Maltese dogs are a breed who like to lick their paws, but excessively licking their paws can be a sign of an underlying issue. Maltese will chew or lick their paws for a variety of reasons including irritation, being uncomfortable, pain or boredom. Because there are a variety of reasons that a Maltese may lick their paws it is important to try and distinguish when and why they may be doing it. After you have correctly identify the underlying reasons for the licking you can then implement prevention and treatment to stop your Maltese dog from licking their paws excessively.
This article will describe a number of issues, prevention and treatment options. The table below summaries the longer content. I highly suggest referring to the table and then reading the sections related to the issue you believe you Maltese dog has with its paws.
|Irritation||Prevent licking to the area. |
Use Ointments and Creams.
|Identify the cause of irritation |
such as allergy
|Boredom||Prevent Licking to the area ||Exercise |
|Habit||Prevent Licking to the area||Exercise |
|Time Of Year/Seasonal||Medication||Environmental Factors|
|Injury||Prevent Licking to the area |
|Environmental Factors |
Ramps and stairs
|Burns||Paw wax |
|Environmental Factors |
|Insect Sting or Bite||Remove sting |
|Plant Sting||Remove sting |
|Ice Balls / Snowballing||Warm water||Environmental Factors |
|Splinter||Remove splinter||Environmental Factors|
Remove stressful situation
|Chronic Issue||Medication |
What are reasons and factors that cause a Maltese dog to lick their paws?
There are many reasons why a Maltese dog may be licking their paw but the most common ones are listed below. This list should be useful in identifying the possible causes of the licking. Once the cause is identified the correct prevention and treatment options can be put into place. Reasons your Maltese is licking their feet include:
- Irritation: There could be an irritation on the dogs paw which is causing itching and discomfort. A dog will naturally lick and chew at a spot which itches or is uncomfortable as the motion and rubbing will make it feel better. It is also instinct for them to do this as a Maltese dog’s saliva contains enzymes which work against certain types of bacteria to stave off infection. Licking and chewing the paw also stimulates the area to increase blood flow which will promote healing in the paw.
- Boredom: Maltese may lick their feet if they are bored. They may not have any toys, interaction or mental stimulation to keep them amused so they lick their paws because its something to pass the time. Fixing a boredom issue can be easy by introducing exercise and toys into the Maltese dog’s life whenever they start licking. Boredom can often lead to stress with your Maltese puppy as they will wonder why no one is playing with them and can further reinforce and enhance separation anxiety.
- Habit: Your Maltese may have started licking their paws for another reason such as an irritation but it has progressed to being a habit which they do every day. This is likely because licking the affected area felt good and the positive reinforcement from the good feeling as caused them to create a habit. Fixing a licking and chewing habit in a Maltese dog can be done but it takes time and a lot of dedication.
- Time of Year: Sometimes of the year can promote more licking such as in summer. Hot grounds can cause the Maltese dogs paws to feel hot and licking can cool this down. It could also be cooler weather which triggers the licking if arthritis in the paw or ankle is causing discomfort for your Maltese puppy.
- Injury: If your Maltese has injured a toe , a toe nail, its ankle, paw or any part of its lower leg it may want to lick and chew at the injured site. If they have injured themselves then it should be obvious as your Maltese will be limping on the affected leg. They will also only be licking the one paw obsessively.
- Burns: During hot weather the cement and tiles which your Maltese walks on can become very hot. The heat from the ground can damage the paws and create soreness, tenderness and even burns. Your Maltese puppy will want to lick each of its paws as all four will likely be affected. If you notice your Maltese licking their paws on a very hot day and you have not seen them do it before then it is likely they have some damage from the heat to the underside of the paws. It should be noted anything surface that a Maltese puppy walks on that is at or above 125 degrees Fahrenheit (51 degrees Celsius) will cause burns to the Maltese dogs paws. Even floor surfaces with a temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) can cause injury ans small burns to the paws especially if the Maltese walks on the surface for a while. There have been numerous studies done to compare the floor surface to the air temperature. Basically tiles and brick surfaces which are smooth will be between 30 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) and 45 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) hotter than the air temperature. Cement surfaces will be between 30 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) hotter than the air temperature. This means that on any really hot days you allow your dog a cool area to lay out of the sun and ensure their water is near them so they do not need to cross over the hot floor surface to get a drink. Diagnosis of burns includes limping on a paw, favoring the front paws over the back paws, licking and chewing at the base of the paws, a darker complexion on the paws than normal, any peeling of the skin on the paw, blistering on the paw, red areas on the paw and will be still quite warm when you touch the paw similar to how sunburn is warm to tough even hours after you came inside.
