Why Your Dog Chews Their Paws and What You Can Do About It

Mar 29, 2024

Understanding why dogs chew their paws and identifying effective solutions - whether your dog is biting his feet out of discomfort or relentlessly chewing on her paws - paves the way towards alleviating their distress and promoting their overall well-being.

puppy licking near its paws

It's normal for dogs to lick or chew on their paws from time to time. It's a regular part of how they groom themselves. Dogs don't bathe quite as often as cats do, but they still like to keep a clean physique! However, if they seem obsessed with chewing and licking their paws or are focused on one particular paw, there may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

A dog chewing its paws may be driven by a variety of factors including allergies, dry skin, or anxiety. It could also be caused by an infection or a reaction to pain from an injury, requiring your immediate attention. Understanding why dogs chew their paws and identifying effective solutions - whether your dog is biting his feet out of discomfort or your pet is relentlessly chewing on her paws - paves the way towards alleviating their distress and promoting their overall well-being.

Common Reasons for Paw Licking and Chewing

When you find your dog chewing on its paws regularly, it's important to understand the many reasons that could be driving this behavior. Here's a breakdown of common causes:

Skin Issues and Infections:

  • Dermatitis, yeast, or bacterial infections can lead to redness, swelling, and an irresistible itch.
  • Parasites such as fleas, mites, and ticks are notorious for causing discomfort, urging dogs to chew their paws.

Allergies and Environmental Factors:

  • Both environmental and food allergies can trigger paw chewing. Signs include intense itching, redness, and recurrent skin or ear infections.
  • Seasonal changes often exacerbate environmental allergies, affecting dogs between 2-4 years of age.

Pain, Injury, and Behavioral Issues:

  • Arthritis, sprains, fractures, or even simple cuts and injuries can cause paw licking as a pain relief attempt.
  • Anxiety, boredom, or stress may lead dogs to compulsively chew their paws. Providing toys, regular exercise, and anxiety reduction techniques can help mitigate these behaviors.

Understanding the root cause is the first step towards addressing your dog's discomfort. Regular checks, especially after outdoor activities, and maintaining a clean, engaging environment can significantly reduce paw chewing incidents.

Identifying the Cause of Dog-Paw-Chewing

Identifying the cause behind your dog's paw-chewing behavior is like playing detective - it requires keen observation and sometimes professional intervention. Here's how you can start unraveling this mystery:

1. Observation: Keep a close eye on when and how often your dog engages in paw chewing. Is it after a walk in the park, or does it seem to be a constant habit regardless of where you are? Noting these patterns can provide valuable clues.

2. Physical Examination: 

  • Inspect the Paw: Gently examine your dog's paws for any signs of redness, swelling, or anything lodged between the pads or toes.
  • Consistency Matters: If paw-chewing has become a new and consistent issue, it's a red flag that shouldn't be ignored.

3. Professional Consultation: When home observations raise concerns—such as discovering inflammation or if the behavior persists despite your best efforts—it's important to consult with your veterinarian. They can offer a comprehensive examination and possibly identify issues invisible to the untrained eye, such as subtle injuries or underlying conditions that could be causing discomfort.

Remember, while your observations are invaluable, certain conditions require a professional's touch to diagnose and treat effectively.


When to See a Vet

Deciphering the signs for when to hustle your furry friend to the vet can sometimes feel like interpreting a complex code. Yet, there are unmistakable signals that should prompt a swift vet visit: 

Allergies or Pain: If your Sherlock Holmes intuition hints at allergies or if your pup seems to be in pain, don't dilly-dally. Contacting a vet pronto can prevent the issue from escalating. 

Chronic Chewers: A dog that has turned paw-chewing into a marathon activity, despite your arsenal of home remedies, signals a red flag. It's time to consult a vet. 

Alarming Symptoms: Keep an eagle eye for symptoms that scream 'vet time': 

Persistent chewing that's more determined than a toddler on a candy hunt. 

Pus or odor emanating from the paws - not exactly the new perfume line you were hoping for.

Swelling that makes the paws look like they're prepping for a sumo wrestling match.

These symptoms are your cue to transition from home care to professional medical attention, ensuring your dog's health doesn't toe the line of jeopardy.


Treatment Options and Preventative Measures for Chewing Paws

Addressing your dog's paw-chewing habit effectively involves a multifaceted approach, tailored to the underlying cause. Here are some treatment strategies and preventive measures:

Treatment Options

For any treatment options that involve medications or otherwise, its important to consult with your veterinarian before proceeding.
    • Allergies:
      • Identification and avoidance of allergens.
      • Hypoallergenic Pet Wipes to wipe them down after walks outside to remove any pollens or other things they might be allergic to.
      • Medications from your vet to manage symptoms.
    • Skin Issues and Infections
      • Regular application of paw balm for dermatitis or skin irritation.
      • Medications from your vet for any for bacterial or yeast infections.
    • Pain or Injury:
      • Appropriate wound care and pain management.
      • Surgical interventions or joint supplements for severe cases.
    • Anxiety:
      • Behavior modification techniques and mental stimulation.
      • Medications prescribed by a veterinarian.

    Preventive Measures

    Regular Paw Checks: After outdoor activities, check your pup's paws when coming inside to spot and remove anything that shouldn't be there, or identify injuries early.

    Grooming: Regular nail trimming is important, as well as removing any mats in their fur to prevent discomfort.

    Diet and Exercise: Regular physical and mental stimulation is key to keeping your pup healthy and avoiding boredom-induced chewing. Make sure and consult with your veterinarian before making any drastic dietary adjustments.

    Stress Management: Establishing routines and using behavior modification treatment can help reduce your pup's overall anxiety.

    Toys and Activities: Offering chew toys or engaging activities is a great way to divert their  attention from paw chewing and onto something more productive. 

    Protective Gear: Using booties or paw balm can help protect paws from injuries and harsh conditions. 


    Implementing these strategies can significantly reduce paw chewing, promoting a happier, healthier life for your dog. Remember, consulting a veterinarian is crucial to tailor the treatment to your dog's specific needs and ensure their well-being.