Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws Until They Are Sore?

by Melodie Anne Coffman Google
    Those front paws are easy to get to if he's bored.

    Those front paws are easy to get to if he's bored.

    George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Raw, irritated and bleeding paws are signs that your pooch is grooming excessively. He’s probably spending so much time licking because his paws are itchy, although it could stem from pure boredom or anxiety. Take your fluffy companion to the vet to get to the bottom of the problem, before attempting to treat it yourself.

    Dealing with Hot Spots

    Hot spots, medically known as moist eczema, can cause severe burning and itching in the affected areas. They can appear anywhere on your hound’s body, making him chew and lick continuously. When hot spots are narrowed down to just his paws, it could be a sign of an environmental allergen. It’s possible that the grass in your yard or even the cleaner you use on the floors send his immune system into a panic, resulting in an allergic outbreak. Food, pollen, mold and other allergy-causing components also can create hot spots. The allergen inflames his skin, leaving him itchy. Licking is the only thing he can do to get rid of that uncomfortable sensation in his paws.

    Getting Rid of Crawling Critters

    Fleas, mites, lice, mosquitoes and other unwanted varmints also could cause irritation or hot spots, making your pooch feel especially itchy. When he gets bitten on his tootsies, his first response is most likely to nibble at his coat. He’s not only nixing that itch when he licks, he’s also brushing away bugs with his tongue. Check his paws and coat thoroughly and look for small black specks or bites. These signs let you know that some kind of critter made a home in your pup’s fur.

    Soothing Himself

    Licking is soothing for your pooch. It reminds him of when he was young and his mother would bathe him until he drifted off to sleep. If he gets stressed when you leave for work or if he gets bored, he might start tugging at the fur on his paws and licking, just to curb some of that anxiety. Taking him for a walk before you leave the house and leaving him with sturdy chew toys while you’re gone should burn off some of that extra energy and keep him occupied, making him less likely to groom excessively.

    Allowing Time to Heal

    Open wounds require a trip to the vet. Your furry friend could need antibiotics, antihistamines or a flea bath, depending on the cause. After you get a diagnosis, your vet might suggest putting a dreaded Elizabethan collar around your dog’s neck. The cone-shaped collar allows Max to eat and drink, but he won’t be able to lick his paws while it’s on. This gives his tender skin time to heal. If the area is oozing, bleeding or scabbed over, you might need to bandage it. Or if you’re not using an e-collar, you can place a few dabs of pet-approved bitter-tasting spray on the outside of the dressing to make his paws taste bad, minimizing the licking during the healing process.

    Photo Credits

    • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Melodie Anne Coffman has been writing for various online and print publications since 1996, specializing in human and animal nutrition. After receiving her master's degree in food science and human nutrition, she opened up her own nutrition consulting business in the New England area.

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