Unfortunately, no matter how much our dogs bark at us, we can’t know for sure what they want.
The more you and your dog build a mutual level of trust and understanding, the more you will be able to read the signs of when they are in need of assistance.
One common sight that you will undoubtedly come across as a dog owner is your pet pooch chewing its own paws. This may seem like a harmless enough act.
However, dogs will often chew their paws when there’s something wrong with them. In this article, we will peer into the why behind all of this paw chewing, in turn, putting you in touch with your best friend.
Why Do Dogs Chew Their Paws?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to the questionable act of dogs chewing their paws. It could be the result of a whole host of reasons. One thing is for certain – they don’t chew their paws for the thrill of it.
Some common reasons why your dog may chew its paws include pain, hormonal imbalances, dry skin, boredom, stress, anxiety as well as irritation caused by an allergy or infection.
To make it even more confusing, sometimes it can be for as simple a reason as general grooming.
This puts you in the precarious position of not knowing whether they are chewing their paws for a serious reason or a not-so-serious one.
This is why we are going to take a deeper look into the why behind dogs chewing their paws and help dog owners figure out their furry friends better.
Why Do Dogs Chew One Paw?
When a dog is focusing its attention on one paw, this may be an indication that there is something wrong with that paw specifically.
Often, when a dog chews one paw, it’s because the paw is sore or injured and will likely require an inspection and medical attention.
If your dog permits it, your best bet is to inspect the paw from all sides. This may mean lifting the paw up to check its underside. Do this gently, for you and your dog’s sake.
If nothing is obvious on both the upper and underside of the paw, the next step would be to have a closer look between each toe and claw.
Toes and claws are considered hot spots for sticks, twigs, and anything else that is sharp to get stuck. Make sure you spend time focusing on each one – the ailment may be hard to spot.
Below, we have listed the most common causes for a dog to be chewing one paw in particular.
- Loose/ broken claws: Loose or broken claws are very common causes for dogs to chew one paw. Claws can be easily snapped or broken when a dog roams their domain and gets caught on something. If this happens, their claw may break or snap without fully detaching.
We can all relate to this pain when one of our nails has a similar fate. All you will need to do is remove the rest of the broken claw and leave the sensitive skin below to dry and harden. Your dog will then be back to its roaming best.
- Internal pain: Dogs chewing their paws may also be caused by internal pain. Internal pain is much harder to identify as there won’t be an obvious sign of it. However, even though there may not be any external signs, internal pain can be very serious.
Luckily, internal paw pain is quite rare. So it certainly isn’t your first port of call, but it’s always handy to have in the back of your mind when you are assessing your dog’s paw chewing.
Maybe they strained a muscle or pulled a tendon in their foot. Maybe they have done a similar injury to their ankle.
Or, it could be that they have fractured or broken one of the bones in their foot and they are nursing it the only way they know how – licking and chewing.
Internal pain could also indicate the early onset of a bone condition like arthritis. Whatever it is if you notice that they are limping and in visible pain then your best bet is to get their foot checked out by a vet.
Bone disease, muscle strain, and broken bones will all worsen without early detection and treatment. This makes internal pain one of the more serious reasons for paw chewing.
- Cuts: Even though their paws are thick and tough, dogs cutting them is a regular occurrence. This is, even more, the case for dogs who are particularly active and love nothing more than running through water and jumping over bushes.
There might be a wayward piece of glass or a sharp stone among the unknown. Whatever it may be, your dog’s paw will be no match for sharp objects that their carefree nature did not account for.
If it’s a minor cut then it will likely heal on its own, but deeper cuts that bleed will require a visit to the vet and most likely stitches.
- Ingrown claws: Ingrown claws are nasty pieces of work. Unless you are hot on trimming your dog’s claws back every couple of weeks, you run the risk of them getting ingrown. If you take your dog for walkies on hard surfaces this will also help moderate their claws, but regular trimming is still recommended.
If your dog does have an ingrown claw and is chewing its paw as a result, the best idea is to take them straight to the vet. You could always try to cut it back yourself, but the chance of infection is high for ingrown claws.
Doing a DIY job of cutting it will only exasperate the likelihood of infection.
- Bacterial/ yeast infection: Infections can be a major cause of concern for dogs. Dogs will tend to a paw when it is infected by chewing and licking it. This excessive attention can actually worsen paw infections.
Dogs are known to sniff and eat all kinds of questionable stuff. The unknown of what has been in their mouth coming in contact with a paw infection is a recipe for disaster.
Remember – They lick their bottom with that tongue!
What’s more, constant chewing and licking of the infectious area mean it has no chance of staying dry.
One way to grow an infection is to give it a warm and moist place to multiply. This is why any sign of your dog’s paw being infected (or any other area of the body for that matter) will require immediate medical attention.
