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Q&A With Dr. Katy: Why Is My Dog Licking His Paws So Much?


One of the most-asked questions among my furry patients’ parents is: Why is my dog constantly licking his paws? Well, this common concern isn’t as “black and white” as you may think. In fact, there are many reasons as to why your pup may be overly licking and chewing his little feet so much.

What you may think is just a bad habit could actually signal an underlying illness, which is why it’s important to not allow skin infections and rashes go overlooked or untreated. So let’s cut to the chase!

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Here are the 6 most probable reasons as to why your dog won’t leave his paws alone.

1. Allergies

Is your pup’s itching and scratching getting a little out of hand? Increased itchiness is often the result of allergies. Food or environmental triggers may be at fault, including mold and pollen. Dogs may also develop a skin irritation known as contact dermatitis when they encounter substances like pesticides or soaps. Contact dermatitis can cause your furry friend to incessantly scratch himself, often revealing an underlying rash.

2. Boredom or Anxiety

Just as people with anxiety may bite their nails or twirl their hair, dogs can show physical responses to psychological upset, too. Some pups even develop a condition akin to human obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This ailment can result in scratching, licking or chewing behaviors that can can sever damage to your dog’s skin.

3. Dry Skin

From winter weather to fatty acid deficiencies, a variety of factors can be at fault for causing dry skin in dogs. And your pup may respond to the discomfort by endlessly scratching or licking at his skin or fur, which can lead to flaky skin.

4. Blood Sugar Imbalance (or Other Hormonal Imbalances)

If your dog’s body isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone, or putting out too much cortisol, superficial skin infections can result. You may notice bald spots on your little one’s coat. He may also scratch or lick at his skin as if he’s bothered by allergies. And surprisingly, your pup’s habit of relentlessly scratching or licking himself may suggest the presence of diabetes. So it’s critical that you get this seemingly bad habit or skin infection checked out by your veterinarian. Check out my article 10 Signs Your Pet May Have a Blood Sugar Imbalance for more information.

5. Pain

When trying to determine why your dog is excessively licking or chewing, be sure to consider the possibility that something is making him physically uncomfortable. For example, if you notice that your dog is repeatedly biting his paw, he could have something stuck in his foot pad like a thorn or sharp rock. Compulsive chewing or licking can also be a response to orthopedic problems, such as arthritis (which is widespread among aging dogs) and hip dysplasia.

6. Parasites

Among the most common causes for a dog’s licking, chewing or scratching behaviors are fleas, ticks and mites. Although ticks are often visible to the naked eye (and you can usually feel them when petting your little one), fleas often go unseen until there is a noticeably large infestation, and mites are microscopic as well. So it’s important not to dismiss the possibility that your dog isn’t suffering from parasites just because you can’t see them. Check out my article How to Protect Your Pets from Dangerous Bugs for advice on helping your pup avoid parasites.

If your dog can’t seem to stop licking his paws or scratching his skin, it’s important that you consult your trusted veterinarian as soon as possible to receive an accurate diagnosis and the proper treatment.

MZX_6893-Edit (2) Dr. Katy Nelson is the mother of five – two human and three animal – kids, an avid nutrition and fitness enthusiast, and an admittedly rabid Louisiana sports fan. She is an associate veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, VA., as well as the host and executive producer of “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy” on Washington DC’s News Channel 8. A Certified Veterinary Journalist (CVJ) accredited by the American Society of Veterinary Journalists (ASVJ), Dr. Katy is the Animal Health Reporter for ABC7 News, and serves as “Dr. Pawz” on WTOP Radio. Dr. Katy is also a founding partner of, a national health and fitness initiative aimed at getting people healthy alongside their dogs, and serves as a media and marketing consultant for numerous pet-related companies and media outlets.

A lover of all animals, Dr. Katy carves out time for many charitable organizations in the DC area and beyond. In early 2012, Dr. Katy teamed with Emmy-Award winning producer Judy Plavnick to form Sit. Good Girl Productions, LLC, their first production is the documentary Tell Them I Am Kind, the story of the creation of the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary.

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