- Insect Sting/Insect Bite: Some insects will sting a dog because the dog has been chasing it or your Maltese may have accidentally stepped on it. This can include stings from bees, wasps, spiders, ants and scorpions. Some insects can have venom so check the affected leg and if you think it has been bitten or stung take your Maltese to the vet. They will be able to do a visual exam on the affected paw and make an accurate assessment of the sting or bite. Usually with an insect sting or bite on a Maltese dogs paw you will notice some localized tenderness and some swelling around the affected area. It may also be inflamed and red. If your lucky you will see the insect stinger but sometimes the dog has already dislodged it or it fell out on its own.
- Plant Stings: Plants can have stingers on them as well such as cacti. Your dog Maltese may have stepped on a plant which had a stinger while on a walk or while in the backyard. This will need to be treated similar to an insect bite or insect sting. This will only affect one paw and you may see your Maltese dog limping on the affected foot. If you are unable to find a sting then taking your Maltese to the vet for a check over will help ensure the sting is not in the paw anymore and your vet can provide some treatment options. As with insect stings a plant sting in the paw may have some localized tenderness and some swelling around the affected area. It may also be inflamed and red. If your lucky you will see the plant stinger but sometimes the dog has already dislodged it or it fell out on its own.
- Ice Balls/ Snowballing : During very cold weather ice can ball up and freeze in between the fur and under the paw. This can cause the paws to be tender to walk on and hurt with each step. Obviously if there is snow outside and it is very cold then this could be one of the causes of your Maltese chewing their feet. The good news is that this is both easily preventable and easily treated. Snowballing is the process of snow attaching to the find hairs in between the paw pads on your Maltese. Because the snow is so cold it can affect the skin and cause tears which are quite painful for your Maltese puppy. If your dog has been out in the snow and they are licking one paw or they are limping then it should be obvious this could be the problem. Check the paw for any ice and check the skin and paw pads to confirm there is no tears or damage. Snowballing has been known to even cause bleeding on a Maltese dogs paws.
- Splinter or Debris: Your Maltese dog will jump on wood, walk over sticks and leaves and walk over other debris which is on the ground. Sometimes a small piece of this debris or a splinter can break off and enter the foot or paw. Your Maltese dog will limp when this happens and you will normally see them gnawing at their paw trying to get the splinter out of their paw. Unfortunately splinters in a dogs paw are very common even for a Maltese with small feet. The splinters will usually not pierce through the paw pad, although that can happen, but they will usually enter the soft skin around and in between the Maltese paw pads. The obvious signs of a splinter are that your Maltese puppy will not want to put weight on the affected paw. usually the splinter will be obvious but sometimes it takes a bit of work to find especially if it has entered between the paw pads.
- Anxiety and Stress: A Maltese puppy may chew their feet to relieve the stress they are feeling. Maltese puppies can get stressed and anxiety just like you and I can get stressed. It could be separation anxiety, stress of people, stress of the environment, or stress from other dogs. Just like some humans stress about strange things, Maltese dogs can do the same. They may stress about the floor they need to walk over to get to the food, or stress that you might not come back when you leave for work. If you notice your Maltese puppy become withdrawn and chewing their feet in certain situations note the trigger points so that the stress can be removed and the anxiety can be treated. Boredom is a another leading cause of stress in dogs.
- Chronic Issue: Maltese dogs will chew their feet because they are uncomfortable due to a chronic illness such as arthritis. They can feel pain in their ankles and paw and licking the affected area makes them feel better due to the increased blood flow which has resulted from the continuous licking.
