Why Does My Dog Chew His Paws?
Our dogs rely on chewing, scratching, and licking to tend to any irritation on their skin.
The occasional chewing of their paws may not be anything of concern for this reason, but excessive chewing can point to a serious irritation in the area.
So why is your dog constantly chewing their paws, and should you be concerned?
In this article we will go into the details behind paw chewing in dogs, and help you better understand how you can prevent this behavior going forward.
Is A Dog Chewing His Paw Normal Behavior?
As we mentioned above, the act of chewing or licking in dogs is often used to address any itching or irritation on their skin.
When it occurs in small doses and doesn’t appear to be a habit for your dog, then this can be completely normal.
However, if their paw chewing ever becomes excessive, this can point to an issue.
As we will discuss below, constant paw chewing in dogs can point to everything from paw injury to severe anxiety.
Top 9 Reasons Why Your Dog Chews His Paws
If your dog is always chewing their paws, there are a list of potential struggles they could be experiencing.
While some pups may be chewing at a blade of grass that found its way into their paw, others may be chewing their paws in search of relief from anxiety.
To help you better understand the potential factors behind this behavior, let’s discuss the details below.
1.) Canine Allergies
Just like humans, our furry friends can develop allergies to materials in the world around them.
Many humans are sneezy and watery eyed during certain times of the year, and canine allergies can behave in similar ways.
These allergies can come and go based on exposure, causing an array of irritating symptoms for the dog affected.
Some of the many potential symptoms of canine allergies are itchy skin and localized irritation.
Dogs can develop skin allergies as a result of exposure to pollen, dust, grass, and even the food they eat each day.
If a dog is exposed to something that their body is allergic to, they may soon develop significant irritation of the skin.
For example, if a dog is allergic to pollen or other plant materials, you may notice certain times a year in which their paw chewing and scratching is more frequent.
Some dogs will even develop contact allergies on their paws if they touch the allergen outdoors, causing unbearable discomfort that’s impossible to ignore.
Our dogs can’t scratch their paws as easily as we can scratch our hands, so they rely on chewing and licking to get the job done.
A few of the most common signs of allergies in dogs include:
- Itchy skin
- Skin redness
- Hair loss
- Watery eyes
- Eye redness
- Mild GI upset
If you think your dog is chewing their paws due to allergies, we suggest reaching out to your vet for guidance.
They can determine the best long term management plan for your pup.
2.) Canine Anxiety
Do you know anyone that bites their nails when they are experiencing anxiety or stress?
This is a good comparison for anxious paw chewing in dogs, as it is simply a way to cope with a stressful event that is occurring in their lives.
Whether they are anxious about a new pet in the home or a sudden change of environment, many pups will resort to constant paw licking and chewing as an outlet.
Paw chewing and licking can be used as a self soothing tactic in some canine friends.
This is why they now sell licking mats for dogs that you cover in a tasty treat, as the act of licking this yummy substance can be soothing.
Some dogs can even develop compulsive paw chewing if their stress is severe, and this can lead to serious paw injury for the pup affected.
If you notice your dog constantly licking or biting their paws without an end in sight, we always suggest reaching out to your vet for guidance.
This is especially true if they have experienced any form of stressful event, or they struggle with daily anxiety in any form.
3.) Paw Injury
If a dog can lick or chew at a wound on their body, they will do it in a heartbeat.
Dogs tend to believe that licking their wounds can heal their injuries or relieve pain, when this is actually far from the truth.
Though our pups think biting and licking their injured paws will help, it will typically lead to more complications in the area.
If a dog has sustained an injury on their paw, you may notice your pup frequently licking or biting at the area in search of relief.
You may also notice redness or swelling of the paw, bleeding, and even your dog limping.
If you see any of these symptoms in your dog, we suggest having them seen by a veterinarian for a thorough paw exam.
4.) Nail Injury
Just as paw injuries can cause a dog to lick and chew at the area, so can an injury to their nail.
Dogs can easily damage or crack their nails through daily activity, and some of these nail injuries can be incredibly painful.
Their nail can even crack to the point of exposing the nerve that runs throughout it, causing significant discomfort with each step.
If you think your dog may have cracked their nail, we always suggest having them seen by a vet.
The nail and the surrounding area can easily become infected, especially with how many germs they come in contact with by walking on the ground.
5.) General Pain
As we mentioned above, licking and chewing can be a self soothing method for some dogs.
This is often implemented when they are experiencing pain, causing them to gnaw at the painful area in search of relief.
If your dog is experiencing any form of pain around their paw, you may notice frequent paw chewing.
This can occur in dogs with arthritis in their paws, paw injuries, nerve injuries, and any other underlying conditions that can cause general pain in the area.
You may also notice limping, paw redness, paw swelling, and other sudden changes in their behavior.
If this is the case for your dog, we recommend having them seen by your veterinarian.
6.) Long Nails
A dog with overgrown nails may begin to struggle with getting around.
Long nails can cause discomfort when their paws touch the ground, and they may even begin to grow into the paw pad if they are left to grow for a significant period of time.
When dogs begin to experience the discomfort that long nails bring, many will attempt to resolve the issue themselves with paw and nail biting.
If you think your dog is biting their paws as a result of long nails, then it may be time for a trip to the spa, or simply buy a dog nail clipper.
You can either reach out to your vet for a nail trim, contact a local groomer, or trim their nails at home yourself.
Just be sure to look up instructions on how to do so properly if you have never done it before.
