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How To Stop Dog From Licking Paws Home Remedy: The Best DIY Treatments, Prevention Tips & Our Experience

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Last Updated: July 9, 2024 | 12 min read | Leave a Comment

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Dog licking paw up close.
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If your dog is licking their paws beyond their everyday chewing habits, you should consider using a home remedy to stop them from licking their paws. Paw licking is part of normal self-grooming, but when does it become too much? I explore this and the reasons why dogs lick their paws, what to do, and when you need to see a vet. I also share the home remedies that prevent excessive paw licking to soothe and make Fido feel much better. And as a dog mom of two, I share my experience with itchy dog paws. So, let’s take a closer look.

8 Reasons Dogs Lick Their Paws

If the sound of paw licking or pad chomping is becoming too much, it’s important to address why dogs lick their paws. There are many reasons, and it’s essential to determine why your dog is licking their paws because it can help you choose the right treatment. Here are some of the most common reasons.

  1. Injury. Your pup might have a paw injury caused by stepping on something, such as a shard of glass or hot pavement. They might have been stung by an insect or other animal or have soft tissue damage or a broken toe. If they let you, explore their paw and look for cuts, blood, or a sign of injury.
  2. Foreign Object. Walking around without boots means that dogs are likely to get something stuck in their paw pads at least once. Common foreign objects found in dog paws are grass seeds or foxtails, wood splinters, or a substance such as ice melt or road salt.
  3. Skin Irritation. Most dog paws smell like Fritos or popcorn, but if they have a funky or super strong odor, this is an indicator that something is not right.
  4. Allergies. Licking paws is one of the most common signs of allergies in dogs, who lick their irritated paws or pads to soothe themselves. The allergy could be food-related or environmental.
  5. Parasites. Fleas and some parasitic worms can make paws extremely itchy.
  6. Infections. Excessive licking of sore paws can lead to skin infections, such as fungal, bacterial, or yeast infections. Infections can occur randomly, and sometimes they are a result of irritation, allergies, or parasites.
  7. Growth Or Abcess. Your dog could have an abnormal growth on their paw, such as a digital tumor or cyst, which could cause discomfort.
  8. Pain. Any of these reasons can cause pain. But sometimes, they might be gnawing at their foot because they have slept funny or have a sore muscle or cramping in their foot. This should ease within a day or so. Or your pup might have arthritis in their paw, which they are trying to soothe.

We have a complete guide on why dogs lick their paws, so be sure to check that out, too.

What To Do If Your Dog Is Licking Their Paws

If you think your dog’s paw licking is more than normal self-grooming, you must learn why they are licking them before you can treat them. Monitor your pup for a few days and keep a diary on when they are chewing and other behavioral changes. If the licking doesn’t stop within a week or they are showing other symptoms or abnormal behaviors, you should seek advice from your vet. Remember that not every problem is visible to the naked eye, so just because you can’t see any obvious signs doesn’t mean there isn’t an issue. And just because the issue looks minor now, it could quickly develop into an urgent problem that needs veterinary treatment.

Watch this video of Dr. Lindsay Butzer, DVM, a veterinarian who explains why and when you should see your vet about excessive paw licking.

When Should You Take Your Dog To The Vet?

Just like dogs lick their wounds, if their paws are sore, they lick them. But if your dog is licking their paws raw or like crazy and causing them to bleed, you must take them in for examination as soon as possible. Extreme licking can cause hot spots or infections, leading to pain and further issues. The same goes if the paw licking is accompanied by another abnormal behavior, such as limping on walks, scratching their ears, or shaking their head. These additional behaviors indicate something more going on than just an itchy paw.

Did You Know?

Depending on the policy, pet insurance may cover the vet exam and many treatments for itchy paws, including antibiotics. And because skin and paw infections are curable, some insurers cover them even if your dog has been diagnosed with one before the policy’s effective date. Pet insurance is a great idea if your dog suffers from chronic paw problems, as it can help cover the treatment cost and other health conditions.

