Doyalson Animal Hospital | Dog in Pyjamas Licking Paw

Why Does My Pet Lick Their Feet?

There are few things more irritating than your pet starting a thorough paw-licking session just as you’re falling asleep! Excessive foot licking is a pretty common problem in dogs, and can occur for a number of reasons.

Skin irritation

Irritated skin is one of the most common causes of paw licking, and can be triggered by:

  • Underlying allergies, such as:
    • Atopy (allergies to airborne environmental materials, such as plant pollens)
    • Food allergies
    • Contact allergies (allergies to touching certain plants or floor cleaning products)
    • Flea bite allergies
  • Infections with mites 
  • Foreign bodies, e.g. grass seeds, stuck in the skin or fur

If your pet develops sore, inflamed skin, their natural response is to try to soothe the discomfort with licking. Unfortunately, excessive licking can actually worsen the problem by making the skin moist and raw, which then encourages an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast.


Any issue that causes pain in your pet’s paw can cause them to excessively lick the area. Young pets will frequently lick at broken nails, whereas older pets may be affected by painful arthritic changes or tumours associated with their paws.

Behavioural issues

In some cases, excessive paw licking can be a manifestation of an underlying behavioural issue, such as anxiety, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, or even boredom in an under-stimulated or under-exercised pet.

How can we help?

If your pet is licking their paws excessively, it’s best to book an appointment with one of our vets for further assessment. We’ll examine your pet thoroughly, and suggest further diagnostic testing or treatment trials to help confirm the underlying issue.

Once we have a diagnosis for your pet’s “irritating issue”, we can discuss treatment options to effectively manage the problem, and have everyone sleeping soundly again in no time!