Excessive Paw Licking and Chewing in Dogs

Photo by Austin Kirk on Unsplash

Have you been noticing your dog licking their paws more than normal lately? Are you having sleepless nights as you listen to the sound of them giving their feet a tongue bath for hours? If so, try not to worry, there are plenty of ways to help.

The truth is, excessive paw licking, and chewing is pretty common, so let’s talk about how you and your dog can finally get some relief!

There can be many reasons why your dog is licking their paws, but one thing to understand is that it can be a completely normal, self-grooming behaviour. That is, as long as it’s only done every now and then. Once a dog starts to lick their paws excessively or intensely, we should consider that maybe something is wrong.

Some of the possibilities for why your dog is licking or chewing their paws are as follows:

  • Itch from allergies
  • Itch from bacteria or yeast infections
  • Fleas or ticks
  • Anxiety or boredom
  • Injury or arthritis

Let’s talk more about each of these potential reasons for your dog’s paw licking.

Itch from Allergies

Allergies are a big issue for many dogs, ranging anywhere from mild itching and discomfort to severe itching and rashes all over. Often, allergies are the main culprit when it comes to excessive paw licking and chewing.

These allergies can be from their food or the environment, such as grass, pollen, trees, weeds, mould or mildew. Understanding what is causing the allergic response can take some time and observation and the interpretation should be left up to your dog’s veterinarian.

If you think that it is your dog’s food, it is important to understand that protein is usually the reason for a food allergy. There is a common misconception, thanks to grain-free diet fads, that any kind of grain, corn or soy is the cause of common canine allergies, and this is simply not the case.

If your dog has been licking and chewing their paws because of allergies, there are many ways to treat this problem. Your veterinarian can prescribe medications to combat the itch.

Hemp seed oil is one of the natural solutions that can be helpful in managing minor symptoms of allergies. Rich in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 and GLA fatty acids, hemp seed oil can help fight inflammation (triggered by allergies) and provide soothing relief to dry, itchy, irritated skin. Hemp seed oil can also be applied topically, directly to the affected, itchy area. For more information on how hemp seed oil works to fight inflammation, read GLA — Hemp Seed Oil’s Secret Weapon to Fight Inflammation.

Itch from Bacterial or Yeast Infections

Dogs become more susceptible to secondary bacterial and yeast infections when the excessive licking and biting creates open sores on their skin, inviting nasty bacteria and yeast to create havoc on your dog’s feet.

Veterinarians often diagnose Staphylococcus (bacteria) or Malassezia (yeast) as the culprit of common secondary infections of the skin after a dog has had a recent lick-fest with their paws.

To treat these infections, after an exam, your veterinarian will prescribe one or multiple medications, usually ranging from antibiotics to steroids to topical anti-itch sprays or antifungals.

Fleas And Ticks

Fleas and ticks can easily make your dog feel generally itchy, resulting in excessive licking, scratching and chewing, where they got beat.

There are numerous options out there to treat fleas and ticks, but it’s important that you choose a reputable and reliable brand, as several over-the-counter products do not work.

Monthly flea prevention medication is a must to prevent flea infestation and flea-related skin inflammation. Talk to your vet to find the best medication and flea prevention routine for your dog.

Anxiety Or Boredom

Behavioural issues such as anxiety and boredom and common causes of excessive self-grooming in dogs. While boredom isn’t necessarily an issue, it can certainly result in some unwanted behaviours. Constant, intense licking can become a compulsive behaviour as a coping, soothing mechanism or even just something that takes their mind off. To help with boredom in your dog, you can provide puzzles, more play time or an exercise routine.

For dogs with extreme anxiety that results in unhealthy behaviours like skin traumas, it is important that you talk to your vet. They might recommend a veterinary behaviourist, hemp seed oil or CBD. For more information on how hemp can help pets with anxiety, read Signs Your Dog Has Anxiety and How to Treat It.

Injury Or Arthritis

When a dog is experiencing pain, whether it’s a front leg or their hip, they will often direct their attention to that sore spot. The dog will lick or chew at the area, sometimes creating a bald spot or an obvious red or raw lesion.

It is not uncommon for dogs to develop arthritis as they age, and their wrists, knees and hips are usually the most painful areas. This is why it is not unusual to see a dog that has an arthritic paw or wrist licking at the area excessively.

Pain from an injury can also cause excessive licking. Your dog is literally trying to lick a wound that you just can’t see. If you notice that this new behaviour is accompanied by a sudden limp, then it is not unreasonable to suspect an injury as the cause. Please contact your veterinarian right away to have the injury assessed.

CBD or hemp seed oil can help dogs suffering from arthritis as it works naturally to reduce inflammation in the joints and “lubricate” through the action of fatty acids for much-needed pain relief. For more information on arthritis, please read Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Signs and Treatment.

No matter the reason for your dog’s excessive, constant paw licking and self-harming, you can’t go wrong with incorporating some hemp seed oil dietary supplement into their daily regimen to help your anxious or itchy dog to get some much-needed support and relief. At BUDDYPET, we recommend Marley for adults and Milly for seniors.

For more information on how to support dogs with itchy skin, please read How to Treat and Prevent Itchy Skin.

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Dr. Ailsa Rutherford

Senior practicing veterinarian. Member of the Australia and New Zealand College of Veterinary Surgeons in Emergency. Head of Animal Health at Buddy Pet P/L.