Paw Licking Could Be A Behavioral Issue

Non-stop paw licking is a sign that there’s more to it than something stuck between their toes. In addition to the eight reasons listed above, although a rarer reason, paw licking can be a compulsive behavior. If your pup is licking their paws obsessively and you can’t determine the reason, there’s a chance it could be related to boredom, anxiety, stress, or fear. If it’s been going on for a while, the licking activity might now be a difficult habit to budge.

Paw licking can also be a behavioral symptom of cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). CDS is also known as dementia, and not many people know that dementia affects dogs as well as humans. If your senior dog is excessively licking their paws, try offering them senior-friendly activities such as video games for dog dementia (yes, you read that right) or other stimulating brain games for dogs to steer them away from licking their paws.

If you need additional help with your dog’s non-stop paw-licking behavior, consider working with a dog trainer or animal behaviorist to determine the cause. Trainers like Doggy Dan can assist with compulsive behaviors like obsessive paw licking.

10 Home Remedies For Dogs Licking Paws

If you’re wondering how to treat your dog’s paw licking, starting with a home remedy is a great idea. It’s essential to identify why your dog is licking their paws before you try a home remedy. Otherwise, you could make the problem worse. Your vet can advise you which at-home treatment is the best option. Let’s take a look at the home remedies to stop dogs from licking their paws.

1. Home Remedy For Itchy Paws: Oatmeal Paw Soak

Oatmeal Paw Soak

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This option is usually the best if you suspect environmental allergens are causing the paw discomfort. A colloidal oatmeal paw soak soothes your pup’s paws and skin by washing away irritants and allergens trapped in their pads. Oatmeal is non-toxic and has anti-inflammatory properties that can relieve a variety of itchy canine problems, such as itchy skin. A colloidal oatmeal solution is where the oats are ground into a powder and warmed to release the colloidal. 

You can buy ready-made colloidal powders like the product above, colloidal oatmeal shampoos, or make your own. Grind oats into a fine powder and place them in a bathtub filled with warm, shallow water. Let your dog soak their paws in the milky solution for 10 minutes, then rinse it away. You can also massage it into their coat, too.

2. Home Remedy For Dry or Cracked Paws: Coconut Oil Paw Balm

Coconut Oil Paw Balm

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Making a coconut oil paw balm is a great option if your dog’s paws are dry or cracked. Coconut oil adds moisture back into the dry paw pads and has antifungal properties. You can purchase coconut oil in most grocery or drugstores. Pick an organic, unrefined, or cold-pressed oil that contains more active nutrients to soothe the skin than cheaper oil.

Take a small amount and gently massage it into their paws. You can rub it anywhere on their body, and it is great for their skin. Remember that most dogs love coconut oil, but it can be fattening and upset their tummy, so be careful they don’t lick it off. 

3. Home Remedy For Allergies: Benadryl For Dogs

If you suspect your pup has allergies, you might wonder if you can use an over-the-counter antihistamine. Yes, you can, but you must choose an appropriate option for Fido. In most cases, it is okay to use Benadryl for a dog’s itchy paws. Choose a Benadryl product that contains diphenhydramine only, and avoid combination products that contain anything other than this active ingredient. Sometimes, children’s Benadryl contains xylitol, an artificial sweetener toxic to dogs. See our guide to Benadryl dosage for dogs to learn more.

4. Home Remedy For Yeast Infections: Apple Cider Vinegar Solution

Apple Cider Vinegar Solution

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Apple cider vinegar is a top pick for most dogs with a yeast infection on their paws. It contains acetic acid, which helps prevent yeast from overgrowing. To use it, dilute one part vinegar with one part water and put it into a clean spray bottle. Spray the solution onto their paws, covering the whole paw and getting in between every toe. Although you can use white vinegar, apple cider vinegar has more beneficial bacteria and contains antimicrobial properties that fight yeast infections more effectively.

Take Caution With Apple Cider Vinegar

It’s vital to dilute apple cider vinegar because it can worsen the irritation if you don’t. Never use it on broken skin or open wounds, as it can be extremely painful. Some websites recommend putting apple cider vinegar in dogs’ water or food bowls, but vets advise against this. Apple cider vinegar can cause enamel breakdown and gastrointestinal problems.