The good thing about a paw infection is the treatment is normally pretty straightforward. After a course of prescribed antibiotics, the infection should clear and your dog will be back to form soon thereafter.
- Interdigital cysts: If your dog is complaining about their paw and all they want to do is chew it, an interdigital cyst could be the cause. ID cysts are generally found between the toes of flat-faced dogs. Dog species with flat faces have a specific body shape which means their front feet take a lot of their weight. Subsequently, it is their front feet that are prone to ID cysts.
Why Do Dogs Chew Several Paws?
When a dog chews more than one paw this is an indication that there’s something else at play. Sure, several of their paws could all fall victim to cuts simultaneously, but this is an unlikely scenario.
- Allergies: There are a few reasons why your dog might chew more than one paw, and a skin allergy is a common one. Just as people who suffer from hay fever are prone to itchy and swollen eyes, dog allergies tend to be most noticeable in their paws.
Even though your dog might be itchy all over, is it their paws that will feel the most irritation. This is because their paws are one of the most sensitive parts of their body, and the easiest for them to reach and chew!
Other hot spots for itchy skin on dogs are their armpits and groin. These are good places to investigate as well. Dog allergies are normally diagnosed in the first few years of life.
The most common causes include pollen, grass, mold, dust mites, house mites, tree species, and various types of food. Seeking professional help from a vet who is experienced in dog allergies is essential in gaining a correct diagnosis and treating the issue properly.
- Depression, stress, and anxiety: Dogs are highly intelligent beings that have similar feelings to humans. Just as they can feel happy and elated, when there is an imbalance in their life, they can also feel depressed and stressed. Not getting enough exercise is a major cause for dogs feeling down, and they will often show it by chewing their paws.
On top of depression and stress, some dogs are known to get anxious. Some dogs can get severely anxious while others might just suffer from a mild stroke of anxiety.
If this happens to your dog, don’t feel discouraged as this isn’t necessarily a sign of ill-treatment on your end. Seeking professional guidance can help. Dog-approved CBD oils can also help anxious dogs feel more relaxed.
- Parasitic infection: One of the more worrying causes of dogs chewing their feet is a parasitic infection. This could be something as innocent as a flea. Although very annoying for your dog, fleas pose no immediate threat to their health. However, your dog chewing its paws could also be because of a more serious parasite like a tick.
Sometimes parasites can be so small that you will have a very hard time spotting them. We would recommend using a magnifying glass to give you a close-up of your dog’s skin.
If you are still unable to unequivocally determine what type of parasite it is, a quick trip to the vet will help to give you peace of mind and your dog some respite.
Why Is My Dog Licking Its Paws?
Chewing is a cause of concern, but chewing isn’t the only indicator of something being wrong with your dog and its paws. Dogs are also known to lick their paws when there is an issue with them.
Licking, in general, is a sign that your dog has incurred a physical ailment. A small cut between the claws is a classic example of when a dog might lick their paws instead of chew them.
Some dogs will also prefer to lick their feet when they are suffering from a mental health issue like depression or anxiety. Every dog has a different set of behaviors and a different way of expressing pain and suffering – both physical and mental.
This is why it is necessary to consider licking in a similar light to chewing when it comes to understanding your best friend better.
If you are convinced that your dog has neither a physical ailment nor a mental health issue but they’re still licking their paws, you may be able to put it down to attention-seeking. I would always advise a check up with your veterinarian before deciding this, some health issues can be challenging to identify.
This is especially common in puppies who seek their owner’s approval and attention at every waking moment. Out of desperation and frustration, you might find your dog is licking their paws. A classic game of fetch could be the cure.
Can Paw Chewing Cause More Issues?
Dogs chewing and licking their paws for an extended period of time can have a knock-on effect on their health and cause more issues.
Excessive chewing and licking can agitate a dog’s paw to the point where its natural skin barrier and skin defenses are disrupted.
Just like our own skin, dog skin does not fair well with constant moisture. If a paw is not able to dry out because it’s constantly being chewed and licked, the subsequent dampness may lead to an infection.
Yeast and bacterial are the two common types of infections brought on by paw chewing.
If your dog can’t help chewing its paw, it will also run the risk of causing acute moist dermatitis or a lick granuloma. These occur when the paw fur is rubbed away as a result of their coarse tongue and the repetitive nature of chewing and licking.
This is especially prevalent in dogs with thick fur coats that retain a lot of moisture.
So, what started out as a not-so-serious issue could cause a more serious issue that prolongs the healing process for your dog. This means breaking the paw chewing cycle with the methods listed below is critical for good paw health and a happy dog.
What Can You Do To Stop Your Dog from Chewing Its Paws?
You don’t need to take drastic measures at the first sign of your dog chewing its paws. As we previously hinted, the reason could be as simple as your pooch is grooming.
However, if chewing persists, becomes more frequent, or becomes more intense then it is best to take action.
