Why does my dog chew at his paws?

border collie chewing pawAlmost all dogs chew or lick their paws sometimes but in some cases this behavior becomes too extreme and is not only annoying for the owners but can also harm the dog.

Some dogs are just gently licking their paws but others really chew their toes. If this is an ongoing behavior or if it comes all of a sudden then there is cause for concern and you should consult a veterinarian. This is especially true if your dog develops the following symptoms: swelling, redness, bleeding, odor,  limping or other possible signs of pain and infection.

A dog who is excessively chewing his paws often has paws stained with a pink or  rusty colours. This is especially easy to see with light coloured dogs. The stains are caused by porphyrin pigments in the saliva. Also check for small wounds or rashes on the paws.

Why does my dog chew at his paws –  possible causes

The reasons why dog chews their paws are many and varied. In some cases the reason is a medical issue, that is something that causes the paws to be itchy. In other cases chewing the paws might be compulsive behavior.

Small wounds on the paws can make them irritated and itchy. Allergies can also cause this. Then there are flee bites and various parasites that also can cause the paws to be itchy and irritated and make your dog chew or lick them excessively. If you live somewhere where it is cold in winter and they are putting salt on the streets and road to get rid of the ice, then this salt can cause a dog’s paws to become irritated and itchy. If this is the case for you then, carefully cleaning your dog’s paws after walking would probably help. There are also “socks” that you can put on your dog’s feet in winter to pretect them from salt and sharp objects.

If there are no medical reasons why your dog chews his paws then the cause of the chewing might be a compulsive behavior. It might be that the dog is nervous or bored and therefore takes out its frustration by chewing its paws. It is kind of when we humans are chewing our nails. If this is the reason why your dog chews her paws too much, then you must find out the cause of the problem, that is: to find out why your dog is soo nervous or bored. In the next section I will give examples of solutions to different causes of excessive licking or chewing at the paws.

Treatments of a Dog who Chews her Paws too much

Dog with socksThe first thing you need to find out is why your dog is chewing his/her paws. Did your dog start to chew her paws all of a sudden or is it something that has been going on for a long time? If excessive chewing starts all of a sudden then your dog propably has a medical issue. If the dog’s paw chewing is very energetic, that is that she is chewing and licking frantically then there is most certainly a medical issue. Something is bothering your dog, it is itchy and maybe painful and you the licking and chewing is an attempt to make it all better, but it usually gets worse and worse.

Try to carefully examine the dog’s paws. Look at the claws. If they grow too long they begin to twist the joints in the toes and cause infection and pain. Then you go on and see if you can find any foreign object lodged in the the paws. If this is the case then the object has to be removed, the wound cleaned and the paw protected by a dog sock until it has healed. If there are no foreign objects in the paw, then see if you can find anything anything else on the paws, rashes or bruises or anything that does not look normal.

Next thing to ask yourself is if your dog is only concerned by its paws or if there is something else as well. If your dog chews its paw and then try to scratch and rub other parts of its body frequently and energetically then it might be an allergic reaction to something. Usually, allergies like this is caused by something the dog inhales, for example grass or tree pollen. Dogs are prone to allergies like these, just like we humans are. Food allergies might sometimes be the cause of of paw chewing but this is uncommon and food allergies usually cause other symptoms. If your dog only chews his paws but don’t have itchiness on other parts of her body then allergy is probably not the cause of the problem.

Does your lick her paws all the time or is during certain moments of the day? For example if your dog starts chewing her paws immidiately after the walk, then maybe there is something on the ground that causes the irritation or allergic reaction in the paws. Clean your dog’s paws thoroughly after the walk and see if that makes any difference. Like already mentioned, salt on the street or roads can cause irritation of the paws, but there might be other things as well.

Try to find out as much as possible of might be the cause of your dog’s excessive paw chewing. If you can not find a solution to the problem then have your dog examined by a veterinarian. Extensive paw chewing among dogs can be caused by soo many different issues and it should be taken seriously. Your local veterinarian can most probably help you.

puppy biting pawIf you have checked your dog carefully and have had it exmined by a vet and no medical issues are found then the problem is psychological. In this issue dogs and humans are very much alike. Many people who are nervous or bored show compulsive behaviors. People biting their nails or scratching their hands or forearms when they are nervous are common and this often becomes a bad habit which difficult to stop. With dogs it is the same. Dogs often develop destructive behavior when they are understimulated and bored or nervous. Chewing of the paws (or any destructive chewing or other behavior) is very common among bored or nervous dogs.

