, and how to check him out and help him.  This way, even if you cannot fix it yourself, you will have plenty of information, to help your veterinarian resolve your pup’s misery.

Why Does my Dog Lick his Paws after Walks?

This is a sign that your dog is removing something from his feet; because it is bothering him, or tastes good.  

Although it may be tempting to pass this behavior off as cute and kittenish, this is not the kind of bath you want your dog to give himself.  A substance that is irritating his paws is bound to cause him even more trouble, after he gets it in his mouth and his digestive system. 

He could be ingesting pollen, or – even more concerning- carcinogenic chemicals.  While he’s taking in those things, he may also be getting a dose of parasitic worms, which can live in the soil for up to thirty years. 

The below infographic takes a closer look at exactly what your best friend is tracking into your home, and licking:

More Hidden Dangers of Paw-Licking

Paw-licking can lead to diseases and parasites.  One such disease is Giardia.  The CDC warns that your dog can contract this dangerous illness from ‘licking after contact with a contaminated surface (for example, a crate or dirty water).’

Intestinal parasites can live in the soil for up to thirty years, so it is easy for your dog to bring them, their eggs, or their larvae in on his paws after being outdoors.  The chart below shows some of the most common parasites which can infect dogs:

Why Does my Dog Lick his Paws before Bed?

He may just be doing it, because it’s soothing.  On the other hand, he may be trying to alleviate arthritis or other pain, in order to drop off to sleep. Dr. Marty Becker says that your dog may be licking in response to “the joint pain from arthritis, which can settle in the carpus (wrist), stifle (knee), elbows, hips and lower back.”

If paw-licking has become a habit for your dog, you want to have him examined by a veterinarian.   

Why Does my Dog Lick Everything?

If your dog is licking objects around the house, such as rugs, furniture, walls, etc., he may be feeling nauseous.  According to the DVM 360 website,

nausea is a common cause of excessive licking of surfaces, so consider what treats, table scraps, medications, and supplements your dog is receiving.’

DVM 360

Even though I read extensively to do research for this article, there was one reason for habitual licking which seemed to be absent, and that is the possibility of oral cancer.  I mention this, because that is what happened to my neighbors’ Chocolate Lab, Otis.  In his last few months, Otis was constantly licking his paws and the rug, due to cancerous lesions in his mouth.

Why Does my Dog Lick his Paws and Pant?

A dog who is licking his paw and panting may feel nauseated.  With my dogs, this behavior has always been a prelude to throwing up.  If your pet has just suddenly started doing this, out of the blue, try to get a newspaper in front of him – It may save your rug. 

If licking while panting has become a regular behavior for your greyhound (or any dog), it’s time to have the veterinarian give him an examination. 

Why Does my Dog Lick his Paw until it is Raw?

Sometimes, a dog will develop a compulsive habit of licking his paw.  When he does so, a raw sort of callous will form, which is known as a “lick granuloma.”  Also known as “acral lick dermatitis,” this spot can become troublesome for your dog; and, by extension, for you.  

The spot can lose its hair, maybe permanently.  It is a prime target for infection, by your dog licking germs into it; or a yeast infection, by being damp all the time.  An article over at The Pet Health Network goes into further detail on this, saying:

“underlying itchiness is what results in that constant foot licking; the moisture caused by excessive foot licking between the paws can cause a secondary bacterial or yeast infection. This can actually worsen the itchiness and clinical signs.”

The Pet Health Network

If your dog is developing such a spot, bring it to your veterinarian’s attention immediately, and get going on treatment.

Home Treatment for Paws Licked Raw

Until you can begin veterinary treatment, you should begin the work of cleaning up the afflicted paw.

  1. Soothe your dog’s raw paw by bathing it gently, in an oatmeal bath.  A product called colloidal oatmeal is available in your local pharmacy or department store, as well as online.  Alternatively, you can simply pour 1/4 cup of hot water over 1 teaspoon of oatmeal, and let it sit until it’s cooled.  Oatmeal is very calming to the skin, and even effectively controls itching.

2. Whichever product you use, save the rest, in a container, and refrigerate it. 

3. Dry the paw completely.  A microfiber cloth is very efficient for this purpose.  A little hint, if you have towels that seem to just spread moisture, instead of removing it: do not use fabric softener on them when you wash or dry them.  Hang your cloth where it can dry

4. Apply a thin layer of Benedryl topical gel to the spot. Let it dry. Then, apply a thin layer of aloe vera. 

5. Finally, keep all of these supplies together; because the more frequently you can repeat this, the sooner the paw will heal.  For optimal results, treat the spot three times a day.  Don’t get discouraged and quit, if you miss a treatment here and there – Any is better than none.

How Do I Stop my Dog from Licking his Paws?

The treatment I’ve described above may soothe your pup’s paw sufficiently that he will allow it to heal.  In case you need a bit more help, you can try some of these Allergy Immune Supplements.  Fellow dog owners who have used these say that they often work, where even prescription treatments have failed.  Like many natural treatments, give it time to work.  One owner said that she was halfway through the jar, before they kicked in; but when they did, she was very pleased with the results.

 You can also treat the spot with Sulfinex cream.  It works well on itchy spots of all kinds.

In the meantime, keep bathing and treating the paw.  You may find that the extra attention does wonders for your dog, and contributes to making him comfortable. 

Resources for Further Exploration of this Topic

In this video, a licensed veterinarian has some free (my favorite word!) advice for you and your paw-licking pal:

Gail McGaffigan

The owner of the Greyhound Homecare website and YouTube channel, Gail has had retired racing greyhounds as pets since 1997. Please visit our channel, too!

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