A dog chewing paws can be a troubling sight for a pet owner. You’re having a relaxing evening at home, watching TV or reading a book, when you notice your dog gnawing at their paws. Suddenly, your mood changes, as you listen to the sounds of your beloved pooch going to town on those paws and nails.
Is this a sign that something’s wrong? Is your dog licking or chewing due to some sort of health problem? Do you need to schedule a visit to the vet. The following are just a few of the reasons why your dog might be licking or chewing excessively, and what can be done about it.
Dog Chewing Paws: Why it Happens
If your dog is chewing excessively all of a sudden, there could be a lot of different reasons why…There could be something wrong with your pet’s feet due to an injury you don’t know about. If the biting is accompanied by limping, bleeding, or swelling, or if you notice a strange odor, it’s time for a visit to the vet. Your pup could have some sort of infection that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible before it gets worse.1
Here are just some of the potential reasons why dogs will chew on their paws:
A dog chewing paws can sometimes be due to some sort of mental issue. Your dog could be stressed or anxious about something, or they might simply be bored. Licking or biting feet is an example of compulsive behavior that could be associated with depression or anxiety. Some dogs will chew their feet excessively because they’re not getting enough exercise or mental stimulation.2
Separation anxiety is a problem that will often lead to a dog chewing paws. If you’re away from home during the day, or you leave town for an extended period of time, your dog may chew their paw in order to help cope. One theory is that paw chewing may help soothe their nervous system. Other dogs may chew their paws because they’ve had bad experiences when left alone in shelters, or when they’ve been boarded.3
Just like humans, dogs can also suffer from seasonal allergies. Your dog could be allergic to mold or pollen, for example. But allergies can develop for other reasons, too. Your dog may be allergic to a cleaning product you’ve been using around your home. Food allergies are another possible culprit. Some dogs will have a reaction to a certain ingredient in their food, such as corn, beef, or soy.4
One of the more common reasons behind a dog chewing paws is an injury. If your dog licks their foot excessively, the dog paw may have been punctured in some way. Another possible explanation is that a toe pad has been fractured. This is usually more prevalent in dogs that are very active, or who run off the leash a great deal.5
Ticks and fleas are often the culprits responsible for this behavior. While you can see a tick or a flea, other parasites, such as mites, are nearly impossible to find. If you have ruled out any of the other causes, get to the veterinarian and have your pet checked for a potential parasite issue.6
A dog paw is very sensitive. If your pup is biting or licking their paw excessively, problems could result. The key to stopping the licking or chewing is to determine the cause and get it addressed.
For example, if your vet says the cause is separation anxiety, there are a few things you can do to help solve the issue. One potential method is known as “counterconditioning.” The goal is to change your dog’s reaction to a certain situation from a negative one to a positive one. This could mean getting your dog to associate you leaving with something good, like a treat. When you leave the house, fill a puzzle toy with food your dog really likes, one that will take at least 20 or so minutes to finish.7
In some instances, however, separation anxiety is so severe that it will require a more complex solution. Your vet can recommend the best options for your dog’s particular situation.
If the reason is stress, it’s important that you know the signs so that you can get the help you and your pet need to fix the problem.
Your dog can actually be stressed in a positive way, such as when your pet whines, barks, or jumps on you when you get back home. Negative stress behaviors include lethargy, or running away when you try to get your dog’s attention. Other signs of negative stress include excessive drooling, trembling, and diarrhea. If you’re training your dog and they either push into you or constantly walk behind you or in front of you, those could also be signs of stress.8
Even if your pup isn’t chewing their feet, it’s important to check their paws regularly to make sure they’re healthy. Look for redness, and check to see if any part of your dog’s paw seems tender (they’ll likely let you know).
If you walk your dog during the summer months, try to do so early in the morning or evening so your dog’s paws aren’t damaged by hot pavement. If you see a minor cut or an abrasion, apply a pet-safe antibiotic and clean with a pet-safe soap. That can keep a small problem from becoming serious.9
The Bottom Line
While you don’t need to panic if you see your dog biting their paws, you can’t ignore the behavior, either. Take your pet to the veterinarian to get to the root of the problem so that it can be successfully addressed.