You get up in the middle of the night for a midnight snack…
Your dog, on the other hand, has been snacking on his paws. He’s been licking them all night!
You start to notice this behavior again and again.
What could be the origin of such a sudden habit?
In this article, you’ll find out:
- 3 kinds of anxiety that can cause this behavior.
- 1 reason for this behavior that even vets struggle with (take notes!).
- 5 types of pain and injury that can make your dog lick his paws at night.
- And much, much more…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog lick his paws at night?
- 13 reasons why your dog licks his paws at night
Why does my dog lick his paws at night?
Your dog licks his paws at night because he’s anxious, which can turn into compulsiveness. He can be in pain due to strains, sprains, joint pains, cuts, burns, dryness, foreign bodies, or insect and bug bites. It can also be a behavioral symptom of allergies, hormonal imbalance, or GI issues.
13 reasons why your dog licks his paws at night
#1: Anxiety turned into compulsiveness
Dogs are capable of developing anxiety.
Since your pup is feeling anxious, he needs to have an outlet. Otherwise, it will feel overwhelming for him.
And so, Fido eases his anxiety by licking his paws at night.
That could not be all. Generally, here are behaviors that an anxious dog exhibits:
- Constant barking.
- Defecating and urinating inside the house.
In this investigation, among 13,700 dogs, it’s found that 72.5% of them experience anxiety.
So, what causes anxiety in dogs?
According to the Merck Vet manual, there are 3 causes of anxiety:
It’s natural to be fearful during threatening situations.
On the other hand, anxiety is a response to this fear.
Moreover, an exaggerated fear response is called a phobia.
And so, fear-related anxiety can be caused by:
- Unfamiliar people.
- Presence of other canines.
- Visual stimuli such as hats or uniforms.
- Loud noises like trucks and construction work.
- Surfaces they find weird. Examples are wood floors and steps of stairs.
- Combination stimuli. One example is a tall-looking vacuum that emits a loud noise.
He might feel this when you are away.
As he matured, your pup might have grown hyper-attached to you.
He might begin showing anxiety when you’re about to leave the house.
Once you get home, he’ll show exaggerated welcoming behaviors to you.
As your dog ages, irreversible changes occur. These changes affect Fido’s behavior.
Since his cognitive function begins to decline, he becomes confused. That confusion can lead to anxiety.
The cause of such is cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). It’s often referred to as dog dementia.
Moreover, the vet manual also has a section for abnormal repetitive behaviors. That’s because…
Anxiety could cause compulsiveness
The condition for this is called canine compulsive disorder (CCD).
It says in the vet manual that chronic anxiety could cause compulsive behaviors. There are also many other causes, namely:
- Lack of daily routine.
- Changes in the environment.
- Different consequences for the same misbehavior.
So what are compulsive behaviors?
Remember these words: unusual and repetitive.
Compulsiveness is the repetitive performance of an action that’s out of context. The behavior/s then becomes hard to control and terminate.
It will begin to interfere with his daily routine.
He should be sleeping, right? But instead, he licks his paws.
If he starts doing this without his stimuli anymore, it becomes an independent case.
At that point, intervention by a vet or behaviorist is crucial.
In between your pup’s toes could be a colony of ticks…so better check!
Warning: It’ll look like a (yucky) stem of grapes if they’re many.
A tick’s saliva kind of works like a pain killer when they bite. That’s why most tick bites are painless. Despite that, at some point, your pooch’s bound to get irritated.
If your pooch has ticks, he’d also:
- Totally put his paw in his mouth.
Ticks love a warm and hidden area to bite on. Plus, your puppy’s feet are easy to get into.
These bloodsucking parasites also bite there because it’s thin and full of nerve endings.
That’s why you’d notice that enormous ticks are in his toes. That’s because ticks aren’t disturbed in there, they can feed until they’re full.
If you decide to remove the ticks, be careful and more patient. Since the area’s thin, it’s also sensitive.
