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Foot Licking - Atopic Foot Chewing

By far, the most common cause of foot licking is ATOPY. You see and hear dogs licking and sucking on their feet at the worst possible times, like when you’re trying to sleep. And you feel bad for them, you know?

Foot Licking – Atopic Foot Chewing


Always check a dog or cat for fleas when they’re foot licking. Admittedly the feet are NOT the favorite place for fleas to eat. they like living under the tail, belly and thighs. But check, anyway.

Tangles in the webbing

This is the second most common cause of foot licking and chewing. And it “layers” on itself like a vicious cycle. The dog has ATOPY and is licking its feet. The spit and the foot licking all contribute to tangling and twisting of the hair –  which then PERPETUATES the foot licking and chewing. The reason I mention it, is because you could GIVE medicine to “fix” foot chewing and it might address the allergic cause, while ignoring the mechanical cause. And fail. So, for foot chewing always keep the feet  trimmed up.

Long hair between the pads

Foot Licking - Atopic Foot Chewing
Foot Licking – Atopic Foot Chewing

Some, smart dogs know that long hair growing between the pads is screwing up their abilility to get ‘traction’ on the ground and some dogs actually try and barber it. Other dogs just chew their feet because overgrown hair between the pads gets twisted, OR simply holds irritating dusts and molds against the sensitive skin between the pads. So, for foot licking always keep the feet  trimmed up.

Overgrown nails

This is another “less common” cause of foot licking and chewing but people are sometimes surprised when they discover that one or more nails is diseased or broken. So a careful exam of all the nails on all the feet is important. Again, medicine won’t work if there’s a mechanical discomfort involved. And seeing the nails, and assessing their health is easier with short fur. So, for foot licking always keep the feet  trimmed up.

Yeast and Bacterial infections

If you examine your dog’s feet and they’re swollen and pink in between the pads, it’s possible that a yeast infection is going on. That’s super itchy. Yeast infections are made worse by spit. Also, by moisture trapped by hair between the pads. Cleaning the feet frequently, with Cetaphil Wipes, or antifungal wipes, plus minimizing the impact of thick foot-hair on the moisture of the feet is good. So, for foot licking always keep the feet  trimmed up.

Foot Licking – Atopic Foot Chewing

Atopy is when dust, smog, pollen, and car-combustion-by-products accumulate in the fur, causing irritation and inflammation in the skin. You’ll see dogs licking their feet, with pink eyes and ears, and pink bellies. They’ll itch ALL OVER.

Atopy is “sister” to allergy. The difference is that with Allergy, you’re dealing with an immune response to antigens. With atopy you’re usually dealing with an immune response to IRRITANTS.

For pure “allergy” a baby wipe doesn’t factor.

For “Atopy” keeping the feet clean and wiped (Click) helps a LOT.

Foot Licking – Atopic Foot Chewing

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Dr Erik Johnson

Dr Erik Johnson is a Marietta, Georgia Veterinarian with a practice in small animal medicine. He graduated from University of Georgia with his Doctorate in 1991. Dr Johnson is the author of several texts on Koi and Pond Fish Health and Disease as well as numerous articles on dog and cat health topics.