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Red Paws & Dog Licking Paws Excessively? Top Causes & What to Do

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Red Paws & Dog Licking Paws Excessively

This article was updated on August 6th, 2023

Red paws and excessive licking can be a common yet concerning sight for many dog owners; I see this complaint all too often in my vet clinic, especially during the summer months. So why exactly are your dog’s paws so red and why are they licking excessively?

It’s important to understand that these symptoms could indicate underlying health or behavioral issues in your furry friend. In this post, we explore the potential causes of red paws in dogs, why they may excessively lick their paws, and how it can impact their skin and fur. 

We will also explore some effective home remedies that provide some relief for your dog and most importantly when it’s time to consult a vet for your dog’s excessive paw licking problem. By observing your dog closely and understanding these signs, you can ensure better care for your pet’s feet.

Why do dogs get red paws?

Is your furry friend’s paws looking redder than a tomato? Don’t panic, there could be several reasons behind it. 

1. Allergies. One common cause is allergies to food or environmental factors like grass, pollen, dust mites, and mold spores. These allergens can irritate the skin on your dog’s paws leading to inflammation and redness.

2. Bacterial or fungal infections. These often occur secondarily to another underlying condition such as allergies, fleas or dry skin; inflammation allows bacteria or fungi to break through the skin’s natural barrier, further exacerbating the problem. Read my article about fungal infections in dog paws or yeast infections in dog paws to learn more.

3. Extreme weather. Walking on hot pavement or icy surfaces during extreme weather conditions can also cause irritated paws. Similarly, chemicals used in lawn care products and the like can be harmful if they come into contact with your dog’s sensitive paw pads.

A dog with injured paw

4. Injuries: Lastly, injuries such as cuts, scrapes, burns, or foreign objects lodged in their feet might also cause redness along with pain and swelling. 

Why do dogs lick their paws excessively?

For most dogs, licking excessively at their paws is a sign of discomfort. Whether it be allergies, infections or an open wound, these all result in irritation and inflammation of the sensitive skin on your dog’s feet. Licking at their feet is your dog’s way of trying to relieve the uncomfortable sensations that they are feeling between their toes. 

Dogs might lick at their paws for behavioural reasons too – licking their paws can be a way to self-soothe when they’re feeling anxious or stressed. This behaviour can become a habit, leading to compulsive paw licking. Boredom, lack of exercise, or attention-seeking behaviour can all cause dogs to lick their paws excessively. If you notice your dog engaging in this behaviour, it’s essential to address the underlying cause and provide appropriate training and enrichment activities to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. 

My dog has red paws and keeps on licking their paws: what are the most likely reasons?

1. Allergies

Just like humans, dogs can suffer from allergies too. Allergic reactions in dogs are caused by a hypersensitive immune system, often to something in their food or in the environment.

Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs

  • Excessive paw licking and chewing
  • Irritated or itchy skin
  • Redness on the paws or other parts of the body
  • Hives or bumps on the skin
  • Sneezing, coughing, and runny nose (if your dog has an allergy to something they inhale)

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it is important to take action quickly as untreated allergies can lead to more severe conditions such as hot spots and infections.

Home Remedies for Dog Allergies

If you suspect that your dog’s constant paw licking is due to an allergic reaction, there are some home remedies you could try:

  • Bathing: Regular bathing with mild shampoo helps remove allergens from their fur. Make sure not to bathe them too frequently as this may cause dry skin which will worsen itching.
  • Oatmeal Bath: Adding oatmeal powder into bath water soothes irritated skin.
  • Vitamin E ointment: Applying vitamin E directly onto affected areas can provide relief from itchiness.
  • Aloe Vera Gel: Aloe vera gel works well against inflamed and itchy skin.

Note: You should always consult with your veterinarian before trying any new treatment at home, especially if your pet’s condition seems serious.

Veterinary Treatment for Dog Allergies

wound in paw of dog

If your dog’s excessive paw licking is due to allergies, and home remedies do not work or if the symptoms are severe, you should consult with a veterinarian. Your vet may recommend:

  • Antihistamines: These medications help reduce itching and other allergy-related symptoms.
  • Steroids: In more severe cases, steroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation.
  • Allergy Shots: Allergen-specific immunotherapy can be used in dogs that suffer from chronic allergies.

2. Infections

One of the reasons why dogs lick their paws excessively is due to infections. Infections can cause redness and itchiness, which can lead them to constantly lick at their paws.

Symptoms of an infection in your dog’s paw:

  • Redness or swelling between toes
  • Blisters or pimples on paw pads
  • Limping or favoring one foot over another
  • Foul odor coming from the infected area

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to act quickly as untreated infections can spread and become more serious.

Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.

Infection in your dog's paw

Treating infections at home:

If the infection appears mild, there are some things that you can try at home before taking your pet to see a veterinarian:

  • Clean the affected area with warm water and mild soap twice daily. Dry thoroughly after cleaning.
  • Use antibacterial wipes for dogs’ paws to clean the affected area.
  • Use an Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from licking or biting the affected area.

If you notice that the infection is getting worse, it’s important to take your pet to see a veterinarian. They may prescribe antibiotics or other treatments depending on the severity of the infection. Learn more about paw fungal infections and paw yeast infections.

3. Dry Skin

If your dog has dry skin, it can cause them to lick their paws excessively. This is because the dryness can be uncomfortable and irritating for them.

Symptoms of Dry Skin

  • Flaky or scaly skin
  • Itching or scratching at the affected area(s)
  • Bald patches on fur due to excessive licking, chewing, or scratching
  • Possible redness or inflammation in the affected areas

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. While dry skin isn’t usually a serious issue, if left untreated it could lead to further complications such as infections.