Once you remove one, your pup can withdraw their paw from you.
Then, the bitten area could be left open. And so, you should expect a little blood rushing out.
Don’t miss out on: 7 Weird Reasons Why Dogs Scratch Themselves + 5 Solutions
One sign of allergies in dogs is licking.
Other symptoms of allergies are:
- Watery eyes.
- Acting like something’s biting them.
3 kinds of allergies can be the culprit for this behavior.
Dogs could be allergic to certain foods as well.
Thanks to research, the most common food allergens in dogs are identified. Namely:
- Dairy products.
According to VCA Hospital, here are signs of a food-related allergic reaction:
- Weight loss.
- Lack of energy.
- Digestive disturbances.
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD)
Fleas are not just parasites. They’re an allergen for your pup, too.
In fact, they’re the number 1 most common allergen in dogs.
It’s because their saliva contains protein that causes a reaction.
When fleas bite your dog, they inject that allergen saliva of theirs, too.
“But my dog doesn’t have fleas…”
You can’t know for sure.
Vets tell us that fleas don’t stay in your dog. After feeding, they’ll run off, satisfied.
For humans, this type of allergy causes a runny nose and an itchy throat.
For dogs, it’s different. Aside from licking his paws, your pup might also show:
- Rubbing its face on textured surfaces.
- Biting and scratching their underarms.
Here are the allergens that can cause this:
- Dust mites.
- Indoor plants.
- Grass and weed pollens.
Warning: This allergy can develop into skin disease.
Atopic dermatitis (AD)
This condition occurs when the scratched area becomes inflamed.
During the first year, this disease doesn’t appear. Clinical signs might appear between 1 to 6 years of your dog.
These are the symptoms of AD:
- Greasy skin.
- Yeasty smell.
- Redness of the skin.
These symptoms can become worse in time.
On the other hand, here are the most affected areas where AD manifests:
- Nose and lips.
- Around the eyes.
- The base of the tail.
- In between their toes.
Continue reading: Why does my dog act like something is biting her?
A high energy level and boredom don’t go together…
Despite that, it’s a mixture that’s brewing in your pooch.
He’s got nothing better to do than to lick his paws at night.
Maybe he didn’t get enough exercise during the day.
Other causes of boredom include:
- Insufficient training.
- Not enough socialization.
- Lack of mental stimulation.
Did you know? According to research, boredom could cause sleep deprivation and restlessness, too.
That may be why instead of sleeping, Fido licks his paws at night.
To be sure, there are other signs of doggy boredom. Those are:
- Jumping on you.
- Trying to escape.
- Panting without reason.
- Scratching surfaces or himself.
Don’t have enough time to increase his exercise time?
Then you can provide him with puzzling toys. The type of trinket that keeps him working and busy.
Leave them with interactive toys like:
- Dog treats toy ball. Not only is it interactive, it helps clean your pup’s teeth, too.
- StarMark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy. It ‘bobs’ around and dispenses treats for your pooch.
- Puzzle treat dispenser for dogs. This one’s a little intermediate but enjoyable and highly recommended.
#5: Foreign body
Your canine licks his paws at night in an attempt to remove something.
There may be a foreign body stuck in between his toes.
And so, he relies on his tongue to reach it. Fido hopes to remove it.
Maybe he stepped on a stone during the day. Then, that teenie stone got stuck in his paw.
He might have also run on shards.
If it’s something pointy, it could hurt your pooch. And so, he tries to relieve the pain by licking.
Dogs naturally try to heal themselves. They do so by licking the affected area.
Did you know? A study found out that a dog’s saliva has antibacterial properties. Although only a little.
#6: Insect and bug bites
Bugs and insects are interested in your pooch, too.
Just the same amount that your dog’s interested in them.
I say this because dogs are nosy creatures.
That’s why little critters spark your pooch’s curiosity. And, that mutual interest creates trouble for him.
These critters could bite him. Which then causes him to lick his paws at night.
