Why do dogs lick their paws?

Feb 2, 2021
Nothing wrong with scratching an itch, right? When it happens occasionally, licking paws are a common behaviour in dogs. It is even part of their grooming routine.

However, when the licking becomes excessive, you’ve got a problem!

What causes dogs to gnaw at their paws? And what can you do to help your dog stop licking their feet?

Why is my dog licking his paws?

There are many causes why your dog would indulge in such activity.


A paw injury or foreign object may explain a sudden onset of paw-licking (ingrown nail, injured pad, embedded grass seed…).

These can be extremely uncomfortable, and your dog is simply trying to remove what is causing the irritation.

This sudden licking will usually be accompanied with redness, swelling and possible odour.

If your dog starts licking their paws unexpectedly and you suspect an injury, it is important to consult your vet to avoid any risk of infection.


Biting feet can also be chronic. Allergies will often cause itching or irritation of the paw pads.

Food allergies are the most common. A diet rich in omega-6 and other fatty acids will promote healthy skin and coat and help with inflammation.

Choosing single protein meals will also help you identify what type of food your dog has the allergic reaction to. Commercial pet food uses a mix of different meats or protein source, making it difficult to pinpoint what is causing the itching.

Do not dismiss environmental allergies as a cause for itchy paws. Pollen, dust and some cleaning products we use around the house and on upholstery can trigger an allergic reaction.

It is best to vacuum your dog's bedding often and use natural cleaning products.

Bacteria and fungi

Yeast are normal organisms that live on the skin, especially in moist areas such as between the toes.

Yeast and bacteria are naturally present on our dog’s paws.

It’s the reason why your dog’s paws smell like corn chips.

However, when these little guys proliferate, you’re left with a yeast infection and itchy paws. Certain medical conditions, exposure to medications such as antibiotics, or weakened immune systems, can cause yeast overgrowth.


Licking feet can be a sign of anxiety, depression, stress, or boredom. This type of repetitive behaviour has become satisfying and even relaxing for your dog to do.

 A dog is licking his back paw while sitting on the grass

How can you help a dog that licks his paws?

The first step is to remove the cause of licking, if you can identify it.

Start writing in a journal anytime your dog is showing signs of itchy paws: is the chewing seasonal? Does it happen after your dog walked in a specific area? Have you changed any of your usual cleaning products?

In the case of allergies, they make the skin dryer and the action of licking and gnawing at the paws breaks the natural protective barrier of the skin.

Your goal is to restore that barrier.

Implement a post-walk routine that will help your dog’s skin:

  • Rinse your dog’s paws with water after each walk, in a little paw bath of shallow water or spraying with a hose.
  • Use an oatmeal shampoo for washing. Oatmeal eases itching and reduces inflammation.
  • Rub a little coconut oil on the paws before bedtime, to rehydrate the skin.

For yeast infection, you can clean the area with a cotton pad soaked with apple cider vinegar, followed by a rub of coconut oil.

If the chewing and licking seem to come from a behavioural problem, ask yourself if there has been a big change in your dog’s life, such as a house move, or a new arrival at home?


Just as there are lots of causes, there are also many treatments.

In general, a good way to help your dog with this problem is to prevent it from happening with these healthy steps:

  • Feed a high-quality food, balanced diet.
  • Make sure your dog gets consistent mental stimulation and physical exercise as well as social interaction.
  • Provide proper hygiene care, including bathing and grooming.
  • Routinely rinse and examine your dog’s feet.


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The Doggy Grub blog is dedicated to helping dogs and their owners achieve happier, healthier lives, changing the way we feed our dogs one bowl at a time! If you would like to know more about our fresh food head to Doggy Grub


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