To solve this problem you have to take a look at your lifestyle and the way you and your dog lives. For example, if your dog is left alone for many, many hours every day and it has nothing to do then this might very well be what causes your dog to chew its paws. If this is the case maybe you can find someone who can take care of your dog during a few hours of the day, walk it and play with it. There are people who walk dogs for a small fee or you could also consider leaving your dog at a dog’s “daycare” center where it can play with other dogs. If your dog can stay in your garden then you make sure that there are plenty of toys and things that your dog can play with while you are away from home. The thing here is to find a solution that works for you and your family. Dogs are very social creatures and the need to be stimulated in order to avoid boredom and the following destructive behavior.

paw woundIf your dog’s paw chewing is caused by nervousity then you will need to figure out why your dog is not at ease and what to do about it. There are many reasons why a dog might be nervous, for example separation anxiety, which often causes destructive behavior among dogs. You can read my post of separation anxiety HERE. There are of course many reasons why a dog could be nervous. Some are obvious like a new home, new neighbours, new family habits and soo on but there are also other reasons for nervousity which might be harder to find.

One thing that usually helps a lot to dampen nervousity in dogs is activity. A dog who gets plenty of exercise and time to play will much calmer and at ease than a dog who gets too little exercise. Exercise makes the dog calm and relaxed and it also distracts it from its destructive behavior.

Summary

The problem with a dog who is chewing its paws a lot should be taken seriously. Not only because the chewing often get worse with the time and this can cause serious infections of the paws if it is not stopped in time. In most cases it is easy to stop extensive paw chewing and often the cause behind it is not serious. However, there are sometimes serious medical issues behind paw chewing. For example tumors interdigital cysts and other types cancers. Your dog might also suffer from an autoimmune disease of the paw pads or nail beds.

So take good look at why your dog is chewing its paws soo much and if the cause and solution of it is nothing you can cure yourself then bring your dog to your local veternarian for a check up.

I hope you found this post useful and enjoyable. As always, leave a comment below if you have experiences to share or if you have any questions

 

 

Spara

Spara

Comments 8

  • I find this article very interesting because I own two dogs and they both chew their paws. I just thought they they were cleaning themselves or trimming their nails.the paw stockings are very helpful . I guess even dogs can be a little ocd. I found if I give my dogs treats throughout the day.Sometimes a rawhide bone contents them.

    • There are many reasons why dogs chew their paws and sometimes it is enough to give them something else to chew on thus redirecting them to chewing something else. Of course if the chewing is due to a medical problem such as allergies, then it propably will not work. Chewing and licking of the paws is not a problem if it happens occasionally, but if this something your does all the time then it is better to check it out.

      Thank you for sharing your experience and advice.

      Jojo

  • Hey Jojo
    I found this article very informative. I haven’t really observed such compulsive behavior in my own dogs, but I am sure to look out for warning signs now.
    I live near the beach. Is there any thing I should be aware of after walking my dogs? I assume the seawater is good for their paws.

    • As far as I know seawater should be good for their paws, it usually heals wounds a little quicker as well. The only thing is that the salt can cause the skin (not just the paws) to become itchy soo it might be a good idea to rinse them of with fresh water from time to time.

      Cheers,

      Jojo

  • Thanks a lot for this informational blog. I just moved to Philadelphia Pennsylvania from Florida this summer and I’m expecting a snowy winter. I will be extra aware and alert for this behavior from my dog.He’s a golden retriever and I love him so much. I don’t know if the salt on the sidewalks and streets will affect him but I will surely wash his paws really good every time we go out. Thanks again.

    Jonathan

    • It varies of course from dog to dog but salt on the street is a problem for many dogs so cleaning the paws after walking in winter is a good idea.

      Cheers,

      Joakim

  • This was very interesting and useful information. My dog was chewing at his paws and we took him to the vet who finally determined that he had a grain allergy. I’ve also heard that protein allergies are a common cause for paw chewing. Turns out the vet was right because after we put our dog on a grain-free diet he no longer chewed at his paws. Now I only use the best ingredient dog food so his skin will be healthy. Twice the cost as regular dog food but why buy bad food for your dog in the first place?

    • Hi and thank you for your input. Allergies can cause all kinds of problems for dogs as well as us humans. High quality dog food is really important in order to keep your dog healthy and especially if your dog is pure breed (for example Labrador or German Shepherd) as they often are more sensitive than mixed dogs.

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