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Dog Chewing Paws: Causes & Treatments
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Have you noticed your dog biting or licking their paws? In most cases, this is normal behavior—dogs bite their paws to clean them, remove debris they may have picked up outside, scratch a little itch, or even out of boredom. However, in some cases dogs biting their paws may be an indication of a more serious underlying condition. So, it’s important to know the difference—that way, you can get your dog the care they need if there is something more concerning going on.
In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about dogs biting their paws. We’ll also walk you through the best ways that you can get treatment for conditions like allergies, anxiety, or infections that may be causing excessive paw biting.
- Why Do Dogs Chew Their Paws?
- When It’s Time To See A Vet
- How To Stop Dog From Chewing Paws
- Dog Chewing Paws: Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping Up
If you’re wondering, “why does my dog chew his paws?” or how to stop your dog from chewing their paws, it’s good to start with a simple explanation of the behavior.
Why Do Dogs Chew Their Paws?
Dogs chew and lick their paws for many different reasons. The good news is that, often, there’s nothing to worry about if you see your dog licking or biting their paws. Dogs lick their paws if they have loose plant material stuck in them, if there’s food residue on them, if they’re itchy from an environmental irritant, or simply grooming.
Grooming is normal, but chewing or licking excessively in a specific location may indicate a greater issue such as one of the following:
- Allergies/dermatitis: One of the most common causes of dogs biting their paws is an environmental allergen or food allergy due to the protein in the diet. Just like humans, dogs can have an allergic reaction to different allergens present in the air, on surfaces, in furniture, or on plants. If your dog is having an allergic reaction, you may also notice redness around the eyes and nose, as well as itching in other areas such as the muzzle, ears, and abdomen. One persistent reaction is dermatitis, which causes mild to severe skin irritation. If your dog has persistent dermatitis, they may require topical ointment, paw soaks, oral antibiotics, anti-allergy injections or oral anti-allergy medication to manage symptoms1
- Injury: In some cases, your dog biting or scratching their paws could be a sign of an injury. For example, they may have a thorn stuck in their paw, a cut, a torn nail, or possibly stepped on a bee. If you’ve taken your dog out for a walk recently, for example, and see them biting their paws shortly after, it’s likely that they may have stepped on something that’s irritating them. It’s smart to carefully check each paw to see whether there are signs of damage. It’s okay to remove any small splinters, or simply let small cuts heal, but if you notice a more significant injury it’s important to take your dog to an emergency vet2
- Internal pain: In rarer cases, biting and licking paws could be a sign of a more serious internal condition. Your dog may have strained a muscle or tendon in their foot or ankle, fractured one of the many bones in the foot, or even started to develop the early signs of arthritis. It’s a good idea to take your dog to the vet if you notice these sorts of symptoms persisting over time, especially if they’re accompanied by whimpering and limping. Conditions like arthritis or a broken bone can worsen quickly if not seen to by a professional.
- Bacterial or yeast infection: While a minor cut or scratch is usually nothing to worry about, sometimes biting and chewing of paws can be a sign of a bacterial or yeast infection. In either case, your dog will likely need antibacterial paw soaks, a course of antibiotic ointment or oral medication until the infection clears. Be sure to have your dog seen by a professional vet if you fear they may be suffering from an infection.
- Anxiety: Did you know that dogs can also suffer from stress and anxiety, just like humans do? Biting and chewing paws may be a compulsive behavioral issue and a sign that your dog is suffering from chronic anxiety symptoms. You may also notice your dog become agitated whenever you leave them alone, they might pace back and forth, or they may whine and seem generally upset. Dog separation anxiety is a chronic condition that can be treated with the right evidence-based medications, so it’s a good idea to have your dog professionally evaluated for anxiety if you think they have it. Dutch’s network of expert vets is happy to help connect your dog with the care they need if they do have anxiety.
While there are many harmless causes for your dog chewing their paws, it’s important to know when it’s wise to schedule a visit to the vet.
When It’s Time To See A Vet
In most cases, it’s okay to monitor your dog to see whether the paw-chewing is a serious issue or if it’s caused by something more circumstantial, like a small splinter or even just boredom. However, two tell-tale signs that it’s time to take your furry friend into the vet are if the paw-chewing is a new (and consistent) issue, and if you see that the foot is red or inflamed.
