Why Do Dogs Chew on Their Feet? What You Need To Know
If you’ve noticed your dogs chewing their own paws, you’re not alone! And while it may be a concern for you as a pet owner, it’s typically a display of normal behavior in animals.
But why do dogs chew on their feet? Is it safe? How does separation anxiety result in this obsessive behavior? And what can you do to prevent frequent paw chewing? Read on to know more about dogs, itchy paws, and how to stop chewing.
What Is Paw Chewing In Dogs?
Just like their tendency towards persistent paw licking, dogs can roll up and start chewing on their paws.
Most dog breeds self-soothe by licking and chewing based on what’s bothering them such as environmental allergies, secondary infections, or an itching sensation.
Some breeds may attempt to chew their feet more frequently than others. This type of behavior is normal for some animals, and it indicates that your pet is aware of something that’s causing them inconvenience or stress.
Paw chewing is sometimes a result of them grooming themselves. This is also a reason why dogs lick our feet too!
Is It Safe For Dogs To Chew Their Own Feet?
Dogs chewing paws frequently is not safe. While paw chewing is a natural response to an external stimulus or internal behavior, obsessive chewing and biting are harmful to paws and paw pads. Dogs obsessively chew their feet as a coping strategy for injuries, infections, and behavioral issues like anxiety.
There’s always an underlying reason for dogs chewing paws, which makes it important to understand your dog’s skin condition, allergies, and other symptoms.
Knowing why your dog is chewing their feet can help prevent and tackle health problems.
What Happens If Your Dog Chews Their Feet Too Often?
While one-off instances aren’t harmful, persistent foot chewing can lead to secondary problems such as yeast or bacterial infections, dry skin, swollen paws, bleeding, hair loss, and open sores.
Frequent foot chewing can lead to an accumulation of excess moisture, creating an ideal and favorable environment for bacteria and germs.
Why Do Dogs Chew on Their Feet?
Occasional foot chewing and licking has a purpose in a dog’s life. It’s perfectly normal for dogs to try and scratch an itch or clean their paws from dirt and debris. If that’s what your pooch is up to, it’s likely nothing to worry about. However, persistent foot chewing can be a sign of mild or severe complications that may need a proper diagnosis in addition to temporary relief.
Getting help from an expert veterinarian is essential but knowing the underlying causes can improve the chance of much better treatment. Here are some of the common reasons your dog might be chewing on their feet more than necessary.
Common food allergens can cause itchy paws for your pooch. This may show up as itchy red bumps or urticaria (a raised itchy rash) on your dog’s skin.
If your dog has a food allergy, it’s important to avoid such ingredients and keep environmental allergens out of the way. You might want to try one of these fresh food brands, as most can accommodate food allergies.
Injuries and Contaminants
Dogs are vulnerable to injuries just like humans. Often, those injuries can be minor and unnoticeable, but they can certainly be irritating. So it’s possible your dog is licking away at their feet in response to these wounds or the presence of contaminants.
It’s easy for debris, bits of stone, splinters, and twigs to get caught in nail beds when dogs are out and about. These particles can actually cut into the skin. Your dog might also injure themselves trying to get them out, so examine your dog’s feet if they’re caught biting away at them.
Nobody likes overgrown or broken nails, and dogs are no exception. Untrimmed nails dig into the skin, get caught in objects and clothing, and are just plain uncomfortable. Broken nails can result in scrapes and cuts that may lead to secondary issues like skin problems. As a natural response, dogs tend to chew on their paws to groom their overgrown or broken nails.
Burns or frost
During extreme temperatures, we have to take precautions when going outdoors. And while animals are a bit more resilient to the outdoor world, they can still get hurt.
Pavement and roads in the blistering heat can leave burns on your dog’s paws. Ice burns are also common for dogs on freezing days. If your pooch is affected by burns or frost, they’ll likely try to soothe the pain by chewing on their feet.
Internal pain due to inflammation or injuries to bones, ligaments, and muscles, can be very agitating for dogs. In an attempt to pick out what’s causing them the discomfort, they may resort to chewing their feet.