- Infection or Fungus: Infections and fungus within the paw can cause irritation and itching. Your Maltese puppy use their saliva to try and kill off the fungus or infection naturally. Sometimes the fungus can be seen or smelt and a vet inspection is recommended to ensure that the right treatment is given.
- Allergies: A Maltese puppy can have allergies to flowers, grass, chemicals and a number of other things in the world which can cause them to be itchy on their paws. The paws will usually become itchy for them and they will gnaw and chew and lick each paw to try and relieve the itchy feeling. When a dogs paw is itchy the most likely cause is usually allergies. Allergies can be the result of reactions to food, environmental, seasonal or could be due to contact with something. Food and seasonal allergies (such as certain flowers) are the two biggest allergies in Maltese dogs. Symptoms apart from an itchy foot which may or may not present include rashes, dry skin patches, hot spots on the Maltese dog’s coat, hair becoming thinner, coughing and sneezing, or irritated eyes and nose. If you believe your Maltese is suffering allergies you can talk to your vet about diagnosing exactly what is the trigger.
What are the treatment and prevention options for a Maltese dog licking their paws?
Depending on the cause there are a number of treatment options. The most important thing is that you identify the real reason that your Maltese puppy is licking their paws as this will allow you to choose the right treatment option below. If you are unsure of the reason then talking with your Vet and getting a checkup might be a good idea as they will be able to help identify the reason and provide the right steps and advice for treatment.
You may have attempted previously to stop your Maltese from licking its paws and feet but had limited success. This could be because you either gave up too early or you have not identified the true reason your Maltese dog is licking its feet. The list below will give you a comprehensive treatment and prevention plan so that you can help your Maltese puppy with their problem.
When trying to treat the cause of your Maltese puppy licking its paws excessively you will want to do two thing:
- Limit the exposure or cause of the licking: If you have identified that there is something in particular that has caused the issue such as hot cement, allergies to plants or maybe a bee sting then you will want to limit the exposure to these factors. Other examples would be limiting exposure to cold drafts if your Maltese dog has arthritis. Also keep in mind there may be more than one reason why your Maltese is licking their paw. They could be allergic to something but also be suffering from arthritis. Keep an open mind to what the problems might be and work through the most obvious issue first. Then if that has not resolved the problem move to the next one. You always be trying to limit the reasoning behind the paw licking of your Maltese then just treating the symptom. Even the best treatments of healing balms and paw ointments will only work temporary if you do not work out the underlying cause and stop it from reoccurring.
- Treat the paws: To help the paw heal or feel relief you can buy some balms and lotions which will reduce irritations, pain and any itchy feeling. By removing this itch, pain or discomfort your Maltese will forget about licking its paws and occupy itself with something else. There are generally two types of relievers for the paw which are an anti-itch spray or a soothing lotion. Different dogs respond differently to both so try one type and if that does not work as needed try the other. Generally the sprays work better for itchy paws and the lotion works better for irritated, damaged or discomfort in the paw. These lotions and sprays will help to stop your Maltese puppy from licking at the irritated area and allow it to heal. They will also have ingredients to help with the healing process and speed up the recovery time. Remember that a dogs paws are walked on everyday so getting them quickly back to a healthy state which is not uncomfortable for your Maltese dog is desirable.
To assist you in helping your Maltese dog, the treatment options for each of the possible causes are below. Remember identifying the real cause of the licking is extremely important as each of the causes can have very different treatment and prevention options. The list of treatments are:
- Irritation: Treating irritations will require an ointment or lotion to relieve the symptoms. If it is a fungal infection which is causing the irritation then you will want to use an anti fungal spray from the pet shop to kill the fungus. If you believe it is just irritated from an allergy or from being licked too much you can use a spray to stop the itching and then wrap the paw with a sock or bandage. If you are unsure on what is causing the irritation then you should consult a vet to get it diagnosed.
- Boredom: If your Maltese puppy is bored then there are two simple fixes to the issue. The first is to engage them mentally more often by taking them on walks outside of the home. By getting out into the real world they will encounter new smells, new locations and new people and this will mentally stimulate them so that when they are back home they are tired and want to rest. The second solution is to provide them with a variety of toys which challenge and excite them so that they can entertain themselves when you are busy. Working their brain with challenging toys will help to tire them out and a tired puppy will not be a bored puppy. Check out our article on the best toys for a Maltese puppy.
