Other health problems

Why Does My Dog Keep Licking their Paws?

Amy McCready
By Amy McCready, Animal rights journalist. June 12, 2017
Why Does My Dog Keep Licking their Paws?

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Have you asked yourself this question more than once? Perhaps you have given no importance to the matter, since on most occasions there is no underlying problem related to the behavior.

Yet, sometimes their licking can become excessive and can cause secondary injuries. Their vigorous grooming and niggling can indeed lead to issues.

Luckily AnimalWised are here to provide you with a detailed answer for: Why does my dog keep licking their paws?

You may also be interested in: Why Do Dogs Chew Their Paws?
  1. Dogs have sweat glands on their paws
  2. Licking pillows in hot or cold temperatures
  3. Malassezia pachydermatis
  4. Licking because of trauma
  5. Compulsive behavior

Dogs have sweat glands on their paws

Before you find out why your dog licks their paws so often, it is important to first know that these paws contain sweat glands. Dogs sweat through different parts of the body, but one of them is their paws.

The main function of the sweat glands is for thermoregulatory (to form sweat, to regulate the temperature). But it also has an odoriferous component. This means they are in charge of producing substances that are degraded by the bacteria present in the skin when arriving at the cutaneous surface. The same glands give the dog (or cat) a characteristic smell (hence these animals also mark territory with their paws).

Why Does My Dog Keep Licking their Paws? - Dogs have sweat glands on their paws

Licking pillows in hot or cold temperatures

In extreme cold climates, secretions of the sweat glands become small crystallites. These cause discomfort in dogs. In fact, dogs selected for pulling sleds, such as the Siberian husky, or the Alaskan malamute, have quite a few less sweat glands on their paws than other breeds. Of course, they have eliminated these problems from offspring during selective breeding.

Sometimes there are no problems with these glands, but the skin of the paws can be cracked with the cold air. Walking on snow or rocky terrain, can cause a dog to lick their paws compulsively.

On very hot and humid days, we are always advised to soak our dog's paws. Precisely because it is a way of regulating body temperature.This cleansing helps to eliminate the remains of eccrine and eccrine production in the sweat glands- letting them continue working efficiently.

To explain this more simply, your dog's body tries to produce a secretion that helps it to lower the temperature. But, at the outlet of the gland channel, this one is with a lot of previous secretions not retired that make of "plug". This causes itching and intense discomfort that our dog tries to alleviate through licking.

How to prevent your dog licking their paws

If your dog has sensitive paws and will be exposed to extreme temperatures, it would be advisable to use some protective products. This kind of varnish that is smeared on the paws usually combines acids with plant extracts such as Aloe vera or the Asian Centella.

On the contrary, on days of excessive heat, it is advisable to cool your dog by frequently soaking their paws in fresh water. This encourages thermoregulation and removes substances that may prevent the sweat glands functioning properly.

Why Does My Dog Keep Licking their Paws? - Licking pillows in hot or cold temperatures

Malassezia pachydermatis

Malassezia pachydermatis is a yeast that is present throughout the body of a dog. However there is much more in paws, specifically in the interdigital zone (among other places).

If your dog suffers from a yeast overgrowth, because they are allergic to pollen, food, stress ... etc, it is possible that the first symptom is excessive licking of their paws. This will cause a great increase of Malassezia and the subsequent invasion of opportunistic bacteria.

We usually find dogs with white coat with an orange color around their paws, since the constant licking causes discoloration.

How to treat Malasseziapaw licking?

It is necessary to deal with the cause that leads to yeast overgrowth and eliminate it, or at least, control it. Until then, the population of these fungi can be controlled with daily baths of diluted non-soap chlorhexidine. This should be in contact with the pads about 10-15 minutes a day (chlorhexidine works by contact time). Also, keeping the areas as dry as possible helps a lot, since fungi or yeast always proliferate better in humid places.

Occasionally, your veterinarian will recommend ointments based on miconazole or clotrimazole if your dog won't let you soak their paws.

Why Does My Dog Keep Licking their Paws? - Malassezia pachydermatis

Licking because of trauma

Other times, your dog will insistently lick their paws because of a traumatic cause, like standing on a nail. What is concerning about this cause is the fact that this often leads to an infected leg.

In summer, often thorns can pierce through their paws, especially in breeds with abundant hair like the cocker spaniel. Precisely because of the amount of hair, they go unnoticed. Once they pierce the interdigital skin barrier, they may be lodged there causing pain, lameness, or constant licking of the area to ease discomfort.

Carefully check their paws in summer - trimming hair in that area is critical. If you find something embedded in your dog's paw, remove it carefully and apply some antiseptic. Avoid aggressive or irritating formulas (iodine diluted in saline physiological, for example). If you are unsure about this process, consult your vet.

Why Does My Dog Keep Licking their Paws? - Licking because of trauma

Compulsive behavior

If you have ruled out the aforementioned problems, perhaps you may encounter a compulsive behavior, also known as a stereotypy. We could define this disorder as a repetitive behavior and without an clear purpose.

If you think that your dog may be suffering from a stereotypy, it will be essential to review the five freedoms of animal welfare. Also, you should contact a specialist, such as an ethologist: a veterinarian specializing in canine psychology.

If you want to read similar articles, we recommend you to go to our other health problems section.

Why Does My Dog Keep Licking their Paws? - Compulsive behavior

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Dog Keep Licking their Paws?, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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What did you think of this article?
Helena Dawe
very informative, thank you
Why Does My Dog Keep Licking their Paws my dog licks his paws until he makes his feet sore and Bleed
Administrador AnimalWised
We are sorry to hear this Susie, is there anything in the article which you think might be causing this chronic desire to lick their paws?
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Why Does My Dog Keep Licking their Paws?