Infections and Parasites
A common cause of itching can be parasites or infections. Bacterial infections can lead to aggressive licking and chewing in dogs. Fortunately, most infections can easily be treated by eliminating contamination and applying topical solutions prescribed by a veterinarian.
The infamous ringworm is caused by a fungal infection, one that forms circular red lesions that have an uncomfortable itch. If your pooch is chewing feet more often, it could be a case of ringworm.
Parasites like fleas, mites, and ticks can trigger ailments like mange and Lyme disease. These little invaders can easily latch on and be transferred. A fun time in nature for your dog is also a chance to pick up some of these parasites. Lyme disease from tick bites, fleas, and mites can all cause itchiness, pushing most dogs to gnaw on their front paws.
Bacterial or yeast infections
Sometimes, your dog’s chewing and biting are linked to bacterial or yeast infections. Yeast infections occur from a type of fungus. And with inflammation, your dog will be feeling a pretty strong itch that calls for a chew!
The reasons for foot chewing in dogs aren’t always apparent. Your pet could be chewing its feet as an emotional strategy. For example, coping with anxiety and stress.
Dogs try and find ways to distract themselves from discomforting situations such as being separated from their owner or going to a new place. These distractions include biting or chewing paws. If you need to leave for a while, consider getting your pup an indestructible dog toy to keep them busy.
Quite similarly, stress can trigger your pet’s paw-gnawing behavior. When feeling stressed, they’ll look for an outlet or a distraction to calm down, and paws are often the closest and most convenient resource to chew on.
Prolonged boredom has a negative impact on animals, including dogs. A lack of stimulation can turn fidgeting into an unhealthy habit, and your pooch may resort to foot chewing to deal with this feeling of loneliness or inactivity.
A puzzle toy could be a good way to keep them engaged and stop boredom.
When To Seek Help For Your Dog Chewing Paws
If you’ve noticed your dog chewing paws more regularly, it’s time to get in touch with your local veterinarian. While some reasons might be clear, you may find it difficult to identify the underlying problem if it has to do with behavior, internal injuries, or skin-deep infections that are hidden under all that poofy hair.
It’s important to first notice your dog’s behavior and identify any triggers or allergies. Keep note of how frequently and at what times they’re prone to lick and chew. Examine their paws to check for injuries, infections, sores, swelling, or painful areas.
It’s also advisable to check if there’s an unusual odor coming from your dog’s feet. These circumstances require immediate expert attention to help your dog stop biting. If your dog is exhibiting any of these signs, including persistently or aggressively licking and chewing their paws, it’s a good idea to consult a professional.
How To Stop Dogs From Chewing Paws
It’s not impossible to treat excessive paw-chewing. And you might not always need to resort to medications. There are several remedies you can apply to tackle the problem at the onset.
Some basic care can help keep hygiene in check. For example, keeping paws clean. This can help remove any contaminants that may latch onto and in between the toe beans. It’s probably a good idea to get them a shampoo for itchy skin too.
If your dog is suffering from boredom, you can try to increase their daily activity and spend more quality time with them. Engage them with a new toy or puzzle, or take them out for a few extra minutes to stimulate their brain.
Mental stimulation coupled with physical exercise will give your dog a good restful sleep and prevent them from unnecessary foot chewing. Why not try a fun snuffle mat?
Minor cuts and wounds may also be treated using first aid. You should consult a vet before applying anything beyond your expertise. But simple over-the-counter ointments and topical solutions can help prevent secondary infections on your dog’s paw.
Foot chewing and paw licking are common behaviors observed in dogs. While dogs licking and chewing paws for cleaning is safe, excessive chewing and skin scraping can lead to painful sores, swelling, odor, infections, and skin diseases.
Taking some extra precautions to ensure adequate hygiene, activity, and grooming can prevent your dogs from chewing their paws frequently. If your furry friend exhibits itchy skin or obsessive behavior, it’s best to seek help from a veterinarian and get a proper diagnosis.
Foot chewing is generally treatable with a little extra pet care and attention, and your pooch can enjoy happy healthy paws!