Is your dog licking at his paws constantly? Notice a red, swollen, inflamed appearance to the area between the paws? If this is happening, read on! Excessive licking causes your dog irritation & pain. It is often due to an underlying medical problem. Therefore, licking of the paws is due to one of three underlying causes,

Underlying itchiness is what results in that constant foot licking. The moisture caused by excessive foot licking between the paws can cause a secondary bacterial or yeast infection. Furthermore, this will actually worsen the itchiness and clinical signs.

Excessive paw licking warrants a trip to your veterinarian, as certain tests need to be performed to rule out skin problems.

How will my veterinarian figure out why my dog is licking his paws?

Diagnosis of an underlying infection requires certain tests from your veterinarian including:

  • Tape preparation cytology (analysis using a piece of tape)
  • Culture
  • Skin biopsy (less common)

Once these tests are done, your veterinarian can determine the best course of appropriate treatment to stop your dog from licking his paws. Treatment typically includes:

  • The use of antifungals (if there is a yeast infection)
  • Antibiotics (to treat a bacterial infection)
  • Frequent shampooing with a prescription shampoo
  • Topical sprays
  • The use of short-term steroids to decrease the inflammation

That’s not all! Your dog may need additional testing to rule out atopy, food allergies, or flea allergy dermatitis. This may include.

  • A food trial with a novel (new) protein for at least 6-12 weeks. Therefore absolutely key you make sure no rawhides, treats, snakes, bones, or other food (even heartworm medication) are given during this time. Ideally, food trials should be started in the winter (depending on the climate that you live in).
  • Year-round flea and tick medication that kills. Newer prescription oral products quickly (e.g., Bravecto, Nexguard) kill these pesky insects within 12 hours, minimizing infestation.
  • Skin testing or blood testing—To see what specific airborne allergies may be causing atopy

If your veterinarian’s treatment doesn’t completely resolve your dog’s paw licking problems, a dermatologist’s referral may be necessary for advanced testing.

Talk to your veterinarian about how to best treat this condition. Occasional paw licking is ok; however, if it’s constant and causing secondary redness, swelling, or itchiness, get to a veterinarian for treatment.

Questions to ask your veterinarian:

  • Does my dog need a prescription food trial?
  • Why does my dog need year-round flea and tick control?
  • Does my dog have a secondary bacterial or yeast infection?
  • Why Does my dog need a referral to a veterinary dermatologist?

Sourced by: 

Dr. Justine A. Lee, DVM, DACVECC

Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z