If your dog is licking his paws at night, you may be wondering what may going on in that little head.
Perhaps the licking noise is diving you nuts and you're desperate for some solutions. Or maybe you're concerned that something may be wrong.
Here's one thing to consider: for a good part of the day, your dog is on his feet, so when everything is quiet and your dog is lying down, your dog is more likely to acknowledge his paws compared to when he's active and standing on them.
A Bedtime Ritual
Some dogs will engage in a few minutes of paw licking just before falling asleep.
This can be simply a little ritual your dog has during times of relaxation.
For sake of comparison, this form of paw licking can be compared to a child using a thumb as a pacifier.
The dog is simply finding a way to soothe himself before settling for the night.
Such dogs should not be scolded for engaging in this behavior.
Dogs that develop these habits are often dogs with high-strung personalities. Scolding them can actually backfire as it risks increasing their anxiety and causing them to want to "self soothe" themselves even more.
What you can try instead is offering an alternate behavior to engage in.
For instance, you can provide a bone or a toy stuffed with food, like a Kong, so to keep him busy, and hopefully forget all about licking, as he settles down for the night.
A Digestive Issue
Does your dog wake up at night smacking his lips and then proceeds to lick his paws? If so, the lip smacking and paw licking may be a sign of some type of digestive issue.
In particular, gastrointestinal upset and reflux can trigger excessive licking and swallowing behaviors as these can help soothe the dog's stomach and esophagus, explains veterinarian Dr. Kara.
Feeding these dogs a bedtime snack can sometimes help, although some dogs may need medications to keep the reflux better under control.
A Matter of Allergies
When humans get allergies, they tend to sneeze, get itchy eyes and a dripping nose, when it come to dog allergies instead, they'll engage in an itch-lick and chew cycle.
While dogs with skin allergies will typically lick and chew their feet also during the day time, it's also true that during the day, your dog may be too busy to notice the itch.
When it's quiet and everything slows down, he may therefore focus more on the itchy sensation.
If your dog is chewing and licking his feet a whole lot, it's a good idea once again to mention it to your vet.
The most common allergies in dogs are allergies to food and things that get in contact with their feet such as grasses and cleaning supplies.
A simple skin scrape can help confirm and rule out many common causes of itchy skin in dogs, and if nothing is found, your vet may suggest doing a dietary trial if he suspects a food allergy.
A Matter of Pain
Ever noticed how pain seems to get worse at night?
Most likely it's because at night there is less to distract you from it compared to the day when you have other things to occupy your mind.
The same may be going on with dogs.
If your dog has pain somewhere on his paws, his musculoskeletal system or bundles of nerves ending there, the night is when he'll be more likely to notice it.
And licking may be your dog's way to try to deal with the pain.
According to research, repetitive licking and chewing may arise from pain, presumably as the animal’s attention is drawn to the area of discomfort.
Once again, it's a good idea to schedule an appointment with a vet so he or she can inspect the paw area for presence of splinters, embedded glass or other potential sources of pain.