Why Does My Dog Keep Licking His Front Paw?

One minute you'll look at your pup sitting his bed and his paw will appear completely dry. Five minutes later, it appears he somehow conjured a pool of water and dipped his paw inside. Incessant paw licking not only makes his paws nasty-looking and smelly, it can also worsen open wounds and cause skin problems. Finding out why he's licking is the first step in making him stop.

Food Allergy

Talk to your vet about the possibility of a food allergy. Regardless of the measures you take to foil your pup's plans of licking his paw, nothing will stop the urge if he's doing it because he's suffering from an allergic reaction to an ingredient in his food. He'll often display other symptoms, such as biting as his back end and scratching excessively at his ears. Your vet will start you out on a food trial to relieve the symptoms, and then you can begin adding one ingredient at a time back to his meals. If the culprit is a food allergy, he will stop licking his paw when the symptoms subside.

Foreign Object or Toenail Trouble

Inspect your pup's foot. If he's not plagued by a food allergy, your little guy might be licking to remove a rock or other foreign object between his pads, or relieve the discomfort of an irritated toenail due to infection, breakage, or another problem. Swing by your vet's office to have him remove the foreign object or to prescribe medicine for an infection or injury. If there is no evident injury but the area seems tender, your vet may want to perform tests.

Sock It To Him

Outfit your pup in a sock. Don't apply any gauze under the sock unless directed by your vet. You want his paw to breathe, which the cotton will allow but the extra gauze and padding will not. Tape the top of the sock with self-adhesive tape. Make sure you can fit two fingers between the tape and his skin. If you wrap a sock around your pup's paw and notice his paw or leg begin to swell, remove the sock and tape immediately, and contact your vet.

Distract Him

Redirect your pup to his toy or something else. This is especially helpful if your little guy's behavior is compulsive. Anytime he starts wetting his paw, say his name and throw him one of his toys, or ask him to come over to you and sit -- anything to get his mind off his paw. Give him plenty of toys to choose from, too. The more things he has to play with, the more likely he is to not lick out of boredom and compulsion.

If All Else Fails, Use an E-Collar

Use an Elizabethan collar, also known as an e-collar or "cone." Constant licking can irritate your pup's wounds and even rub his skin completely raw. An e-collar will wrap around your pup's head, blocking him from reaching his feet or any other part of his body. Use an e-collar only to protect an area of his paw that licking could worsen. Do not use the collar for compulsive behavior.

By Chris Miksen

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Resources:
PetWave: Why Dogs Lick
MyVetOnline: Allergies
WebMD: Caring for a Dog with Food Allergies

About the Author
Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.