At the end of the day, when it comes to pets, it is always better to be safe than sorry, and seeking a vet’s professional opinion is the safest option.
Below we have listed some useful tips that can help stop your dog from chewing its paws once they have been checked over and treated by a vet.
- Change in diet: If your dog has an allergy, one of the best things that you can do for them is evaluate their diet.
Feeding them simple, healthy food with as few additives as possible will help you to determine whether their diet is causing their allergies.
Some dogs even require special diets to control their allergies.
- Remove parasites: The best way to remove parasites is to use a product that your vet recommends.
Whether it’s fleas, mites, or another low-harm parasite, a parasite removal spot on will do wonders for your dog.
- Of course, if it is a tick then this will be removed by a vet. Removing ticks at home is perfectly fine.
However, we wouldn’t recommend it without prior experience as it can be a challenging and delicate procedure to remove the tick in its entirety, head and all.
- Exercise: It’s amazing what exercise does for the well-being of dogs. If they are showing signs of stress, anxiety, or depression then an easy way to combat this is to increase their daily exercise routine.
- Whether that be extending their morning walk or playing a serious game of afternoon fetch. If you 100% make sure that they are getting enough exercise this will help you to eliminate it as a possible cause for an imbalance in their mental health.
- Bitter spray: Sometimes a dog can build up such a strong association with chewing its paws that the habit carries on long after the cause has been dealt with.
A pooch-approved bitter spray will give any dog with an everlasting affection for chewing its paw a bitter reminder that the time has come to break the habit.
- Medication: For more persistent and serious causes of paw chewing, your vet may prescribe medication for treatment. This is perfectly normal and, in some cases, necessary to treat infections and other potentially life-threatening issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Should You Worry About Your Dog’s Paw Chewing?
The question on every dog owner’s lips is; When should they start to worry about their dog’s paw chewing? It’s a very good question. Unfortunately, there is no one answer that covers every potential cause.
The best thing that you can do is to check on them regularly and see if the paw chewing is worsening.
If, after a day, they are still concerned with their paw and you can’t see any noticeable reason for it then an appointment at the vet could be on the cards.
When Should You worry About Your Dog Licking Its Paws?
Just like the occasional chew of a paw, dogs licking their paws infrequently is no cause for concern. Often, it is a sign of grooming and that they are simply treating their feet to a little pampering.
If the paw licking worsens then you should do an at-home assessment of their paws. If there’s no immediate sign of irritation, I would recommend getting it checked out by a vet.
What Should You Do If Your Dog’s Paws Are Bleeding?
If your dog’s paws are bleeding you should administer first aid to them. One common cause of a dog chewing or licking one paw is a skin abrasion or cut. If they allow it, clean their paw and try to find the source of the blood.
It may be just a minor cut, and a simple dressing of the area after an anti-bacterial ointment or cream has been applied should do the trick.
If you notice that the cut is continuing to bleed after it has been cleaned and dressed, there’s a good chance it may be deeper than first thought. This means it will likely require stitches to stop the bleeding, which, as you may have guessed, equals a trip to the vet.
How Do I Describe My Dog’s Symptoms To My Vet?
The best way for a vet to get a proper look at your dog’s symptoms is to take them to their clinic. A physical inspection will be the best way for a vet to diagnose their injury or illness.
Take photos and videos that you can bring along and show them as evidence. This is a very clever way to show them firsthand what the lead-up to the appointment looked like.
Gathering intel on your phone is a very useful tool. Gone are the days when you had to try and describe, in great detail, what your dog has been doing and why you have cause for concern.
Photo and video evidence will help a professional really get to the bottom of why your dog is chewing or licking its paws.
How Can You Get Your Dog To Stop Chewing Its Paws?
Depending on who you speak to or what you read, there are a million and one ways to remedy excessive paw chewing. If you have eliminated the possibility of paw chewing as a result of physical injury or infection, a mental health issue could be the cause.
A simple solution would be to purchase some new toys that seek to enrich your dog’s life through interactive games and activities.
Also, consider any anxiety-inducing triggers around your home. Things like the neighbors recently starting house renovations could be a cause for noise anxiety.
Try to minimize these influences on your dog’s life. If this isn’t possible, CBD oils and other calming diffuses and sprays could help your dog remain calm.
So there you have it. As you can see, dogs chew their feet for a whole host of reasons. The trick for all dog owners is to decipher whether their beloved best friend is chewing its paws for a minor reason or something more serious.
The beauty of this is that you will naturally build up a strong rapport with your dog through time spent with them.
As the years roll by you will start to understand your dog’s particular set of quirks. By learning to read your dog you will be able to detect when something doesn’t look or feel right and seek the necessary measures to resolve it.
This may be the dressing of a minor cut or it may mean treating a sudden onset of stress and anxiety. Whatever it may be, hopefully, you’ll be able to figure out exactly what their sudden affection for paw chewing is all about.
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