- Habit: If the licking is due to a habit then you need to break the habit. The easiest way to break a habit of licking is to stop the dog from doing it. This can be done by telling them to stop in a stern voice every time they do it. If you find this doesn’t work then a small sock or a bandage over the paw will stop them from doing it. They may then just play with the sock but if you tell them to stop this will be a different thing you are telling them is bad and the constant negative reinforcement will set in and they will not pull at the sock. If you give it enough time and the habit will be broken but it will take a lot of persistence and a lot of work on your part as habits a very hard to break.
- Time of Year: If you find that snowballing/ice balling or allergies or arthritis is causing your dog to chew their paw then you need to treat the underlying cause. The best solution for snowballing is written below. For allergies and arthritis your Vet can give you the best options on what to do. Generally it will be about treating both the underlying cause and the symptoms for these issues. This can include medication if your vet believes this is the best option.
- Injury: Injuries need to be treated by a vet especially if there could be a fracture or serious damage to the paw. They will be able to provide medication to lessen any pain which could be the trigger on why your Maltese is licking their paw. Bandaging the area is a good idea if it is a sprain or cut as this will stop your dog from licking at the sore paw.
- Burns: Burns need to be cooled as soon as possible to try and remove the heat from the paw. If your dog is still outside in the heat you should bring them inside or into a cooler area. Run cold water onto their paws as soon as possible or fill a bath tub with a few centimeters (an inch) of cold water. put your Maltese into the bath and make sure you lift the affected paws and ensure they are getting cooled down. Another option is to use a cold pack on the affected paws. Never directly put a cold pack against the Maltese dogs paw. You should always cover it with a thin cloth to ensure that it is not too cold as a freezing cold pack can freeze to the paw and then cause more issues. Check the paws and if there is any redness, blisters, cracking or peeling of the skin on the paw of your Maltese then you should get a veterinarian to look at the burns. Burns can very easily get infected so a vets advice is always recommended. If the paws just feel hot but do not seem to have been damaged you can try some antibiotic ointment to ensure that it does not get infected. If the burns are severe your vet will give you some medication and/or ointment to be applied daily. This is to ensure that no infection occurs and the paw may need to be wrapped. Prevention of burns is always about keeping the Maltese away from the hot surfaces in the middle of the day. If you know the temperature is going to be hot there is an option to apply some specially designed paw wax which can add a layer between the surface and the paw. This will help shield the heat for short periods if your dog was to walk on the hot surface. Any exercise and walks should be done early or late on hot days. Try and keep your Maltese dog inside or at least in a shaded area and make sure their water is also in a shaded area so they don’t need to walk over any hot surfaces to get to their water.
- Insect Sting/Insect Bite/Plant Sting: Whenever a sting occurs you are going to want to assess the area and determine if the stinger is still in the paw or foot. You will need to look closely at the paw perhaps using a magnifying glass to assess the inflamed area. If you do see a stinger do not pull it out with tweezers and what normally happens is people squeeze the stinger releasing more venom into their Maltese dog. Instead you want to find something flat such as a butter knife or a credit card. You can even use your fingernail if nothing else is available to you. Take careful note of which way the stinger looks to be going into the paw and using the flat surface slowly scrap it out by ensuring you go in the opposite direction to what it went in. Done correctly this will dislodge the stinger and not inject anymore venom into the Maltese dogs paw. There are various options you can apply to the stung area to try and counteract the venom but generally the best thing to use is a cold compress to reduce any swelling and the numb the area which will reduce the pain. Allergic reactions are a serious concern when your Maltese dog has been stung by a plant or insect. Allergic reactions will result in a labored, fast or wheezing in their breath. You may also notice any of these signs as well which include the swelling in the face and/or affected region, diarrhea, a weakness in their limbs, their gums turn pale, excessive drooling, a fever or in the worst case they may collapse. If you notice any of these signs you should contact you veterinarian as soon as possible. Even if you don’t notice these signs a sting by an insect or plant is best followed up with an inspection from your vet so that you can get the right ointments, creams and medical advice to correct treat the sting. Common sense tells me if your dog has had any of these reactions you have already contacted your vet ASAP before reading this article. Prevention of insect stings and plant stings can be hard to do as insects can appear in your yard at anytime but there are a few steps you can take to be proactive. The first preventative measure is to ensure that your Maltese can not access your flower bed. If your Maltese puppy is walking in the flowers they are more likely to get stung (and they might trample the flowers). Also keep potted plants away from where your Maltese frequently sleeps or plays. Doing this limits the exposure to bees and ants. Wasps can be dealt with by installing a wasp trap which will attract and kill the wasps before your dog can be stung.
