Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws Constantly?

Dogs who obsessively lick their paws or bite at them have some sort of underlying cause that needs to be addressed and treated by your veterinarian before damage occurs to the skin and causes secondary infections. This behavior can be obsessive compulsive, a sign of a medical condition, allergies, parasites or a hormonal imbalance.

Dog giving paw
Close-up of dog licking his paw while it's being held by his owner.
credit: Luckeyman/iStock/Getty Images

Dog Allergies

Your dog may lick or bite his paws when he has allergies associated with something he walks on such as grass, pollen or mold outdoors, or indoor floor cleaning products. The itchiness from the allergy causes him to lick his paws as he tries to remove the allergen. Ask your veterinarian for a list of pet friendly floor cleaning products to use inside your home. These are usually all natural products that are fragrance free to eliminate allergic reactions.

Yeast Infection

Your canine friend may lick his paws repeatedly because of a yeast infection that is often caused by a food allergy. An excess of grains including soy, corn or wheat in his food can cause a yeast infection on his paws. Your veterinarian can help guide you to a change in your pet's diet to alleviate his discomfort.

Canine Overgrooming

Most dogs like to have clean feet and groom them to remove dirt and debris. Dogs can suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, which causes them to continue grooming when it is not needed. A dog with OCD is driven to repeat the same behavior and can cause painful sores on his feet. If your dog overgrooms and you see a loss of hair or sores, take him to your veterinarian for treatment. OCD is sometimes the result of anxiety or boredom. Giving your pooch a large variety of toys for him to chew can relieve anxiety or boredom. A dog who is tired out from ample exercise usually will welcome resting instead of chewing his feet. A dog may also have parasites on his feet and lick them often in an attempt to remove them. A monthly preventative for fleas and ticks can solve a parasite problem.

Pain or Injury

When your dog is licking or biting at his paws often, first check his pads and in between his toes for a thorn, a sharp object or debris that could be causing irritation. Remove any foreign objects if you can or take him to the vet. Some dogs lick or chew excessively on their paws when they age and develop arthritis. If your dog is a senior, ask your veterinarian to do a checkup. He may need anti-inflammatory medicine for arthritis, or a supplement for aching joints.

Hormonal Imbalances

Dogs who don't produce enough thyroid hormone or overproduce cortisol may have a hormone imbalance, which causes red spots on the paws. A dog will lick and bite relentlessly at these spots, potentially causing a secondary infection. Anytime you see red areas on your dog's paws, take him to your veterinarian for a course of treatment with topical or oral anti-itch medications or antibiotics in the case of an infection.