7.) Skin Infection
Skin infections on the paw can be miserable for many furry friends.
These often develop as a result of chronic skin allergies and moisture in the area, which leads to a raw and painful paw pad.
What makes the situation even worse is the fact that these dogs will typically begin to lick and bite at the paw, causing even more irritation to their already painful skin infection.
Skin infection in dogs will often lead to skin redness, skin swelling, frequent licking or chewing at the area, skin odor, skin oozing, and even wounds.
If you think your dog has developed skin infections for any reason, we always suggest having them seen by a vet.
Many of these dogs will require medical care to not only cure their infection, but manage the pain they are experiencing as a result.
8.) Dry Skin
Have you ever had a case of dry skin that leads to extreme itchiness?
Well, our pups can experience this as well.
Many dogs can develop dry paws as a result of exposure to the elements, causing some of them to struggle with itchy feet.
If this happens, you may notice your dog biting and licking at their paws in search of relief.
If you think your dog may have dry skin, we suggest taking a look at their paws and looking for any evidence of dryness.
If you notice any cracking or calling of the paws, we recommend giving your vet a call to ask about any dog-safe moisturizers they recommend.
9.) Growths Or Masses
Growths or masses on the paw are not uncommon in our beloved companions.
Dogs can develop skin tags, tumors, and even abscesses around and between their toes, leading to a significant amount of discomfort.
The more these growths increase in size, the more your pup will search for any form of relief.
As we have discussed in detail above, dogs often think they are helping themselves through biting and licking.
Though some of these growths on the paw are benign, there is no way to know on your own.
We always suggest having their paw examined and biopsied as needed, as this will help your vet determine the best plan of action going forward.
Also read: Paw Pad Hyperkeratosis In Dogs
Why Does My Dog Lick His Paws All The Time?
We have explained the potential causes of paw chewing in dogs above, but what about paw licking?
Though they are two different actions, the two often go hand in hand.
You will typically see your dog licking their paws as they chew them, so this is often due to the same underlying cause of irritation.
If you have a frequent paw licker on your hands, one of the many causes above are likely to blame.
Signs Of Paw Injury In Dogs
Paw injuries of any kind can be excruciating for our dogs to bear.
Not only is the injury itself a source of discomfort, but walking on the paw can make it even worse.
Our dogs don’t understand the need to stay off their feet when they have an injury and to leave the wound alone.
Many pups will continue to abuse the area until we offer them help.
To help you better spot a paw injury in your canine friend, let’s list the most common symptoms below.
Common signs of a paw injury in dogs include:
- Licking or chewing the paws
- Limping or hesitance to put weight on the limb
- Redness of the skin around the paws
- Swelling of the paw
- Moisture between the toes of the paw
- Odor coming from the paw
- Bleeding on the paw
- Hair loss on the paw
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog, we suggest having their paw examined by a veterinarian.
When Should You See A Vet For A Dog Who Constantly Chews His Paws?
So when is paw chewing a situation that warrants a vet visit?
While this can be a normal behavior when it occurs occasionally, any frequent paw biting or licking should lead to a phone call to your vet.
This is especially true if they are showing signs of any underlying complication, or if they are displaying signs of a paw injury.
At the end of the day, if your dog is biting their paws to the point of concern, we always suggest giving your vet a call.
Once you explain the situation and your dog’s current symptoms, they can answer the question of whether or not they should be seen.
Should I Let My Dog Chew His Paws?
Paw chewing and licking can lead to painful consequences for many dogs.
This often leads to increased moisture between the toes, and this is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Paw licking and biting has led to many skin infections in dogs, so we always suggest putting an end to the behavior when you spot it.
If your dog is biting their paws so often that you cannot put an end to it, we suggest reaching out to your veterinarian.
How To Get My Dog To Stop Chewing His Paws
If your dog is always chewing their paws or licking their paws, you may be looking for any way to put an end to the behavior.
This is not a habit we should promote in our furry friends, as the increased moisture to the area can lead to paw infection.
To help you put an end to the behavior, let’s list some of our favorite tips below.
- Make sure your dog’s nails are trimmed to the point of comfort.
- Keep your dog up to date on flea and tick prevention, as this can lead to increased itching and skin allergies.
- Seek medical care with any evidence of paw injury. The sooner you have them assessed and treated, the sooner your pup will be on the mend.
- Moisturize your dog’s dry paws with an approved moisturizer of choice. Every vet has their own preference, but a small amount of coconut oil typically does the trick.
- Address any underlying stress that your dog could be experiencing. This could include implementing more daily exercise if they are bored, setting aside more quality time each day if you are away often, working to properly socialize any incoming pets, and simply trying to keep their routine as constant and reliable as possible.
If each of the above options do not make a dent in your dog’s paw chewing habit, it’s time to visit the vet.
Final Thoughts On Paw Chewing
Paw chewing in dogs may seem harmless initially, but it can point to an array of underlying conditions.
This is your dog’s way of telling you something is bothering them, so we always suggest exploring their symptoms further and reaching out to their veteran for guidance.
My name is Amber. I am a dedicated animal lover that turned my passion into my career. I am a Licensed Vet Tech with 12 years of experience in veterinary medicine, but I recently took my career online to help spread accurate information on animal care. With how vast the online world is, I have a strong desire to ensure that the reader always walks away with helpful pet advice. With the experience I’ve gained from my time in this field, I have been able to travel the world, offering my services to as many animal rescues as I can find. If I am not at my laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find me somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that I can find! More About Us