What Does Excessive Licking of Paws in a Dog Mean?

Observing your dog can help detect abnormal behavior.
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When your dog licks his paws you might not think anything of it at first, but when his licking becomes excessive, you might wonder whether his behavior is normal. There can be various reasons why your furry pal constantly licks his paws. It's up to you to determine what might be triggering his behavior so you can properly deal with it.

Medical Condition

Consistently licking can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as epilepsy, cancer or a viral or bacterial infection. Maybe allergies or parasites that you're not aware of are triggering his self-licking. Pain from an injury or bone fracture can also make him lick his paws profusely. A veterinarian can examine your pet companion to rule out medical conditions, and if needed, he can suggest proper treatment to stop the excessive licking.

Compulsive Disorder

If your dog seems obsessed with licking his paws, a compulsive disorder might be to blame. Although there might not always be a specific reason, sometimes abuse, excessive confinement, pain, separation anxiety and other stress-inducing factors can trigger an irresistible urge to engage in repetitive behavior. Your furry pal can spend the greater part of the day licking his paws to the point where it's affecting his normal life. Treatment of compulsive disorders might include drug therapy and behavior modification.

Lack of Exercise

Excessive licking can be an indication that your dog isn't getting enough exercise. Boredom and pent-up energy can take a toll. Your dog might resort to licking because it has a calming effect and keeps him occupied. Taking your dog on long walks, playing games, such as tug-of-war or fetch, and regularly practicing obedience training can help burn energy and provide entertainment. When he's home alone, provide chew toys and food-stuffed dog toys to keep him busy and entertained.


In nature, dogs groom themselves for personal hygiene, self-comfort and to make it harder for prey to detect them. Your dog's excessive licking might be a genetic predisposition. Certain large dog breeds, such as Doberman pinschers, German shepherds and Great Danes are more susceptible to grooming themselves. They can repetitively lick their legs to the point where bald spots and ulcers form, triggering a condition known as acral lick dermatitis.