A lot of people get concerned when they see their dog chewing on their paws and the pads of their feet. If your pet exhibits this behavior, you shouldn’t be alarmed. All dogs chew and nip at their ankles and feet as a way to groom. As long as he doesn’t attack his feet aggressively, there’s nothing to worry about. Here is why your dog bites at his feet.
Why Do Dogs Bite at their Feet?
It can be concerning when you see your dog making a meal of his feet. It can be hard to tell the difference between normal chewing and obsessive chewing. And it can be a hard habit to break if your pet starts chewing as a coping mechanism for stress or anxiety.
There are numerous reasons why dogs might bite at their feet. Some might require medical treatment, although a lot of it is stuff you can do at home. Other reasons might not require any intervention at all. Here are some common reasons why dogs bite at their feet.
When to Consult a Veterinarian about your Dog Biting on Their Feet?
If you notice your pet is suddenly gnawing on his foot for no obvious reason, it might be time to talk to your veterinarian. Do an exam of your pet’s foot for signs of trauma or irritation. If you don’t see any outward signs that might be causing the chewing, it might be allergies or internal pain like hip dysplasia or arthritis.
If you notice any of these signs in your pet’s paws, make an appointment with your vet right away:
If you notice that your pooch’s paw pads look like they’ve been stained pink or rust color, it’s time to bring your vet in. This discoloration is caused by repeated exposure to a chemical called porphyrin pigments which is found in dog saliva.
Dogs Bite at their Feet to Groom
Dogs and cats are both known for their personal grooming. It’s a common sight to see cats licking their paws and then brushing over another area of their body as a way to clean themselves. Dogs do the same thing.
If you notice your dog licking or gnawing at his feet, it could be that he’s just cleaning himself. Give him a few minutes to see if he turns his attention from his feet to another part of his body. Is your dog focusing on his entire paw, top, and bottom? Or is he focused on one specific area, on just one foot?
If your pet is exhibiting the same chewing behavior on all his feet, you can rest easy knowing that your dog was just grooming himself. Once he’s cleaned, you probably won’t see him mess with his paws again for a while.
Your Dog is Biting His Feet to Remove an Irritant
Your dog doesn’t wear shoes so it’s easy for her to get foreign objects lodged into her feet. Long-haired breed dogs have more issues with attracting random objects but you can usually get the obstacles free easily compared to dogs with thick, coarse hair.
If you’ve ever tried walking around with a rock in your shoe, you know how painful it can be to have something pressing into your foot. Dogs don’t have fingers that can pick stuff out of their fur so they have to improvise with their teeth.
If your pup has a burrow stuck between his toes, he might be chewing in an effort to dislodge the object. Or she could have gotten a pebble wedged between the pads of her feet. If you notice your dog has suddenly begun to chew persistently at her foot, take a look to see if there’s anything poking her.
Check for Sores, Masses, or Corns
Dogs that are very active are at higher risk of having to deal with foot problems like corns and calluses. They can also suffer from problems with cracked, broken, and fractured claws. It’s important to always keep your pet’s nails trimmed if they’re frequently running on hard surfaces.
Your Dog is Biting at His Feet to Ease the Itching
In some cases, your dog might be suffering from allergies. It can be an allergy to their food, something they come into contact with, or even fleas or ticks. As strange as it sounds, my Pitbull is actually allergic to some types of grass. His paw pads turn bright red and he will chew holes into the meat trying to get rid of the itching.
It can be difficult trying to diagnose what your pet is allergic to so you might need to consult a vet for assistance. The most common allergy is to food. Some dogs cannot properly digest grains, which can cause itchy skin and feet. If you notice that your dog also has dry skin, it’s a good bet that switching to grain-free dog food can make your pet stop chewing on his feet.
Other possible allergies that your dog might have are:
- Chemicals (floor cleaner, disinfectants, pesticides)
Your Pet Might Be Chewing at Parasites
Fleas and ticks commonly gather in between the toes and the creases between the pads of their paws. If your pup is chewing in different spots in quick succession, he might have a problem with fleas. They can be hard to spot with the naked eye so try giving him a flea bath and see if that helps.
There is also a condition called Demodicosis mange, a mite that attacks the feet, ankles, and legs of dogs. You will need a veterinarian to help treat this condition and it’s important to get it under control as soon as possible.
Your Pet Has Gotten an Injury they are Chewing At
When an animal gets hurt, they might lick their injury to ease the pain. Licking is also a way to clean the wounds. Your pet might continue to chew on his paw days after he’s gotten hurt. Consider it as his way of scratching. You know how itchy a healing wound can be so can you really blame him?
Although dogs are meant to walk around outside without foot covering, there are things that can cause them to get hurt. Debris can collect in the fur around their paws, causing the hair to matt up and pinch. This can eventually lead to lumps called interdigital cysts.
Your pet might also get burns on their feet from walking on hot asphalt. He could get cut running across a parking lot where there might be traces of glass you don’t notice. Or he might get punctures from stepping on sharp rocks. Remember that the pads of your pup’s paws are just big chunks of meat.
Keep Injuries Clean and Limit Chewing
Dogs are at risk of infection if they spend too much time chewing and licking at open wounds. Although it might be difficult, you should try to discourage the behavior any time you witness it. You might end up having to repeat yourself multiple times until the healing has been completed.
After each walk outside, use a warm washcloth to clean the pads of your pup’s feet. Unless the wounds are deep, don’t apply any type of topical ointment. The injury should heal fine without medicine. If you don’t keep the injuries clean, it can lead to secondary infections from yeast and bacteria.
Your Dog Might Be Biting His Feet to Deal with Anxiety
Some people don’t know this but dogs can suffer from depression and anxiety just like people. In fact, there is an obsessive-compulsive disorder called Canine Compulsive Disorder. This condition is caused by stress, anxiety, or even just boredom.
When a dog suffers from CCD, they will chew on their paws obsessively, to the point where it might cause sores and infection. You might notice other signs of anxiety such as lethargy, shaking, loss of interest in normal activities, and loss of appetite, among other symptoms.
This disorder can be treated with medication and behavior modification techniques. But treatment should be done under the supervision of a licensed professional. Making sure your pet gets plenty of exercise and socialization can help combat anxiety and depression.
Look for Other Problems Besides Biting Feet
If you notice your dog chewing on his feet, don’t panic. It could be something as simple as he’s cleaning his paws. However, if you notice that he starts to bite his feet frantically and often, it might be time to get the opinion of a veterinarian. It might be an allergic reaction, a parasite infestation, or even anxiety.
Kassidy Shepperd is the editor in chief for Canine-Prime.com. She is is a dog lover/trainer, a freelance writer and a volunteer at many pet rescue and shelter centers. Kassidy is based in Colorado and regularly writes for dog related magazines and blogs.