Other Reasons Your Dog May Be Licking Their Legs or Paws
The most common reason dogs lick their legs is because of some kind of allergy. Allergies can be seasonal or environmental. Seasonal allergies are typically caused by tree and plant pollen. Spring tends to have the most pollen in the air, but dogs can experience seasonal allergies any time of year. Environmental allergies are caused by factors in the home like dust.
Allergies can result in itchy dry skin, which is why your dog may keep licking his or her paws and legs.
Diagnosing the reasons why your dog may be licking their legs or paws is a process of elimination. So if it’s not a high-pollen time of year and you’ve ruled out environmental allergies, there are several other reasons your dog could be licking.
Have you Changed Your Dog’s Food Recently?
Food allergies are the third type of allergy that can cause leg and paw licking. Usually, if your pup is having a bad reaction to a change in diet, you’ll notice additional symptoms like diarrhea, gas, or an itchy bum. The most common foods that can trigger allergic reactions include beef, corn, dairy, and wheat. If you haven’t made a dietary change, you can rule out food allergies as a cause for incessant paw and leg licking.
Could it be Anxiety?
The second most diagnosed cause of licking is anxiety, and often legs and paws are the targets when a dog is feeling anxious, bored, or stressed. Is your dog left alone most of the day? Does your dog get exercise? Dogs that are stressed or bored can compulsively lick their paws or wrists to the point of causing skin irritation and/or skin infections. Excessive licking in one area can cause an open wound called a hot spot. A hot spot will need to be treated by your vet.
Often anxiety or stress can manifest in other odd licking behaviors. Is your dog also licking the floor? Separation anxiety can be a cause for obsessive licking.
If you suspect your dog may be suffering from anxiety, learn about preventing and treating dog anxiety at the America Kennel Club.
Check for Bugs
If some kind of parasite is causing itching and licking, your dog will likely be scratching at and licking multiple places on his or her body. Fleas and lice will result in itchiness all over. Check your dog’s legs, the base of the tail, and the back of the neck. Mites will also commonly affect the ears and paws, so be sure to look around the ears as well.
Ticks, however, can cause isolated itching and licking depending on where the tick has lodged. Ticks don’t want to be found, so they often attach between toes. Carefully check between the toes and pads if your dog is licking its paws to ensure there are no ticks present.
If parasites are the cause of dog licking, getting rid of the bugs will solve the problem. Some parasite medication is available over the counter. Others will need to be prescribed by your vet.
Licking to Soothe Pain
If you’ve ruled out all the above, which are the more common causes for excessive paw and leg licking, then you may have a more serious challenge on your hands. Dogs that are in pain may lick their paws and legs to soothe themselves.
When dogs experience acute trauma or injuries, one of the first things they’ll do is attempt to care for and clean the injury or wound by licking it. Licking is part of their healing instincts kicking in.
If you’ve witnessed an injury, seek medical attention and advice from your vet. Sometimes a dog can hurt themselves while exercising or hiking and it may not seem significant at first, but your dog could have experienced a strain, sprain, or hairline fracture.
If your dog is licking his or her legs or paws after extensive exercise, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian to rule out a more severe injury that could require bracing or even surgery.
If a joint is inflamed or causing pain a dog will often lick that joint. Is your dog licking their front leg or hind leg? The front leg includes the carpal joints which are the dog equivalent of a wrist. The carpal joints connect bones in the front paws with the rest of the front leg. The back legs include the hock joints which are the dog equivalent of the ankle. The hock joints connect the rear paw bones to the shin bones.
Many conditions cause pain in the carpal and hock joints. If you notice your dog licking his or her joints, it will be best to consult with your veterinarian to properly diagnose the issue and prescribe a solution.