Home Remedies for Dry Skin

To help alleviate your dog’s discomfort from dry skin, there are some home remedies you can try:

  • Giving your dog regular baths with moisturizing shampoo (but not too often! Over-bathing can actually make things worse.)
  • Incorporating healthy fats into their diet (such as salmon oil) which helps promote healthy coat and skin health
  • Making sure they have access to plenty of water throughout the day – hydration is key!
  • Avoiding harsh chemicals that may irritate their sensitive skin (like cleaning products)

If these methods don’t seem effective after a few days, then veterinary treatment may be necessary. Your vet might prescribe medicated shampoos/conditioners or topical creams/sprays that provide relief from itching and irritation.

4. Anxiety or Stress

Just like humans, dogs can experience anxiety and stress. When a dog is feeling anxious or stressed, they may turn to excessive paw licking as a way to self-soothe. This behavior can become compulsive and lead to further issues if not addressed.

Symptoms of Anxiety or Stress in Dogs

  • Pacing back and forth
  • Excessive barking or whining
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Avoiding eye contact with their owner(s)
  • Hiding under furniture/behind objects
  • Destructive behavior (e.g., chewing on furniture)

If you notice any of these symptoms along with your dog’s paw licking behaviors, it could be an indication that they are experiencing anxiety or stress.

WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]

Home Remedies for Anxiety/Stress-Related Paw Licking Behaviors

The first step in treating anxiety/stress-related paw licking behaviors is identifying the root cause of your dog’s distress. Once identified, here are some home remedies you can try:

  • Provide Comfort: Try providing comfort items such as blankets/toys that have familiar scents around them.
  • Increase Exercise: Increasing exercise levels helps reduce tension by releasing endorphins which help elevate mood.
  • Mental Stimulation: Mental stimulation activities such as puzzle toys will provide mental challenges for your pet while also helping them relax.

While these home remedies can be helpful, if your dog’s anxiety or stress is severe, it may require veterinary treatment. Your vet may prescribe medication to help manage the symptoms and recommend behavioral therapy.

It is important to note that some dogs are more prone to anxiety than others due to genetics or past experiences. If you have a dog with a history of anxiety/stress-related behaviors, consult with your veterinarian on how best to manage their condition.

Are there any over the counter products that can help?

Here are some products that might help to soothe your dog’s symptoms. It’s important to note however, that these are not a substitute for taking your dog to the vet. See the next section on when it’s best to take your dog to the vet. 

Moisturising shampoo 

Helps to sooth your dog’s skin and provide relief from itching. Great for dogs with sensitive skin. Just be careful not to shampoo your dog’s feet too often as this can dry out their skin, resulting in more issues! Leave in contact with the red areas for 5 minutes and then rinse off thoroughly with clean water. Use twice per week maximum. 

Antiseptic wipes

A convenient way to keep your dog’s paws clean, especially when travelling. Use once daily or after your dog has been for a particularly dirty walk – gently wipes between your dog’s paws, removing any dirt that’s accumulated. These are good for removing any visible dirt. 

Elizabethan Collar

While many owners hate the idea of their dog being in an E-collar for any period of time, think of using these as a lesser evil! The best way to let your dog’s red paws heal is to let nature take its course and allow the sensitive skin to heal itself – it has no chance of doing this if your dog is licking at their paws all the time. Try an E-collar to break the itching cycle. 

When Your Pup’s Paws Turn Red: Is It Time to See a Vet?

Persistent redness, swelling, bleeding, or other signs of distress should not be ignored as they could indicate an underlying health issue that requires veterinary attention. 

A visit to the vet can help diagnose the cause of your dog’s discomfort. The vet will perform a physical examination and may also take skin scrapings or conduct allergy tests if necessary. 

They might recommend treatments like topical creams, oral medications, or lifestyle changes depending on the diagnosis.

While home remedies can provide temporary relief from symptoms like itching and inflammation associated with red paws, they cannot replace professional veterinary care, especially when dealing with chronic conditions.

How Much Will It Cost to See a Vet?

The cost of visiting a vet can vary greatly based on location and specific services rendered, but generally expect costs in the range of $50-$200 for consultation alone. Additional treatments will increase this amount.

Remember, your furry friend’s health is priceless, and investing in their well-being is always worth it.

Would a vet be able to help over a video call?

A video consultation with a vet can be a good first step in addressing your dog’s over-licking tendencies. An online vet can assess the most likely causes, suggest lifestyle changes and even prescribe short courses of medication to provide your dog temporary relief. However, for persistent or recurrent red paws, it’s recommended to see a vet in person, that way they can perform diagnostic tests and provide more targeted treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common irritants that can cause red paws in dogs? 

There are several potential causes, including allergens like pollen or mold, chemicals found in cleaning products or lawn care items, and even certain types of food.

How are red paws and excessive licking diagnosed?

A vet will typically perform a physical examination of your pet and may take skin scrapings for further testing. They might also ask about any changes in your pet’s environment or diet that could be causing the issue. So, don’t be afraid to speak up and share any concerns you have with your vet.

How long does it take for red paws to heal?

The healing process largely depends on the underlying cause. Removing the allergen should lead to a reduction of symptoms in cases where an allergy is the cause. Infections might require medication but generally resolve within one to two weeks with proper treatment. Be patient when caring for your pet’s wellbeing.


  • Dr Alex Crow, Veterinary Surgeon

    Alex Crow, VetMed MRCVS, is an RCVS accredited Veterinary surgeon with special interests in neurology and soft tissue surgery. Dr Crow is currently practicing at Buttercross Veterinary Center in England. He earned his degree in veterinary medicine in 2019 from the Royal Veterinary College (one of the top 3 vet schools in the world) and has more than three years of experience practicing as a small animal veterinarian (dogs and cats).

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