Here’s a list of bugs and insects to look out for:
- Bee stings.
- Spider bites.
Warning: Your dog could be sensitive to bugs and insect bites. He could be born with sensitivity, or it’s developed.
Like fleas, some insects have protein in their saliva. That protein could be an allergen for your dog.
If this happens, a more severe reaction can occur. The bites of wasps, hornets, and bees could be the most crucial.
Vets tell us to watch out for these reactions:
- Difficulty breathing.
- Swollen muzzle or face.
- Numerous red swellings over the body.
Your dog may be licking his paws due to an inner pain he’s experiencing.
As mentioned in #5, your dog will try to heal himself.
That aside, let’s specifically dive into the reasons why your dog could be feeling pain.
The ligaments connect a bone to another.
Sprains are acquired from tearing or stretching these ligaments.
This is a common injury in dogs. Especially those that are active and overweight.
Ways your dog can accidentally sprain himself:
- Hard landings.
- Jumping hurdles.
- Suddenly stepping into a hole.
The most common dog sprains happen in the wrist and knees.
The muscles and bones are connected by tissues called tendons.
As for strains, it happens when tendons are injured.
It’s a minor injury that can get your pup limping.
Strains can occur if your dog stretches too far or too much.
Other ways your pup can get strained are:
This condition is common in the hips and thighs.
Learn more: Why Do Dogs Arch Their Backs? 13 Reasons & 9 Situations
The more your pooch is active, the more he’s prone to injuries. Those injuries can cause problems in his joints.
According to experts, there are 2 categories of joint problems in dogs.
The first one is a developmental problem. It’s where your pup’s joints don’t develop properly.
Examples of that are hip or elbow dysplasia.
The second one is called a degenerative problem. This occurs due to the degeneration of your pup’s ligaments.
That decline causes vulnerability to your canine’s affected joints. It could also turn into osteoarthritis.
Factors that make your dog predisposed to osteoarthritis:
- Old age.
- Improper nutrition.
- Injuries, i.e., ligament tears or fractures.
- Recurring stress from physical activities.
- Large breeds, e.g., Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and German Shepherd dogs.
Signs that your pooch has osteoarthritis:
- Weight gain.
- Difficulty getting up.
- Reluctance to be physical.
- Having accidents around the house, e.g., urinating or defecating anywhere.
How to accommodate your dog who has arthritis:
- Buy non-slip rugs.
- Provide him with an orthopedic dog bed.
- Create a ramp for him to use on small stairs.
- Block off the staircase that separates one floor from another.
Let’s go back again to reason #5; your pup naturally tries to heal himself. And this time, he’s healing himself from a cut.
Aside from licking his wound, your pup might also let out small whines.
Check to see what size of wound you and your pup’s dealing with.
Applying first aid
Step 1: See if the case is how it is or more.
Questions to answer:
- Is he in pain or shock?
- Does he have other injuries?
Step 2: Assess their cut.
- If it’s small and not bleeding, proceed to step 3.a.
- There’s blood rushing from it? Then, apply pressure to the cut using a dry and clean dressing.
- Is there any debris in their wound, e.g., glass? Don’t remove it and don’t apply any pressure on it.
- An area of their skin is missing? If your pup permits, cover the wound using a clean and dry dressing. However, if Fido’s uncomfortable with it, better leave it uncovered. But make sure to watch and don’t let it touch any surfaces.
Step 3. a: Gently run water over their cut. The amount depends on what your pup can take. The goal is to remove as many bacteria as possible.
To make sure it’s cleaned, prepare saltwater. You just need to add one teaspoon of salt to a pint of boiling water. Wait for it to cool and flush the wound with it.
Step 3. b: You should do this for the last 3 cases in step 2. After making the necessary response, call and book an appointment with the vet.
Warning: For the aftercare, don’t use the following to clean your dog’s wound:
- Tea tree oil.
- Rubbing alcohol.
- Hydrogen peroxide.