Other Ways To Reduce Itchy Paws At Home

In addition to the DIY paw-licking treatments above, there are several other ways that can help stop your dog from licking their paws so much. Again, discussing any of the following changes with your vet is vital, as some might not be appropriate for your dog. So, let’s see what else you can do.

5. Change Their Diet

If you think your dog is licking their paws because of a food allergy, changing their diet might be a good idea. A dog’s diet can heavily influence their skin and overall health. Giving your dog a high-quality diet can strengthen their immune system and help fight ailments and infections. Common food allergens include chicken, beef, egg, gluten, grains, dairy, and other ingredients. A great place to start your research for a high-quality diet is with our guide on the best all-natural dog foods or fresh food diets. You can also tailor the recipes in some of the best dog food subscription options to suit your dog’s dietary needs so you can avoid common allergens. 

Your vet can start allergy testing to help you identify the cause of the itchiness. Alternatively, you can discover what’s causing your pup trouble with an at-home allergy test kit.

6. Add Supplements

Adding dietary supplements is another way to ensure your pup gets all the nutrients they need. A lack of nutrients can lead to itchy skin and sore paws. Here are some of the best supplement options for dogs licking their paws.

  1. Probiotic Supplements. These formulas contain gut-friendly bacteria found naturally in the digestive tract. Adding probiotic supplements to your dog’s bowl is another option to help keep itchy paws at bay and can help with infections and allergens.
  2. Omega-3 Supplements. These usually come in liquid or capsule form and contain healthy omega-3 fats, usually derived from fish oil. They can help reduce itchiness, soothe inflammation, and add moisture to the skin. These supplements are great for other health conditions and overall wellness.
  3. Calming Supplements. If you think your dog’s paw licking results from anxiety or boredom, consider a calming option. We have a guide on the best calming dog treats to decrease obsessive chewing and other behaviors.

7. Change Your Home Cleaning Or Garden Products

Another common issue that causes itchy dog paws is environmental allergens. If your dog has sensitive skin and paws, they might react to the cleaning products you’re using at home. Read up on our pet-safe cleaning products and how to avoid poisoning and itchy paws, also known as contact dermatitis. It’s also important to consider the garden or lawn products you use in the yard. We have an informative guide on pet-safe pest control options, too.

8. Use Dog Booties Outside

If you suspect your dog is reacting to environmental allergens such as grass seed, pollen, substances on the floor outside such as ice melt, or contact with hot pavements, consider investing in dog booties. They can take a while to get used to, but using them might prevent your dog from itching their paws until they are raw.  

9. Stay Up-To-Date With Parasite Treatment

It’s crucial to stay up-to-date with flea and tick prevention treatment as these parasites can sometimes cause dog itchiness. Parasites often cause all-over itchiness and can lead to severe illnesses, so protecting your pup against these creatures is paramount.

10. Increase Their Activity

Lastly, if nothing else is working, the root cause of your dog’s constant paw licking could be a behavioral issue. If so, you must address the cause to eliminate the undesirable behavior. If it’s safe, increase your dog’s daily exercise and activity. And offer them plenty of chew toys as an alternative to their paws and interactive games to keep them stimulated.

How To Stop Dogs From Licking Their Paws

Whether you’re trying one of the home remedies above or going through the process of changing to a new diet, you want to take additional steps to prevent your dog from licking their paws. Here are some simple ways to stop your dog from being able to lick their paws.

  1. Cover Your Dog’s Paws. The best way to stop your dog from getting to their paws is to cover them with dog boots. Although most dogs don’t take to boots immediately and walk like they’re drunk, they get used to them quickly.
  2. Use An E-Collar. It’s wise to invest in an e-collar for your dog. They can be very useful in preventing your dog from reaching their paws and other areas of their body regarding a variety of health issues. We have a guide on the best e-collars and e-collar alternatives to help prevent Fido from licking their paws.
  3. Use An Anti-Chew Spray. Anti-chew sprays, like Eruiola’s Anti-Chew Bitterness Spray, help to stop Fido from licking and chewing their paws. This natural product can also be used on other wounds and furniture. They are usually made with bitter or citrus ingredients that most dogs try to avoid. I recommend choosing a high-quality product made from natural ingredients when choosing one of these options.

