a dog licking their paw

What it Means When Your Dog Chews or Licks Their Paws

It’s the story of any dog. One day they’re perfectly fine, and the next they’re licking or chewing their paws as if their life depends on it. What’s going on? Why do dogs chew their paws or lick them like crazy? 6 minute read

Should I Be Concerned if My Dog Chews or Licks Their Paws?

It’s a good idea to address your dog’s chewing or licking, but in all likelihood, it’s not an extremely urgent medical issue. While it can be alarming when our pets change their behavior, there are many possible reasons for your dog to suddenly start licking or biting his paws. Some require a vet’s attention while some can be treated at home.
a small dog chewing on her paw

Examining your dog’s paws and taking note of when they’re licking them will give you vital clues as to the reason behind your pup’s licking or chewing behavior.Here are some of those reasons:

11 Reasons Why Dogs Chew or Lick Their Paws


Did you just come back from a long walk? Perhaps in the woods or on the beach? If you see your dog licking their paws after a walk, it’s most likely part of their self-grooming routine, getting bits of nature out of the spaces between their paw pads and around their nails. Some dogs also like to lick or clean their paws after they eat. Self-grooming after a meal usually only lasts for a few minutes.

This kind of paw licking or chewing is normal. It’s when you see your dog licking or chewing their paws repeatedly and for longer periods that you need to search for deeper explanations, such as…

Dry Skin

If you’ve ever experienced severe dry skin, you know how itchy it can be. Dogs can have dry skin or dandruff, too, and they’ll often lick to try and stop the itch.If you see flakes in your dog’s fur, you may have found your cause. While more severe cases may need prescription-strength help, mild cases can be improved by things like regular grooming and supplementing your dog’s diet with omega-3s.

Parasites, like Fleas or Mange

Fleas, mange, ticks, and other parasites can torment your dog and cause severe itching which in turn leads to biting, chewing, and licking.
a dog scratching herself

Prevention is the best way to deal with these unwanted hitchhikers. Even with preventive measures, it’s never a bad idea to give your dog the once-over after walks in parasite-infested areas like the deep woods. Nobody wants their pup to suffer from fleas or ticks in their sensitive paw pads.If you notice hair loss in the area your dog is scratching, biting, or licking, it could mean they have mange, which is caused by mites. If you suspect your dog has mange, take them to your veterinarian. Your vet can determine the type of mite and prescribe the correct oral or topical medication. They also can find out if any underlying immune issues are making your dog more susceptible to mange.

Food Allergies or Sensitivities

Just like how food allergies can cause itchy skin or rashes in humans, food allergies in our dogs can make their skin or paws itch. Figuring out what specific food is causing the problem can take some time. If you think your dog may have a food allergy, speak with your veterinarian. They can help you safely arrange an elimination diet to pinpoint the allergy while still giving your dog all the nutrition they need.
dog waiting for his food

Pro tip: rotate your dog’s proteins to avoid developing sensitivities. Most dog food brands will have several different proteins like salmon, duck, chicken, turkey, or beef. Rotating through the protein types within that brand line may help your dog avoid sensitivities.

Environmental Allergies

When our dogs go outside on their walks or to use the bathroom, they can come into contact with allergens. Allergens can trigger internal or external reactions. Internal reactions can cause symptoms all over your dog’s body. External reactions stay wherever the allergen touches your dog - like if they step on something they’re allergic to.
happy pomeranian

External reactions often cause skin inflammation or dermatitis (Dermatitis is also used to describe the inflammation caused by fleas and other parasites.).

Internal (or systemic) reactions may need prescription medicine to control or prevent. External reactions may be controlled by cleaning your dog’s paws after they come inside or prevented by dog booties or shoes.

Another way to help calm your dog’s allergies is with an omega-3 fish oil supplement. Omega-3s’ natural anti-inflammatory properties help lower allergic responses while also supporting a healthy heart and coat, reducing itchy skin, and relieving joint pain. Our Omega-3 supplement is not only responsibly-sourced and quality-tested - it comes in a powdered capsule form to make it easier to give and last longer than traditional oil-based supplements.
omega 3 supplement by Pawsomely Healthy

Bacterial or Yeast Infections

Bacterial or yeast infections can be the cause of a dog’s licking - but they can also be the result. For example, say a dog starts licking his paws because of an allergy. His constant licking creates a sore that gets infected. The infected sore causes him pain, so he licks it even more. To prevent that vicious cycle, potential infections need to be treated as soon as possible.
a dog being treated by vet

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections, like ringworm, are more common if you and your dog live in a wet climate. Hairy paws are another risk factor.

Dog booties can help keep your dog’s feet dry when walking in wet weather. Wiping down and drying off your dog’s paws after a water-soaked walk can also help.

Overgrown Nails

Overgrown nails cause pain and discomfort, which can encourage your dog to lick. Clipping your dog’s nails regularly is an easy way to prevent this.
clipping your dog\'s nails


The most common paw injuries are cuts, scrapes, and embedded objects.While you can see cuts or scrapes easily, embedded objects can be harder to find. These include thorns, burrs, and glass - basically any small, sharp object that a dog might step on. The spaces between their paw pads can be quite deep and so it’s important to be thorough when checking for wounds. Minor cuts and scrapes can sometimes be treated at home. More serious wounds and embedded objects are best left to your veterinarian.

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If your dog has pain anywhere in their body - especially in a place they can’t reach - they may lick their paw to comfort themselves.

If your dog licks their foot constantly without any reason you can see, take him to your veterinarian. They can determine if transferred pain is the cause.

In addition to any prescription medication that your vet may recommend, certain supplements can help manage your pup’s aches and pains. Omega-3s have wonderful anti-inflammatory properties that make them a great choice to help with pain management. Our Omega-3 supplement makes it easy to give your dog this great nutraceutical boost.

But are physical problems the only reasons why dogs chew their paws or lick them?

Boredom or Anxiety

Another possibility when your dog is licking without any visible reason is boredom or anxiety. If your dog belongs to a high-energy or working breed, they may get bored or anxious if they don’t have enough to do. A bored dog may turn to licking to comfort themselves.
bored dogs chew their paws

While not all dogs get bored, any dog can become anxious; changes in their routine, noises, or being left alone - dog anxiety has many causes. There are many techniques you can try to help your anxious dog. 

The Final Woof

So why do dogs chew their paws or lick them? The reasons vary from "quick fix" to "vet visit required", but they are often fixable or treatable. It can be upsetting to see our dogs constantly chewing or licking their paws, but we need to figure out the reason before we can figure out the cure. By observing when our dogs lick or chew and by taking a closer look at their paws and overall health, we can help our pups kick the licking and chewing habit and live happy, healthy lives.
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