- Ice Balls/ Snowballing : If you have noticed damage from snowballs or ice balls you should keep your Maltese puppy indoors for a while so that the damage is not exacerbated. If there are no major skin tears then a bit of rest inside should help fix the problem. If there are skin tears you may need to see a vet to get it inspected and ensure it does not become infected. There are some ointments and lotions which can be used to help heal the area which can be purchased online or at a pet shop. Preventing snowballing injuries can be done by keeping your dog inside during the colder months. If your Maltese puppy does need to go outside you can use a quality paw wax to minimum the snowballing from occurring as it provides a barrier between the snow and the Maltese puppy’s skin.
- Splinter or Debris: Treating a splinter is easy to do. Sterilize some tweezers and pull out the splinter being careful not to break it off. If if does break or you are having a difficult time extracting the splinter then you should get a vet to do it. A Magnifying glass is a great tool to help find the splinter and to assist in pulling it out. Prevention of splinters is hard as you can’t always control where your Maltese dog will be walking or running. Try to avoid walks in heavily wooded areas or where you notice there is a lot of sticks on the ground. to avoid splinters in your Maltese foot you should try and stick to waking on clear paths, sidewalks and grassy areas.
- Anxiety and Stress: Prevention of stress can be done in two ways. The first solution is to find what is triggering their stress and help remove the trigger. For instance if your Maltese always licks their paws when people are over then perhaps before people come over ensure the Maltese has been put in safe secure location where they will not have to interact with anyone. The second solution to reducing stress and anxiety is to tire them out mentally and physically. If you can make them tired enough the will no longer stress as they will be more interested in resting and sleeping. This needs to be both a mental and physical workout so taking them outside to new locations which have new smells, new dogs and new people will help to speed up the mental workout. If you do find your dog still stresses about certain things like storms you can play music so that they can not hear the storm, or you can condition them to it by playing storm noises all day long so that they become desensitized to it. Separation anxiety is a big stress for some Maltese dogs. If you have a Maltese puppy will separation anxiety then you should look to get them a companion toy or another Maltese puppy to keep them company. Toys, mental stimulation and allowing your Maltese feel safe are the best natural remedies for anxiety. Talk to your Vet if you feel your Maltese is stressed and they will be able to provide some options. Always try for a non-medicated solution and only use medicine to deal with stress and anxiety if it is the last resort.
- Chronic Issue: Chronic issues such as arthritis need to be treated by a vet. These sort of issues will need ongoing medication, massage and or surgery in order to fix and alleviate the discomfort in your Maltese dogs paw. Your vet will be able to diagnose the chronic issue in your Maltese dog and provide the options going forward. As your Maltese dog ages chronic issues, not just in the legs, will start to appear and it gets to a stage where managing their comfort and quality of life is more important than fixing the underlying cause. While surgery may be an option if your Maltese is older sometimes the pain and recovery time is not worthwhile given the amount of time they have left with you.
- Infection or Fungus: Infections such as yeast infections and fungus infections can damage and irritate your Maltese puppy’s paws. If you notice a bad smell or infected sores on your dogs paw then you should consult your vet. They will be able to provide you with the best options and medications to treat the infections. While you are waiting to see your vet keep the infected area dry and perhaps put a sock or bandage over it so that your dog can not lick and pull at it. It shouldn’t be long till the medication for your Maltese puppy clears up the infection or fungus.
