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Why Is My Dog Limping and Licking Its Paw?

Your dog is limping and licking its paw due to some kind of injury, infection, or inflammation of the paw area. A dog can show signs of discomfort by whimpering, limping and licking its paw. Ensure that your dog gets the correct treatment and diagnosis from a vet. 

There are many reasons why a dog might limp, including bone or joint disease. Licking the paw following a limp indicates that a paw issue is the main cause of the limp. 

Dogs can find themselves in all kinds of situations. Even robust, healthy canines can get injured on their adventures.

It is not always possible for dogs to avoid shrubbery, and debris from trees and plants if they are fortunate enough to have access to nature. They can also be prone to stings from insects like bees and wasps, and bites from other dogs. 

Infections can also cause problems with their paws. 

Most of these issues are easily treatable and do rarely have serious consequences.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws?

Dogs lick their paws because they also care about their hygiene. Dogs use licking to take care of any excess dirt. Irritated or painful paws can also make a dog want to lick the area. 

1. Staying Clean

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Paws

Paw licking does not always indicate a problem or injury. Dogs lick their paws to keep them clean. Excessive licking can be a cause for concern, especially if your dog is also limping. 

2. Pain or Irritation

Dogs lick their paws in an attempt to soothe themselves if the paw is causing pain or irritation. Pay attention to how often your dog is licking its paw. Frequent licking can be cause for concern and requires attention. 

What Causes a Painful or Irritated Paw In Dogs?

These are a few reasons why your dog’s paw is painful or irritated:

  • Stings
  • Bites
  • Infection
  • Foreign Object
  • Cyst

1. Stings

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Dogs come into contact with all kinds of small creatures when outdoors. Dogs are highly curious animals, but are rarely smart when it comes to discerning whether bugs are dangerous or not. 

A buzzing insect that catches their attention can be too tempting to stay away from. Dogs chase down some dangerous creatures.

Stings can cause irritation, swelling, and inflammation. Many types of stings can be treated with at-home first aid. Depending on the insect, stings can be life-threatening too. 

Excessive drooling from the mouth and swelling at the site are also symptoms of certain insect stings. Hives and itching can cause a dog great discomfort as well. 

Signs that the sting is serious:

Some kinds of insect venom can cause a dog to become very anxious and restless. This is due to restricted breathing or venom that affects the nervous system directly.  

There may not be much time to figure out what kind of insect has stung your dog. It’s important to take your dog to the nearest vet immediately if your dog is in great distress or if you are unsure of any symptoms.[1] 

2. Bites


Dogs can get into unwanted altercations with other animals, commonly other dogs. Dog bites can vary in seriousness like insect stings. This depends on factors like the size of each dog and strength of their jaw, and the kinds of diseases the biter may carry. 

It is rare for dogs to target each other’s paws when fighting. It is more likely that they aim for other parts of the body, such as the neck. This can cause serious complications.

An injured esophagus, trachea, or nerves requires immediate professional attention. A bite on the leg can lead to other kinds of damage but are not as potentially life-threatening as a bite on the neck. 

Bites can cause serious injury, such as crushed and mangled tissue under the skin. The skin, muscles, and tendons can also break. Bites that do break through the skin barrier can cause infections.[2] 

3. Infections

dog paw Infections

Bacteria or virus that gets into the body can cause an infection. When it comes to bite wounds, these are always treated as if they are infected. Bacteria from bites quickly get into the wound and multiply.

Bacteria can seriously affect the surrounding tissue. This is known as cellulitis[3]. Diseases such as septic arthritis (infected joint) can rarely occur. Pus buildup (pyothorax) in the chest cavity and abdomen (septic peritonitis) can also occur if infections are left untreated. 

Dogs can develop a variety of different infections throughout their lives. These can have varying causes and symptoms like:

Infections on a dog’s paw can also be caused by yeast.[4]

4. Foreign Object 

Foreign Object on dog paws

Depending on the environments that your dog frequents, different kinds of objects can end up lodged in your dog’s paw.

In natural environments, dogs get things like thorns stuck in their paws. In city centers, tarred areas, and pavements, dogs can get nails, glass, splinters, and other sharp items lodged in their uncovered paws.

Larger foreign objects should be easy to identify. Some small foreign objects that are stuck in your dog’s paw, like tiny pieces of glass, are can be invisible to the naked eye. Inspect their paws carefully.

A dog that is licking its paw and limping might be dealing with an invisible object. 

It might be possible to remove some objects at home with an old bank card, a pair of tweezers, or by hand. Some objects require surgical removal. If you are unsure if removal can cause further injury, it is best to see a vet.[5]

5. Cysts

Dogs can get cysts between their toes called interdigital cysts. These are more likely to occur on their front paws. Cysts can have different causes, from infection to ingrown hairs. 

Dogs with short and coarse fur are more likely to get ingrown hairs. Overweight, irritated skin, allergens in the environment, and the shape of a dog’s paws can leave them prone to developing cysts. 

Watch out for bleeding cysts. These can lead to further infection. Treatment for cysts is usually prescribed directly by vets.[6]

How Can I Stop My Dog From Limping And Licking Its Paw? 

Treating the underlying conditions will prevent your dog from limping and licking its paw. A dog may be doing this for various reasons. A dog limping and licking its paw is a sign that it is in pain. The pain or discomfort could be caused by injury or disease.

To treat insect stings, like bee stings, remove the stinger and apply a thick paste made from baking soda over the affected area. An oatmeal bath can help calm multiple stings all over the body. 

Talk to your vet about giving your dog an antihistamine. For serious stings, take your dog directly to the vet immediately. 

Antibiotics, topical or ingested, can be prescribed for a variety of infections, including infections from dog bites, cysts, and wounds from foreign objects that get infected. 

For wounds from foreign objects to be treated, it is important to ensure that the object is removed before being treated surgically and/or otherwise. Your best line of defense against a worsening wound or infection is your vet.

Related: Remedies to Stop Dog From Licking Its Paws


Do Dogs Lick Their Paws When in Pain?

A dog with an injury or other condition in its leg or paw may lick their paws. Sometimes, licking a front paw excessively can be an indication of pain elsewhere in the body. Dogs lick their paws when in pain. 

How Do You Know if Your Dog Is Suffering? 

Crying, growling, limping, sensitivity to touch and agitation are some signs that your dog is suffering. They might stop eating, have shallow breathing, and become quieter than usual. A dog can also remove itself from humans and other animals to hide out of sight. 

Can I Give My Dog Ibuprofen for a Limp? 

Dogs should never be given human medications for health concerns. Contact your vet to find out the best course of action. Dogs should only take medications that are prescribed by a vet. 

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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