How Come English Bulldogs Lick Their Paws? Discover The Reasons Why

English Bulldog Licking Left Paw

Have you ever seen your pet English Bulldog licking its paws and wondered why it always does that? 

There are actually many reasons for an English Bulldog to lick its paws including boredom, comfort, and allergies. There are so many explanations, some harmless and some serious, so it’s important to investigate the reasons and follow up with any necessary remedy or treatment. 

Almost all dog breeds will lick themselves at times and often it’s their way of grooming themselves. But, you may notice your English Bulldog is licking its paws excessively or more often than before. Let’s find out more.

Reasons For Constant Paws Licking


Many creatures in the animal kingdom, including dogs, will self-groom by licking themselves. It is a normal and healthy activity for your bulldog. If this is the reason your dog is licking its paws you probably don’t have anything to worry about. 

In some cases, although it’s not common, dogs can get obsessive about grooming. That means they will groom themselves more than usual and excessively and that can indicate a health problem. Usually, it’s connected to one of the reasons listed below. 

Fleas Or Ticks

It is hard to avoid those pesky fleas or horrible ticks that every dog will likely experience during its lifetime. The good news is they are easy to spot by parting the fur and doing a quick search.

You will see the fleas moving around or might see small eggs in the fur. Also, you might see red marks where the fleas have bitten your dog and sucked some blood.

These unwanted parasites love to gather around the warm spots of your dog like under its legs and around the ears and neck. Summer months are when they are most common.

The bad news is fleas can be hard to eradicate.

Start by washing and brushing your itchy bulldog to remove any fleas as soon as you can. Then treat your dog with a flea product (shampoo, soap, sprays, power or flea collar) that you can source from a supermarket, pet store, or your vet.

Be sure to treat any other pets even if they don’t show any signs of having fleas. Do follow up treatments and check your pets often for new outbreaks.

Next comes the big job of cleaning your house. 

In just 24 hours a female flea can lay 50 eggs. Your dog will easily drop some eggs during daily life and look at the many places he’s been.

Every room in your house could be harboring a family of fleas and they can get on your bed, the sofa, the carpets, and even in your car. Since they multiply so quickly it is important to kill the fleas and remove the eggs pronto.

How to treat your home for fleas:

  • Wash all linens including ones you are not using
  • Vacuum every room twice
  • Hire a professional cleaning company for a deep clean if the infestation is bad
  • Wash your clothing and any other fabrics in hot soapy water
  • Wipe down every surface with a powerful cleaning agent
  • Try to keep doors and windows closed especially if the weather is hot

Hormone Imbalance

A dog can get spots and lick them when there is a hormone imbalance such as hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormone is produced) or hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone is produced). 

A dog will lick the exposed skin causing hair to become thin and get bald spots. Constant licking will cause further irritation. 

Other signs of hormone imbalance include:

  • skin color
  • coat thickness
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • low energy levels 

Professional veterinarian treatment will be required and there is a wide range of therapies and medications available.

Dermatitis Or Other Infections

Dermatitis and other infections will cause dry, irritated, and flaky skin and your dog naturally will lick the area affected. Consult your veterinarian for the best treatment. 


Remember that old saying? He’s licking his wounds. It comes from the knowledge we have that animals lick themselves when they are hurt or injured. Their natural instincts drive them to do it.

It’s very easy for a dog to get a wood splinter or piece of debris stuck between his furry paws. It’s not easy to remove without help, but your dog will surely try by licking the area it can feel is uncomfortable or hurting. Or it may have an ingrown nail, cut, or scratch that is irritating the skin. 

Bee stings or insect bites are other possible causes of pain and irritation.

Inspect your dog’s paws to see if there’s any evidence of injury, damage, or something being caught on the paw. Watch your dog walking to see if there is a limp, swelling, redness, or any other signs of discomfort or pain.


Dogs need lots of attention, playtime, mental stimulation, grooming, exercise, and love. If your dog isn’t getting enough of any of these things it may feel bored.  Then it may turn to licking its paws excessively. 

Boredom can lead to destructive behavior if not addressed. You could come home to find your house trashed by your dog whose boredom has gotten out of control.

Interesting fact: Cortisol is a stress hormone that builds up when a dog is bored (among other emotions) and the stress hormone is reduced when they lick their paws. 


Dogs can suffer from anxiety and might lick their paws as a form of self-comfort. Mother dogs will lick their puppies to comfort them so they find comfort in doing that for themselves. 

There are many reasons dogs can suffer from feelings of anxiety including old age, separation anxiety, changes in their life such as moving to a new home, loud noises, the presence of other animals, feeling stressed, past traumas, fear, and loneliness. 