- Allergies: Diagnosing the exact allergy can be tough without a vets intervention. A vet can run tests, known as the ELISA blood test and intradermal skin test, that can pinpoint the triggers of the allergies. These tests can identify a whole bunch of things of minor allergies though so its best to talk to your vet on what they recommend in your Maltese dogs case. If you do not want to get the tests done then there are a number of things you can try first to clear away any triggers. These include vacuuming the areas where the Maltese dog frequents inside, keeping your dog indoors during certain seasons such as spring which is likely to trigger more reactions, dust the house with a wet duster to remove dust particles, wash the dogs bedding in hot water without any chemicals, use hyper-allergenic wipes on your Maltese especially when they come back inside after being for walks or playing in the backyard, rinse their paws off after they have been outside, try different food which is 100% natural and is not corn, wheat or grain based and finally try using a stainless steel or ceramic bowl as it is known that plastic bowls can cause issues. Allergic reactions should be prevented as much as possible as they can increase in severity over time if left unchecked. Treatment of allergies can be done using medication by your vet which will help relieve the symptoms. Talk to your vet to get the right medication and dosage for your Maltese dog.
There were a lot of treatments covered above which shows how varied the issues can be around a Maltese dog licking their paw. If you are still unsure on what treatment needs to be applied to your Maltese chewing its paw then the recommendation is that you should always consult your vet. They will be able to do a visual examination of your dogs paw and give you the best advice.
What are the problems associated with a Maltese dog licking its paw?
There can be a few problems develop if your Maltese dog licks its paw too much. These issues include:
- Licking the area raw: Too much licking can cause an area to become raw, sore and can blister. If your Maltese dog is licking their paw too much then you need to stop them from doing it to ensure they do not cause the area to become raw. If they have licked the area raw then they may be starting to form a habit.
- Forming a habit: If your Maltese dog relieves stress by licking their paw they can form a habit which can become stressful to them. Every time a trigger causes them to stress such as boredom or separation anxiety they will lick their paws. This isn’t a good habit to form as they can end up licking their paw too much causing it to become red raw and sore.
- Stress: Excessively licking of a Maltese dogs paw is usually due to stress and stress is never a good thing for your dog. They may have separation anxiety or they are bored or they need to more mentally stimulated. Read the tips above to get your Maltese mentally and physically tired as this can be the biggest help for relieving stress in your Maltese dog. Also try companion toys and comfort toys to help reduce the stress of separation anxiety.
- Color changes to the paws: When a Maltese licks their fur continuously a protein known as propohyrin is released with the saliva and causes a stain which is seen as red or orange. This is more easily seen on the Maltese dog breed due to the white fur. This staining does not hurt the dog but many dog owners are concerned when they see the stains. Also staining will be marked against in dog shows.
What are the benefits associated with a Maltese dog licking its paw?
- Relieves Boredom and Anxiety: Owners can not be with their Maltese dogs every day. A moderate amount of licking the paws is acceptable for a Maltese dog. It can help relieve some stress and boredom. The problem occurs when this is their automatically go to activity in order to relieve stress and boredom.
- Saliva is helpful for Wounds: The saliva in a Maltese dog’s mouth will kill some types of bacteria. This can be very helpful for wounds, injuries and irritations. Medicine will always help though to speed up any recovery time so it is always best to get a checkup if you notice any worrying signs of damage or injury on a Maltese dogs paw.
Why are your Maltese dog’s paws turning orange or red?
One of the side effects of your Maltese dog constantly licking their paws is that the fur can turn orange or red. It is very noticeable on Maltese dogs as their skin is white and easily stains. The reddish staining is due to a protein known as propohyrin which is found in the saliva of the Maltese dog.
Did we answer your questions on Maltese Dog paw problems?
Hopefully this article covered every angle of diagnosing, treating and preventing paw issues for your Maltese dog. Remember if you are ever unsure then you should contact your vet and get an expert opinion as they can do a thorough diagnosis. Have you had any other issues with your Maltese dogs paws ? Have you used other techniques to help your Maltese from licking their paws? Let us know in the comments what has worked for you and what you found was ineffective. Remember, looking after your Maltese should always be a priority so if your Maltese puppy does have any paw issues please keep an eye on them and seek vet advice when necessary.