Stop Dogs Licking Paws, Feet and Carpet Excessively

Does your dog lick its paws incessantly for no obvious reason? This can causing a mess in the house and can create inflamed spots or patches of red damp skin on the dog?

While most dogs lick themselves to deal with minor irritations without any problems, incessantly licking can cause a major sore to develop that can become infected.

There are many reasons for this paw licking. Compulsive licking of the carpet, floor coverings and bedding can also become a problem.

Some excess licking of paws are behavioural and seem to occur more commonly in some breeds than others.

In other cases, the licking is a symptom of an underlying cause such as an allergy, abrasion, parasites, injuries or various type of skin disease.

Learn how to recognise the various causes and the remedies you can use to stop dogs excessively licking their paws, feet, carpet, floor coverings, upholstery and bedding.

Why Do Dogs Lick Incessantly?

Unfortunately there are a wide variety of reasons for excessive licking, ranging from diseases, parasites, injuries and allergies, to plain boredom and frustration. Some of the most common causes are:

Parasites – Many cases of compulsive licking are caused by parasites such as are fleas, mites and ticks, and the allergic response to these infestations. Fleas and mites are often hard to see and so this could still be the cause even though you cannot see them. Controlling these parasites and dealing with skin irritations and minor infections is a good first start.

Pain and Injuries – Look for signs of injuries such as scratches on the feet or damage to the nails. Sometimes burrs and other thinks get stuck between the toes or around the pads on the paws. The dog may have suffered some sort of strain that may not have caused a cut or an abrasion. Generally you can check for an injury as the dog will react due to tenderness when you touch the spot. Small red spots may be caused by the licking itself rather than a prior cut or scratch..

Hormonal Imbalances and Diet –Dietary imbalances and hormone problems can cause skin irritations. Generally you will see red spots, or the dog will scratch and lick other parts of the body and not just the feet.

Dry Skin – A variety of things can cause dry skin leading to irritations. This can range from cold dry weather to dietary imbalances, dust and dirt. Your dog may respond to the discomfort of dry skin by scratching or licking around the feet and pads.

Boredom, Stress or Anxiety - Many dogs that are upset or bored in some way, like to lick to comfort themselves. It is more common in some breeds and is very much an individual thing.

Allergies – Allergic reactions may be concentrated on the legs or feet as a reaction to grasses that the dog is allergic to. In other cases it may be triggered by food allergies or environmental triggers such as pollen, mold and even a reaction to dog shampoos or flea powders. Many garden chemicals such as fertilisers and pesticides may cause a reaction in the dogs, especially in the feet which come into contact with these irritants.

Known Disease and Physiological Causes of Dogs Licking Excessively

Liver Abnormalities Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Lupus Erythematosus Dry Skin (Xeroderma)
Pharmaceutical contraindications Joint Pain
Pruritus (Itching) Contact Allergies or Irritants
Mange Obesity
Bacterial Infections (Pyodermas Eczema
Fungal Infections Food Allergies
Icthyosis Parasites
Hypothyroidism Inhalant Allergies or Irritants (Atopy)
Injury Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing¢s Disease
Neurological Conditions

Tips for Finding the Cause of Excessive Licking

Is the licking a new behavior? - If so then it is likely to have been caused by some change in the dog’s routine, an injury or an intermittent allergy. It is unlikely to be due to boredom or anxiety unless you have changed the routine.

Is the dog licking one foot, both front feet, or all feet? - Are there any signs of injuries, limping or swelling on the foot? Are there signs of tiny red lumps elsewhere on the dog’s body. If its isolated then it is more likely due an injury, particularly to the nails and pads. If it occurs for all feet then it’s more likely to have a more general cause or may be related to dry skin or dietary imbalance. You may need to see a vet if the cause appears to be widespread and long-lived.

Are signs of red, swollen, crusty or flaky patches of skin? - This is generally a sign of an infection, allergies or parasites.

Are they no obvious signs of skin reactions, scratches or injuries? - This could be from food allergies or inhalant allergies, that cause general itchiness and skin irritations.

Are there sign of foreign bodies attached to the fur, around the pads or between the toes? - This can occur through chewing gum, tar or food residues, grass seeds, thorns, splinters or other items picked up on the feet, legs and paws.

Are there signs of Arthritis, swelling of the joints or other internal afflictions that may be causing pain in the area without and external signs being visible?

Are there any irregular bumps or lumps between the toes or around the foot pads?
This can be a sign of small growths, abscesses or cysts that can cause pain, discomfort and licking. See a vet.

Are there no visible signs of anything wrong with the foot? - In this case the foot licking is likely to be due to behavior or an internal injury. Your dog maybe stressed, anxious or simply bored. Many dogs even chew on their nails and around the pads for something to do. Dogs may also like the carpet when bored as they like to lick.

Prevention and Treatment of Excessive Licking

If there is no obvious cause and you attempts to change the dog's diet and exercise patterns fail to alleviate the symptoms it is probably time to see your vet. Excessive licking and lead to major sores and serious infections

For cases of infection, injuries or skin allergies there are medications you can get to clear the skin. Dietary changes also help to alleviate the problem. Try exercising the dog in different areas as the dog may be reacting to grasses and chemicals along their normal walk path.

Behavioral modification takes patience, time and consistency. Various bitter and unpleasant tasting substances can be applied to the paws to try to break the habit.

If he dog has an injury or has licked open patch of skin you may need to employ adog cone collar to allow the sore to heal. Other options are: Neck Donut, Elizabethan Collar, Bandaging and Booties.

For boredom and anxiety, distraction and changing the normal routine are very effective. Perhaps you need another dog for the lone dog to play with while you are at work. Playing games regularly with the dog, offering new toys and other incentives that keep your dog occupied will help break the cycle. Frequent rewards also help.

Changing the dogs diet using homemade dog foods often works very well to alleviate licking that has no apparent cause.

Remedies for Excessive Licking - Changes to Dog's Behaviour

Desensitizing the dog to the stressor or trigger or stressor Implementing random departure behavior modification drills
Dog day care Administering anti-anxiety remedies
Exercise and play routine - walks, play, vigorous exercise routines, and agility or obedience training, races. Or getting another dog Dietary changes to improve the skin
Identifying triggers for licking and finding diversions Modifying the sensory environment for periods when the dog is alone and isolated
Increasing shade in the yard to avoid heat stress Changing the owner's departure routine to desensitize the dog to key elements
Making the yard more stimulating and exciting Short-term administration of sedative medication
Massage Treating an underlying medical condition that causes pain and stress
Modifying owner behavior and providing more variety for the dog Revising the environment in the yard or enclosure
Removing the causes and stressor from the dog's environment.

Some dogs lick their feet excessively
Some dogs lick their feet excessively
       Source: Original Image - John Anderson 2016
Docks licking their noses is a sign they are hungry
Docks licking their noses is a sign they are hungry
       Source: Jen Smith [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Licking is a sign of affection an bonding
Licking is a sign of affection an bonding
       Source: Adam.J.W.C. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Sometimes drastic action is required to stop dogs licking excessively
Sometimes drastic action is required to stop dogs licking excessively
       Source: By Jared and Corin [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons