Why Does My Dog Lick His Paws Raw?

If your dog is licking his paws red and raw, don’t ignore it. The problem is unlikely to go away on its own, but we have some remedies you can try on your own.


Your dog is licking his paws red, obsessively licking. Possible reasons include everything from a yeast infection to anxiety. A dog licks to heal, whether the problem is injury, illness, or stress. Dogs who continually lick their paws often end up with reddish-brown staining. This occurs due to a component in saliva called porphyrin, which are iron-containing molecules (they cause tear stains, too).

Inspect the Area

With luck, especially if the licking behavior is new, the problem could be as simple as something stuck in the paw itself or the paw hair. It could also be an injury, such as he has worn off a paw pad running on a rough surface – even rough indoor/outdoor carpeting – or he may have a blister from walking on a hot surface.

Check carefully between the toes for injuries, plant material, and ticks. If you remove the offending debris or bug and treat the wound if needed, he may stop licking. Unfortunately, though, it is often more complicated.

Obsessive Licking

Dogs will obsessively lick their paws if they have a yeast infection. This can be related to atopy (allergies) or to yeast infections elsewhere on your dog’s body, like the ears and groin.

Yeast infections are common during hot, humid weather. For mild cases, you can treat with a home remedy. Soak the paw in Epsom salts and warm water for about five minutes, then rinse and dry the paw carefully. Once the paw is dry, sprinkle human foot powder in between the toes.

Most foot powders are anti-fungal (so anti yeast), antibacterial, anti-itch, and taste bad. Treat two to three times a day faithfully for five to seven days. If the licking doesn’t end, it’s time to see your veterinarian (licking can be a sign of more serious problems, like gastrointestinal disease).

Allergy syndromes such as atopy may also cause paw licking. A full verteinary workup is usually required to get to the bottom of a dog’s allergies.

Signs of Anxiety

If your dog is licking his paws due to anxiety, the foot powder remedy may help to break the cycle, but you really need to treat the underlying anxiety. Most dogs will have other signs of anxiety besides licking or chewing on themselves. They may be destructive, vocalize excessively, or may retreat and hide.

Increasing your dog’s exercise, spending some more time playing and training, and calming treats may help with mild cases of anxiety. Ideally, you want to identify what is causing the anxiety (a new person, pet, location?) and try to eliminate or at least manage that. If not, talk with your primary care veterinarian who may suggest that you consult a veterinary behaviorist for behavior-modification protocols and anti-anxiety medications.