Anxiety can overwhelm a dog at any time of its life and without any obvious reason (in the same way it can happen to humans). Make sure you give your beloved bulldog plenty of love, attention, and reassurance if you suspect anxiety or nervousness is the bother. 


Dogs can suffer from allergies from many things including but not limited to:

  • Grass and plants
  • Dust including construction which may be going on in your neighborhood
  • Flowers and pollen
  • Food 
  • Chemicals such as soap in pet products or washing powder
  • Other animals
  • Pesticides  
  • Mould
  • Medication

One of the most common allergies is atopic dermatitis which affects cats and dogs. The allergic reaction happens when airborne substances such as dust or pollen are breathed in or the dog ingests something they are sensitive to. 

Identifying an allergy can be difficult. Start with a visit to your veterinarian who might recognize the allergy and be able to give you a fast diagnosis and medication (topical or oral meds). 

Other times identifying an allergy can take some patience. The process of elimination is best to be sure of the cause. Make a list of the possible causes and one by one eliminate them until you see some improvement.

Those elements you can control easier should be tested first such as food and pet grooming products. 

The most common food allergies in dogs are beef, chicken, and dairy products. Sometimes dogs are allergic to grains. Remove particular foods from your dog’s diet one by one and watch for any positive changes.

If you see an improvement you will know the allergy was probably caused by what you eliminated. Good detective work! 

Sometimes allergies will disappear before you confirm for sure what the allergy was from. 

If your bulldog is sensitive it may even be reacting to the washing powder you use on your own clothes or to your perfume.

After all, you are giving it lots of cuddles and it’s probably napping on your lap given half the chance. So consider every possibility and take your time. Allergy detection is time-consuming.

If needed your vet may recommend further testing and medications. 

Allergies can be seasonal so you might suddenly notice the allergy pops up at the same time every year. Some dogs might go through life without an allergy and suddenly develop one at a certain stage of life.


Dogs are creatures of habit and paw licking is a common dog past time. So it may simply be your dog is busy licking those paws out of habit. But even habits can lead to obsessive behavior so if you feel it’s becoming a problem habit you should attempt to break the habit.

The best way to discourage paw licking is to distract the dog from another activity. A walk in the park, play session in the yard, or a bath can all take their mind off paw licking.

We understand it could be a full-time job distracting your little paw licker and you probably don’t have that much time. Just do your best and don’t give up.

Helping Your Pooch

So now you know most of the reasons you can begin to determine which issue your dog might have. There are many reasons and don’t dismiss the possibility that your English Bulldog is licking his paws for several of the reasons on the long list.

Watch your dog carefully and look for other signs of problems such as fur loss or injury. Notice if your dog is licking one paw or multiple paws as this can be a major sign of which issue might be causing the strong desire in your dog to lick its paws a lot. 

Side Effects Of Excessive Paw Licking

The side effects of frequent paw licking can be mild to serious. Chronic licking can cause problems.

Fur loss is a side effect of your dog licking repeatedly in the same area. This can lead to the development of lick granulomas.

Lick granulomas are more serious. Lick granulomas (also known as acral lick dermatitis) are open sores on the skin and can grow bigger. They can be very painful and difficult to heal.

Often the local vet will cover them to prevent further growth and frequent trips to the vet might be needed during the recovery process.

If the paw is constantly wet from saliva there can be a risk of infection such as bacterial or yeast infection.

How To Stop Your Dog From Excessive Paw Licking

If you think your dog is bored, licking from habit, or has anxiety you can spend more active time playing and walking your dog on a regular basis. If you are too busy you can always ask a friend to walk your dog or hire a professional dog walker. 

Some vets will recommend your dog wear a cone around its neck for some time to make it difficult or impossible to reach its paws. Although your dog probably won’t like wearing the cone it will help break the cycle of constant paw licking.

It is worth noting that English Bulldogs, Pit Bulls, and American Bulldogs suffer from more skin problems than other breeds so are prone to licking themselves more.

It is interesting to know that studies show dog saliva has some antibacterial and antimicrobial properties so when they lick themselves they can be aiding the healing process.

Following Up On The Issue Of Paw Licking

If you suspect any of the more serious issues you should visit your veterinarian who will give you professional advice and medication if necessary. 

Or if you feel confident to care for your dog yourself of course that will be wonderful. A simple change in diet or pet products might fix the problem without a vet visit.

Inspect your dog’s paws often to make sure they are clean and healthy-looking. Make sure nails are trimmed and clean. Remember, if you feel concerned about your dog’s excessive paw licking contact your veterinarian for more advice.

John Kilmerstone

I love dogs and believe that in particular, the bulldog breeds make great family pets and companions. Please visit this website and explore the wonderful world of bulldogs. Discover how to care for and look after this faithful pet and make the most of your valuable time together.

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