The only thing more annoying than your dog’s obsession with feet chewing is visiting the vet to deal with the self-inflicted sores.
While it is true that chewing the feet results in a release of endorphins and an overall feel-good sensation, more often than not, there is a severe underlying issue triggering the behavior.
Therefore, before you start judging or even scolding your dog every time his feet are inside his mouth, you should get proactive and get to the bottom of things.
The sooner you find out why your dog is constantly chewing its feel, the sooner you will be able to put a stop to the behavior.
In this article, we will review the most common feet-chewing reasons in dogs. We will also give you hope by revealing some popular and efficient solutions. Finally, we will talk about when it is time to visit the vet.
6 Reasons Why Do Dogs Chew Their Feet
Feet-chewing in dogs is one of those behaviors that can quickly get out of control. At first, your dog is chewing his feet perhaps once or twice per day, and before you know it, the sound of your dog munching on its paws will start waking you up in the middle of the night.
We have compiled a list covering the most common causes and the potential remedies to make things simpler.
However, do not forget that there is a point where you will have to take the problem to the next level and make a trip to the vet’s office!
Feet Chewing Cause 1: Allergies
People are not the only species affected by allergies. In fact, allergies are prevalent in dogs. The difference between human and dog allergies is the clinical manifestation – people usually sneeze and have runny noses, while dogs prefer scratching their bodies and licking or chewing their feet.
There are different forms of allergies in dogs, but all of them can manifest with chewing of the paws. Here is a brief rundown of them.
Inhaled allergens are common feet-chewing causes. Common inhaling allergens are pollen, grasses, molds, dust mites, perfumes, human dander, and dander from other pets. These allergens cause generalized itchiness that is mainly localized in the foot region – paws, flanks, and pads.
Chances are, you are dealing with contact allergies if your dog's feet-chewing habit is accented after coming back from walks or after playing in the garden. As the name suggests, this allergy type occurs when the dog’s paws come in contact with the potential allergen. Common allergens are grass, bedding materials, and certain cleaning products.
Although not as common as often advertised, dogs can suffer from food allergies. Dogs with food allergies are very likely to be obsessed with licking and chewing their paws. Plus, he will also have frequent bouts of diarrhea and tummy issues.
How to Stop a Dog From Chewing His Feet Due to Allergies
Chewing the feet is a symptom, so the focus should be put on the allergy issue. The mainstream of managing allergies in dogs is antihistamine medications combined with corticosteroids or desensitization shots.
Based on the exact allergy type, there are additional helpful practices. For example, in the case of inhalants allergies, we recommend minimizing the allergen exposure – keeping the house clean, installing HEPA air filters, and avoiding walks in allergen-dense regions like woods, meadows, parks.
If your dog is suffering from contact allergies, we advise cleaning its paws with dog-friendly wipes after each walk. This will not remove all allergens but will decrease their number and prevent spreading.
Finally, if dealing with food allergies, your dog will need a hypoallergenic diet – a specialized commercially available formula or homemade meals using the ingredients your dog is not allergic to.
Feet Chewing Cause 2: Boredom
Originally, the dog’s wild ancestor would travel great lengths in search of food and other critical resources. Even domestic dogs were initially bred to fulfill specific tasks like herding, protecting, or hunting. However, the modern pet dog does not have any chores.
This lack of things to do is messing with the dog’s natural incline to be active and on the move. Therefore, most modern dogs eventually become bored.
The problem with boredom is that it often makes dogs do destructive things like digging in the yard, scratching leather sofas, or simply chewing on their feet.
How to Stop a Dog From Chewing His Feet Due to Boredom
Relieving dog boredom is of significant interest so much, there is a particular branch in science called "environmental enrichment." Environmental enrichment focuses on providing ample physical and mental stimulation for dogs.
To prevent boredom in your dog, you need to ensure your dog can express its natural inclinations in home settings. For example, think about the things wild dogs do – hunting, playing, and sleeping.
You need to ensure your dog can mimic these habits – for hunting purposes, give your dog interactive puzzle feeder toys, so satisfy its playing needs, spend time together, and for sleeping, invest in a high-quality and comfy bed.