Our Experience With Dogs Licking Paws

Dog at beach with muddy paws.
Bonkers loves the beach, but the sand irritates his paws. A quick rinse with the garden hose ensures he doesn’t excessively lick his paws raw after every beach walk.
Photo by Emma Braby for Canine Journal, © Cover Story Media, Inc. 2024.

I rescued my dog Bonkers in 2015, and he never licked his paws beyond routine grooming. But in 2021, I moved to the coast. After we moved, Bonkers started to sneeze and chew his paws excessively after every beach walk. I checked his paws and couldn’t see anything. At first, I thought it might be an allergy. However, it took me a few weeks to realize that this was probably a result of the sand being stuck in his paws and up his nose. I now rinse his paws after every beach walk, and he has never excessively licked his paws since. He still sneezes quite a lot, but I don’t think he’d appreciate the hose up his nose! Sometimes, something as simple as sand, dirt, and dust can cause non-stop paw licking.

Emma Braby, Dog Mom & Writer For Canine Journal

How To Clean Your Dog’s Paws

It’s good to get into the habit of inspecting your dog’s paws when they are a puppy. This way, they become accustomed to you handling their paws. After walks, cast your eye over their paws to look for foreign objects or sores. Use the garden hose as I do for a quick rinse, or check out our guide on the best dog paw cleaners. When you brush your dog’s coat, spend a little extra time on their paws and massage a paw balm into their pads, such as the coconut oil home remedy above. From my experience, most dogs love a paw massage.

Frequently Asked Questions

We know some of our readers still have questions about itchy dog paws and why they lick them. If you don’t see your question below, ask us in the comments, and we’ll find the answer for you.

What Does Dog Licking Paws Mean?

Licking dogs’ paws is a normal part of their grooming regime. However, excessive licking can indicate various issues, such as irritation, pain, or anxiety. Check for signs of redness, swelling, infection, growths, or any other problems that require seeing the vet. If you can’t see an issue but the abnormal licking behavior doesn’t stop within a week, take them to the vet.

What’s The Best Home Remedy To Stop My Dog Licking Their Paws?

The best home remedy to stop your dog licking their paws depends on why they are licking their paws. An oatmeal soak is a gentle way to cleanse their paws. Try rubbing coconut oil or a paw balm into them if they have dry or cracked paws. An apple cider vinegar solution is your best bet if they have a yeast infection. You should always consult your vet on which home remedy to use.

How Long Do Home Remedies Take To Work?

How long home remedies take to work depends on various factors, such as the reason for their paw licking and whether there’s an injury or open wound. Some dogs’ paws begin to heal within a day or two, whereas sometimes, it can take one to two weeks before seeing a significant improvement. Please speak to your vet about the best home remedy for your dog’s itchy paws.

Other Ways To Take Care Of Your Dog’s Health

Taking care of your dog’s paws is super important. Not only are they on their feet for most of the day, either getting around or playing, but they also use their paws to communicate with us. Like their paws, a dog’s ears are a window into their overall health and are essential to their well-being. Check out our guide on dog ear infections and the best dog ear-cleaning solutions with tips on caring for them.

Has your dog had excessively itchy paws? We’d love to know what home remedy worked best to give them some relief in the comments below.

Why Trust Canine Journal?

Emma has over 20 years of experience with dogs and is the proud mom to two rescue pups, Bonkers and Chips. She has also worked as a professional dog walker and sitter for many years, caring for dog breeds with different needs, including itchy and sore paws. Emma dedicates countless hours researching the latest pet care, health, food, and training developments to keep her two best buddies and other doggy clients as happy and healthy as possible. 

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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