In either case, there may be an underlying cause that’s dangerous to your dog. If your dog is suffering from a food allergy, for example, getting the treatment they need right away is critical, as food allergies can be seriously harmful if your dog is continually exposed to the allergen. Similarly, infections, painful wounds, and parasites can all become more concerning if not dealt with by a professional veterinarian right away.
How To Stop Dog From Chewing Paws
The truth is that it can be difficult, in some circumstances, to get your dog to stop chewing their paws. Treatment ultimately depends on the root issue. These are a few of the common causes and how they are each treated:
- Allergies: If it’s a result of allergies, allergy treatment, or just avoiding allergen, is needed. Environmental allergens often cause chronic allergy symptoms, requiring a regular round of medications during high-allergy seasons. For food allergies, a food trial with a prescription allergy food or a different protein diet is needed to rule out a food allergy.
- Injury: If your dog’s paw is injured, it’s important to treat the injury quickly and directly. Try treating the injury by cleaning with water or saline solution, soap, chlorhexidine or iodine, then cover with a bandage or other clean form of cloth. Note that your dog may need a cone in order to keep them from picking or chewing at the injured site.
- Infection: In the case of an infection, medication is likely the best course of treatment. Your vet will know whether topical or oral antibiotics are needed.
- Anxiety: As mentioned above, anxiety can often be a cause of dogs chewing their paws. If that’s the case for your dog, getting them the right course of anxiety treatment is crucial to relieve their general symptoms. Behavioral modification training and medication are two of the most common forms of treatment.
- Other causes: As noted in the previous section, there can be numerous causes for itchy paws. Your dog’s veterinarian may prescribe topical, oral, or anti-inflammatory periodic injections for itch relief by decreasing inflammation. For bacterial infections or yeast infections, antibiotics or antifungals may be used depending on the underlying cause of the disease.
Because there can be so many different causes of dogs chewing their paws, getting the right treatment in time is critical. If you sense that your dog has developed a serious paw-chewing problem, don’t hesitate to have them seen by a professional.
Dog Chewing Paws: Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the most common questions we get about dogs biting their paws. Read through to see if you can find the answer you’re looking for.
Why does my dog keep biting his paws?
There are a number of different reasons why your dog might be biting their paws. For a variety of reasons, dogs may chew and lick their paws. The good news is that licking or biting your dog's paws is typically nothing to be concerned about. If there's loose plant material trapped in their paws, there's food residue on them, they're itchy from an environmental irritation, or they're simply grooming, dogs lick their paws.
More serious causes include an injury, inflammation, allergy, infection, parasite, or anxiety. In each of these cases, it’s a good idea to have your dog seen by a professional vet.
How do I stop my dog from chewing his paws?
To stop your dog from chewing their paws, it’s a good idea to take your dog into the vet to be professionally assessed. If the paw-chewing is consistent and doesn’t let up after a couple of days, it could be a sign of something more serious. A vet will be able to determine the best course of treatment given your dog’s specific situation.
What happens if my dog keeps chewing or licking their paws?
Excessive and aggressive chewing could lead to your dog injuring their own paws, and because dogs’ mouths contain bacteria (and the ground does, too) they may become susceptible to an infection. This is why it’s important to take paw-chewing seriously whenever you see it.
How do I describe my dog’s symptoms to my vet?
The best way to describe symptoms is to take photos or even a video and show them to your vet. When you work with a Dutch-affiliated veterinarian, you’ll be asked to show your dog’s symptoms through video, photos, or live video chat if possible. Be sure that you can also accurately describe what your dog has been going through, that way the vet can make the most informed decisions about your dog’s health.
If you’re wondering, “why does my dog chew their paws?” Dutch can connect you with the care that your dog needs. Medical issues necessitate medical answers. Board-certified behaviorists and dermatologists collaborate on our regimens, which incorporate medicine, treatments, and training exercises for clinically proven relief. We understand what it's like to go weeks without seeing a doctor, which is why Dutch veterinarians reply within 24 hours and follow up on their patients' progress. Our affiliated experts are there to help your dog feel better, whether their paw-chewing is caused by allergies or anxiety. Contact us today to schedule your first telemedicine for pets appointment.
- White, Stephen D., and Karen A. Moriello. “Allergies in Dogs - Dog Owners.” MSD Veterinary Manual, MSD Veterinary Manual, 26 Oct. 2021, https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/allergies-in-dogs?query=dog+chewing+paws.