Dog Licking Paws - What Does it Mean

Dog Licking Paws - What Does it Mean

Author WDF Staff


Dogs can sometimes act rather weird. Their behavior can stump and intrigue us, and one of those behaviors is dogs licking paws. If you ever noticed your dog licking their paws, you probably wondered, “Why do dogs lick their paws?”

Like most dog behaviors, there are several possible reasons dogs lick their paws. Finding out the exact cause by only focusing on one “symptom” is rather tricky. There are other things you should look out for if you notice your dog licking paws. The most significant difference is if they are doing it excessively or occasionally. Here is what you need to know about why do dogs lick their paws.

How often does it happen?

One of the first things you need to look out for is how often that happens. The intensity and frequency of paw licking can be a clear indicator of why your dogs lick their paws. There are two possibilities - occasional and frequent.

Occasional paw licking

If it happens after you finished walking your dog or after some playing or training, it probably means it is a part of their grooming routine. Some breeds, like the Basenji, have almost cat-like grooming behavior. It is entirely normal they are doing it because they love cleaning themselves.

For them, paws are just another body part that needs grooming. If your dog licks their paws only after walking, it can mean something is stuck between their pads. Sand, debris, or foxtail can bother them, and they will lick their paws to get rid of the irritant. 

Frequent paw licking

Suppose your dog licks their paws quite frequently and almost aggressively. In that case, that is usually a clear sign something is bothering them. They might have suffered a cut or an injury. They may have an allergic reaction, and they are trying to ease whatever is causing them discomfort. Here are some of the most common reasons dogs lick their paws.

Fleas, ticks, or mites

One of the possible reasons your dog is licking their paws is parasite infection. Fleas and mites can cause the dog’s paws to become very itchy. If you notice your dog licking all of their paws, you should examine them. If you can’t see any cuts, bruises, or other signs of injuries, you should check your dog’s coat for signs of mites or fleas.

Ticks love warm, damp, dark places, so attaching themselves between the dog’s paw pads is something most ticks can’t resist. Check your dog for signs of tick bites. Here is how you can do that - How to spot tick bites?


One of the most common reasons your dog can start licking their paws is injuries. We might think their pads are hard and resistant. There is some truth to that, but dog’s pads can easily get injured. They mostly walk barefoot, and small pieces of glass, foxtails, rocks, or sticks can easily pierce their pad.

If the paw licking started suddenly and is focused on one paw, make sure you check it for scrapes, bruises, or cuts. These injuries will cause your dog some discomfort, so you shouldn’t be surprised they are excessively licking their paws.


If you notice your dog licking paws, it can be a sign of dermatitis. It is a skin condition caused by a negative reaction to different things in the dog’s environment. You must understand what is causing your dog discomfort and make sure it is eliminated from your household or yard.

Dogs can lick their paws because they had a skin reaction to specific plants or weeds in your yard. They can be specially sensitive to cleaning products you use to clean your home or have environmental allergies. One way to help your dog is to clean their paws with clean water before entering your home. If the problem persists, it can be caused by cleaning supplies or food.

Food allergies

Food allergies can be challenging to spot and resolve. One of the symptoms of food allergies is itchy paws, and when the dog’s paws itch, they will lick and even bite them. It is the only way your dog can try to relieve their discomfort. You should consult your vet about how to resolve food allergies, and once that issue is resolved, your dog should stop licking their paws. You can choose a hypoallergenic food, and it might help with food allergies. Check out this article for more information - Best hypoallergenic dog food.


Unfortunately, dogs cannot speak, so they cannot tell us if something is bothering them. One way dogs deal with pain is by licking the painful spot. Arthritis in dogs is caused by deteriorating bones and joints. It can be pretty painful for dogs, so make sure you get your dog checked out. The vet will check their motion range and determine whether or not they are in pain. Even if it is not arthritic, dogs might lick their paws excessively if they are in pain. Here are some ways you can deal with dog pain - Pain relief for dogs.

Compulsive behavior

Just like humans, dogs can have quirks and compulsive behavior. One of these behaviors is compulsive paw licking. The two main reasons behind compulsive behavior are boredom and anxiety. Luckily, with a proper approach, both of these issues can be resolved.


Boredom is resolved by spending more time with your dog. You don’t necessarily have to spend more time with your dog; the important part is to make the time you spend with them exciting and active. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, training, and playing time. They are more likely to be happy if they are tired.


Separation or any other kind of anxiety can be resolved by training. Make sure you get your dog used to staying alone while you are at work or running errands. This process will take time, but it is something many dog owners managed to resolve. You can read more about this issue here - Separation anxiety in dogs.

Secondary infections

Compulsive behavior and paw licking should be resolved as soon as possible. Dogs that haven’t resolved this behavior can cause secondary infections. The excessive moisture and licking create a perfect environment for bacteria and yeast infections. These infections will cause more itchiness, swelling, and licking. This is how your dog gets stuck in a vicious circle of neverending paw licking. The best thing to do is ask your vet for advice. They can prescribe them medication that can help with the itching.

World Dog Finder team

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