Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws Before Bed? Understanding This Instinctive Behavior

As a dog owner, you might have witnessed your dog licking their paws before bed. Given the strange behavior, it’s hard not to wonder why dogs lick their paws, specifically before they settle down for the night. Plus, it can be incredibly stressful if it seems like the paw licking may be a compulsive behavior or a sign of an underlying health condition. Luckily, paying close attention to your dog’s behavior makes it simple to figure out why your dog licks their paws.

Some of the most common reasons dogs lick their paws before bed include allergies, skin infections, diseases, self-soothing for wounds or inflamed feet, parasites and fleas, behavioral disorders that cause compulsive paw licking, and underlying stress and pain. There’s a wide variety of reasons your dog might feel compelled to lick their paws, but once you can identify the cause, the issue becomes much easier to address.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws Before Bed?

dog licking paws before bed

Your Dog Has Allergies

One of the most common reasons dogs compulsively lick their paws is that they suffer from an allergy. This can be an environmental allergy caused by irritants like pollen and mold, or can even be a food allergy. If you believe that allergies may result from your dog’s excessive paw licking and are caused by itchy paws, you should monitor their behavior after eating and going outside. Identifying the allergy becomes simple if they start licking every time they walk in a particular area or eat a specific food.

Your Dog Has a Skin Disease or Infection

Another common reason that dogs may compulsively lick their paws is if they suffer from a skin infection or disease. These skin issues can be caused by allergies but have underlying causes like chemical exposure and genetics. You can keep your dog’s paws hygienic to reduce skin disease severity. Still, if the problem seems consistent, you may need to contact your dog’s veterinarian for medication or ointment.

Your Dog Has a Wound on Their Paws

Licking is a common self-soothing behavior observed in dogs, so if you see your dog licking their paws suddenly, it’s worth checking to see if a wound might be the cause. This is particularly likely to be the cause if you notice that your dog only seems to be focusing on one of their paws. It can be caused by cuts, scrapes, sores, burns, sprains, splinters, and any other painful physical condition that could affect their paws.

Your Dog Has Parasites or Fleas

Unfortunately, dogs don’t have any way to communicate when they’re suffering from a parasite or flea infection, so they are often driven to compulsive soothing behavior like paw licking to reduce the pain and itching. If you notice that your dog has slowly started a habit of paw licking, and it now seems unbearable for them, it’s worth investigating if the habit results from a new infection. Treating fleas or parasites with the proper medication can give your dog all the relief they deserve (and save yourself from a lot of grief!) 

Your Dog Compulsively Licks Their Paws

dog compulsively licking paws

If you’ve noticed that your dog has a consistent habit of licking their paws all day, the issue may be compulsive behavior. There are lots of reasons that these obsessive behaviors can develop, including boredom from an understimulating home, anxiety from environmental stressors and pent-up energy, and even stress from causes like physical pain and loneliness. If you believe that your dog’s constant paw licking is a compulsive behavior, you should work to address their unhappiness by giving them lots of physical and mental stimulation. Working to redirect their energy into playing with toys and people may solve the problem.

Your Dog Is in Pain

While painful paw injuries can cause obsessive licking, they aren’t the only reason you might observe your dog compulsively licking their paws. If your dog is suffering internal pain due to a health issue like arthritis or cancer, they may be driven to lick their feet to soothe the pain compulsively. If there doesn’t seem to be any apparent reason your dog is licking their paws, it’s worth taking them for a checkup to see if a painful disease may be causing the behavior.

Your Dog Is Just Relaxing

If you’ve thoroughly checked for any possible causes of constant licking and even taken your dog to the vet, you may need to consider the possibility that your dog is just trying to wind down. Dogs find grooming incredibly soothing, so if your dog seems to lick their paws before bed as part of a nighttime routine without any compulsions, there likely isn’t any reason to be worried. If you feel the behavior is an issue, there are products like repellant spray that you can use to discourage paw licking and modify their behavior. 

Is It Okay To Let My Dog Lick Their Paws Before Bed?

In most cases, paw licking is an entirely acceptable and safe behavior when the possibility of underlying diseases or behavioral disorders has been ruled out. If your dog licks their paws too frequently, they might have a severe moisture buildup. This will eventually cause a skin infection, so it’s important to pay attention to how much they engage in the behavior. If you think your dog is licking their paws too frequently, you should consider teaching a command or using a repellent to stop the behavior. 

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