Just about every dog owner has asked, “What is my dog biting his foot for?” at one time or another. This might be happening for several reasons. Some potential dog biting foot causes are relatively minor. Only your veterinarian can truly determine why this behavior is happening and the best course of action to address it.
These are just a few of the many possible causes for this odd – and sometimes worrying – form of behavior.
Is Dog Foot Biting Normal?
If your dog only licks or chews their paws every now and then, you probably shouldn’t be concerned. This is actually fairly normal behavior. But if your pup tends to do it far more often, almost obsessively, then it’s time to get to the bottom of the chewing. There could be an issue that needs to be looked at by your vet.1
This type of behavior could easily become a worrisome habit. The best way to get this nipped in the bud is to work with your veterinarian, who’ll figure out the root cause and help your pooch stop biting their foot.
Why Is This Happening?
The most common reason dogs bite their feet are environmental allergies. They might have walked on something that triggered an allergy, like grass or pollen. Or they could have inhaled an allergen when they were outside.
Your dog might be biting a foot because they have a condition that’s irritating the skin between their toes. Joint issues and hormonal imbalances might prompt the behavior, too. There are also cases where chewing occurs due to a lack of fatty acids in their diet.2 There could be some sort of foreign object stuck between the pads of their paws, or their skin could be irritated by a certain type of shampoo or soap.2
As you can see, there are potentially several culprits that could cause dog biting foot behavior. Here’s a closer look at a few of the more common ones.
Your Pup Is Allergic To A Certain Type Of Food
Your dog’s diet could be the culprit, especially if they’ve been chewing on their foot (or feet) for a while. If your vet believes food allergies could be at play, this will take some time to figure out. Determining exactly what food is making your pup have this reaction often involves a lot of trial and error.3
Your Dog Is Uncomfortable For Some Reason
Another potential cause of a dog chewing their foot is discomfort. They might have been attacked by another animal without you knowing, or they could have stepped on a thorn. Do you take them for walks down the concrete alley behind your home? Maybe the trash was recently picked up, and there are tiny pieces of glass you didn’t see. One of those shards could have become lodged in your pup’s paw.
When a dog has suffered some sort of injury, they will sometimes chew their paw in an effort to either get rid of whatever is stuck, like a splinter or a small rock. If the problem is an orthopedic issue, licking the area that hurts might be their way of coping with the discomfort.4
Try checking your dog’s foot with a flashlight to see if you can find anything that shouldn’t be there. Even if you don’t find anything, if your dog seems uncomfortable, it might be time for a vet visit for a more thorough examination.
There Are Behavioral Issues Involved
In some instances, a dog will bite their foot out of sheer boredom. Dogs might express frustration by biting their paw – not only when they’re bored, but also if they’re stressed out for some reason. You probably shower your pooch with a lot of love and attention, but they can still be bored if you’re gone from home for extended periods of time.5
Again, paw chewing could simply be a habit they develop because they started chewing for another reason. They may, for instance, have had an itchy foot at first, but now they’re chewing just because they’ve become used to it – even though the itch is long gone. You might have to bring in an animal behaviorist to get them to stop.6
When To Talk To The Vet
If your dog only bites their foot every once in a while, it’s probably no big deal. But if it starts happening more and more often, then you should get them checked out to find the cause. See the veterinarian immediately if:
- You notice any bleeding from the dog’s paw.
- You see something deeply embedded in the dog’s paw.
- Your dog is lethargic, or seems to not be feeling well.
- The dog won’t put their paw down when walking, or makes it hard for you to touch the paw they’re biting.
- The foot feels hot or is swollen.7
Protecting Your Dog’s Paws
Hopefully, you now have a little more of an answer to the question, “Why is my dog biting his foot?” If the behavior is getting out of control, talk to your vet, and find out the best possible course of action to put it to a stop.
If the cause is an illness or an injury, your vet might recommend the dreaded “Elizabethan collar,” also known as the “cone of shame.” If the issue is boredom or stress, an animal behaviorist may be able to help. Playing with your dog more, or giving them more attention might help as well.8
Getting to the bottom of the cause of dog foot biting will go a long way toward reducing how often they exhibit this troublesome habit.
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