Walking your canine for too long during a hot day could be harmful. He’s easily dehydrated due to the heat and his paw pads are at risk.
Your pup could be experiencing paw pad burn. That’s why he’s licking his paws at night.
Paw pad burn could also happen when his feet are exposed to chemicals. Examples are:
- Motor oil.
- Battery acid.
- Concrete mix.
- Insect repellents.
Signs that your dog’s paw pad is burned:
- Visible blisters.
- Holding up a foot.
- Whining while walking.
- Ripping or coming off of the paw pad.
Note: Treatment depends on the cause and intensity of the burn. Consult your dog’s veterinarian for the proper treatment.
#10: Dry paws
This one’s tricky.
It’s because licking can both cause dry skin and alleviate the pain from it.
What are the other causes of dry paw pads?
- Dry air.
- Cold weather.
- Hot pavement.
- Repetitively running on rough surfaces.
Want to check?
Dry paw pads are cracked and discolored. It’s also overly rough.
Warning: If dry paw pads are untreated and exposed, it can progress to an infection.
#11: Hormonal imbalance
The most common sign of hormonal imbalance in dogs is skin problems.
This imbalance occurs when your dog’s endocrine system gets faulty. That system is assigned to secreting the right amount of hormones.
That irregularity of hormone production could cause diseases. The MSD Vet Manual give us examples to note:
- Diabetes – reluctance or imbalance of insulin.
- Hypothyroidism – thyroid hormone deficiency.
- Cushing’s disease – increased amount of cortisol.
- Hyperthyroidism – overproduction of thyroid hormone.
- Addison disease – also called hypoadrenocorticism, which is a deficiency in adrenocortical hormones.
So, what happens if there’s an irregular amount of hormones?
PetMD says that the signs are:
- Wetting the floor.
- Dry and brittle fur.
- Darkening of the skin.
- Changes in the level of activity.
- Itching, which can cause him to lick his paws at night.
#12: Underlying gastrointestinal (GI) issues
Researchers studied the characterization of excessive licking of surfaces (ELS) in dogs.
The authors examined that the cause could be an underlying GI disease.
It’s an interesting hypothesis.
It’s because this behavior is usually labeled as a behavioral concern.
The authors did find proof.
Based on their results, 73.6% of dogs have ELS and GI abnormalities.
The GI issues found in the subject dogs are:
- GI tract infiltration.
- Chronic pancreatitis.
- Gastric foreign body,
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Delayed gastric emptying.
With that, the research concludes that:
GI disorders should be considered as a possible diagnosis for ELS.
You may also wonder: Why does my dog grunt when I hug him?
#13: Acral lick granuloma
Not only is your pooch licking his paws at night, but he could also be chewing it a little, too.
And so, you check what could be the reason and…
You’re greeted with a red and wet skin lesion.
If this is the case, it can be acral lick granuloma (ALG).
PetMD says dog parents who had pups with ALG have the same stories:
The lesion started as a small tiny sore in their paw.
Dogs begin to lick the area, again and again. That’s why it gradually progresses into a larger lesion.
It also becomes more habitable to bacteria and infection.
What could cause such a condition?
Usually, all of the 12 other reasons are mentioned in this article. That’s why I put this last.
The struggle against ALG
Vets have a problem with giving dog parents a specific cure for ALG.
If looked on under a microscope, the intensity of the lesion could be seen. There you’d find:
- Scarred oil glands.
- Inflamed capillaries.
- Broken hair follicles.
- Small pockets of bacteria.
If vets decide to remove those surgically, it might get worse…again.
That’s because your dog will be bound to lick the sutures. Doing so will result in making a new granuloma.
Wrap his leg with a cast to prevent licking?
Oh, he might resort to licking his other paw…
Now he’d have two granulomas in total.
What could be done, then?
- Cortisone injections.
- Long-term antibiotics.
- Laser surgical instrumentation.
With that, vets tell dog parents to not be in despair. Surely, there are many ways to work this out. And it’ll be the best for your pooch.