Feet Chewing Cause 3: Anxiety
Do you bite your nails when anxious? Well, your dog chews its paws. In simple terms, paw-licking in dogs is the canine equivalent of nail-biting in humans. Anxiety is a widespread problem among dogs.
Anxiety stems from various reasons like being left alone, having guests, unfamiliar sounds, new pets, changes in the daily schedule, moving to a new home, etc.
Regardless of the cause, anxious dogs find relief in repetitive behaviors, and chewing or licking the paws is precisely that. Chewing the paws is soothing and an efficient coping mechanism.
We should note that paw licking is expected, stress-related behavior in certain working dogs like Dalmatians, Greyhounds, and cattle dogs. For unknown reasons, members of these breeds tend to over-groom themselves when anxious.
How to Stop a Dog From Chewing His Feet Due to Anxiety
To solve your dog’s anxiety, you need to identify the trigger. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Namely, while some triggers can be identified and eliminated, others are constantly present and cannot be avoided.
In such cases, you can talk to your vet about possible natural stress-relieving supplements or anti-anxiety medications.
Recently, there is a lot of interest in using CBD oil for calmness and relaxation. As a natural holistic remedy, CBD is highly efficient and has fewer and lesser side effects than conventional anti-anxiety medications.
Feet Chewing Cause 4: Dry Skin
Dogs can often experience dry skin and in such cases chewing the paws provides relief, and the saliva compensates for the lack of normal skin moisture. There are three leading causes leading to dehydrated skin:
Breed predisposition – lacking the protective function of the coat, hairless dog breeds (Chinese Crested dog, American Hairless terrier, Xoloitzcuintli, Peruvian Inca dog) are more likely to develop dry skin.
Weather – obviously, living in dry and cold climates increases the risk of experiencing dry skin and cracked and painful paws.
Bathing habits – bad bathing choices in terms of frequency and low-quality products remove the natural skin oils and result in drying of the skin.
How to Stop a Dog From Chewing His Feet Due to Dry Skin
The exact resolution depends on the underlying issue. If you have a hairless dog, there are special creams and ointments for extra skin care and protection.
The same moisturizing products can also be used for dogs living in cold and dry climates. Plus, there are special balms for paw care.
Feet Chewing Cause 6: FLEAS
When it comes to paw chewing, fleas are among the most common culprits. The mere presence of fleas is enough to cause generalized itchiness.
To make things worse, some dogs are allergic to flea saliva, and flea bites in these dogs can cause a condition called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).
The dog will feel itchy and uncomfortable in both cases and find comfort and relief in chewing its feet. In cases of extreme scratching and chewing, the self-inflicted micro-injuries are likely to get infected with staph bacteria, thus aggravating the overall situation.
How to Stop a Dog From Chewing His Feet Due to Fleas
Luckily, when it comes to fleas, the key is easy. All you need to do is keep your dog up-to-date on its monthly anti-flea preventives.
If you accidentally miss a dose and your dog gets fleas, the vet will apply an anti-flea treatment and get rid of the fleas. To calm the skin issues, if pronounced, the vet may recommend topical.
Important Considerations About Dogs That Chew Feet
It is worth mentioning that certain dog breeds have a higher than average risk of developing paw and feet problems that can eventually trigger licking and chewing. Such breeds include terriers, poodles, Chihuahuas, retrievers, and Maltese dogs.
Interestingly, feet-chewing is more stressful for owners of white-colored dogs. This is because frequent contact with saliva causes discoloration of the fur, which is most striking in white dogs. A white dog that is constantly licking its paws will develop brownish coat patches.
Finally, you need to pay attention to which leg your dog is chewing. If the above-listed reasons are behind the behavior, your dog will chew on all of its feet.
However, if the chewing is always focused on one foot in particular, there is a painful issue – an ingrown nail, a splinter, or foxtail between the toes.
In all cases, we recommend calling the vet and scheduling an appointment. The vet will determine what is causing your dog’s feet-chewing obsession and help you solve the problem.