Dogs chew on their feet for different reasons but finding the exact cause can be a little complicated.
Occasionally, perfectly healthy dogs bite themselves during normal self-grooming, especially after walks or other outdoor exercises. However common the condition may be, it doesn't mean one can't be worried for their dog and look for ways to prevent the habit from intensifying.
When the dog's biting and licking grow to excessive levels, suddenly and for a while, it means that they need immediate medical attention.
Differentiating normal and excessive biting can be a problem for most dog owners.
Below are some insights to help diversify the two in addition to the causes, symptoms, treatments and home remedies.
What is the meaning when a dog keeps biting his paws?
It is common for dogs to bite, lick and chew on their feet when dirty or use their paws to clean their heads and faces.
It is considered normal if a dog bites or licks their paws to clean them, but if it becomes uncontrolled and the places being licked are relatively clean, it is good to look into their behaviour.
Common reasons for excessive biting range from insect bites, boredom, anxiety or underlying conditions such as allergies. Physical problems such as injuries may result in the biting of one paw, while stress, allergies and habits include biting both paws.
Other possible biting reasons may be to remove debris picked outside from in between the paws or scratch itchy places.
Finding causes for the underlying problem can be difficult, but figuring them out helps work towards a solution and possible treatment options.
Should I worry about my dog's paw biting?
One should worry about their dog's biting when it becomes excessive, but the usual problem with dog owners is deciding what is excessive.
A dog owner's experience with their dog helps gauge the situation because, after a few months, they can pin out how often the dog bites or licks themselves.
If the biting turns out more than normal, it is excessive, and it is time to take matters seriously by consulting a vet.
Frequent symptoms to look out for include:
- Inflamed or red skin
- Bleeding paws
- Anxiety and stress
- Responsiveness to touch
- Irritated skin that is warm when touched
- Discolouration of paws
- Bald spots, cuts and wounds
- Excessive paw chewing
- Limping from hot spots
- The foul smell of the paws
Why do dogs bite their paws?
Knowing the possible causes of conditions that cause your dog to bite their paws is important to find possible solutions.
If a dog isn't biting its feet for purely grooming, it's because of an underlying condition, usually excessive licking.
Allergies: Allergens such as pollen, chemicals, spores, and mites can trigger environmental energies as dog paws are constantly in contact with surfaces they land on. Food allergies often manifest as itchy skin with skin conditions such as hot spots and bald patches.
Parasites: Ticks, mange, mites and fleas are pests that cause loads of trouble for dogs. Fleas, in particular, cause discomfort and chronic itching. Evaluating fleas in your dogs involves checking for black dots on the dog's skin which are flea poops. Tiny white specks on the dog's fur are probably evidence of flea eggs or nits.
Internal pain: Although these are rare, biting can be caused by strained muscles or tendons in the dog's ankle or foot, fractured bones or early signs of arthritis. These conditions grow in severity quickly if not attended to, so ensure to seek a vet's attention immediately.
Dermatitis: This is often a result of bacterial issues, food sensitivities or allergies. Although the skin may appear normal, the dog will keep biting its paws. Dogs can develop dermatitis from allergies caused by some weed or grass types, chemicals used in the yard or deicing products.
Injuries: When the dog's biting on paws begins suddenly and is focused on one paw, close examination to determine if the paw has a cut, growth or torn nail and maybe a wood, stone or foxtails between the paw pads.
Dry skin: Humidity is usually low during winter, both in the house and outdoors. This is a problem for dog paws as they become dry and painful when the dog moves around. During summer, hot pavements can burn dog paws causing pain and bacterial infection, which may lead to excessive biting.
Yeast infections: This infection thrives in moist warm areas, especially between paw pads. Yeast infections result from the overproduction of normally harmless yeast cells leading to itchiness that may lead to secondary conditions.
Behavioural problems: Anxiety, phobia, and depression can be reasons for dogs biting their paws. When dogs don't receive enough exercise and enrichment, they are prone to boredom and destructive habits resulting in excessive biting. Certain phobias like fear of being left alone may also increase the dog’s impulse to bite its paws.
Medical problems: Illnesses such as thyroid, nutritional deficiencies, kidney disease and metabolic diseases can also cause itching in dogs and lead to biting of paws.
What can I put on my dog's feet to stop chewing?
Getting a dog to stop biting on its paw is gradual and not an easy task. Treatment often depends on the various causes.
(Allergies) Avoiding allergens and allergy medications are recommended. Environmental allergies result in chronic symptoms and require regular medications during high-allergy seasons. For food allergies, elimination diets can be used.
(Parasites) Mites are rarely visible, but ticks are easy to find. One can tweeze the ticks out or use a tick remover, but it is best to contact a vet to safely extract the parasites from the dog's paws. Also, apple cider vinegar is a good solution for fleas. Applied regularly on the dog’s paw pads and skin in general.
(Internal pain) When your dog is reluctant to play, is stiff, losing weight or is grumpier than normal, it is good to determine underlying problems by visiting a vet for examination.
(Dermatitis) After outdoor activities, gently clean off the dog's paws when back indoors, ensuring they are completely dry to help with bacteria.
(Injuries) Try treating the injuries quickly and directly. Clean the wound with clean water, saline solution or iodine and bandage the area or cover with a clean cloth. This is just first aid, and you should seek a vet's attention for deeper cuts because they could be injuries to the tendon.
(Dry skin) Add olive oil, coconut oil or fish oil a few times to help with the lack of fatty acids keeping the coat flexible and healthy.
(Yeast infections) Vets may prescribe topical or oral antibiotics for the infections, with medications lasting for about three weeks.
(Medical problems) Have your dog constantly checked by a veterinarian to find out possible causes of their chronic biting and chewing on paws and possible treatments for these conditions.
Is there a home remedy for dogs biting paws?
A dog's paws bear their full body weight and are important for daily activities.
They allow the dog to move around comfortably and gauge surfaces they walk on to help them regulate body temperature.
Paw pad health is important. Visits to the vet for chronic biting will see the dog’s medical history checked and physical examination done. They may also want an account of when the paw biting started.
Below are some ways a dog owner can remedy their dog from biting their paws at home.
- Check paws regularly for grass, weed, wood or thorns that may be stuck between the paw pads and remove them using tweezers
- Check the playing areas of your dog to remove debris and possible harmful hazards like broken glass and metal pieces
- Bath, the dog after outdoor walks to keep away environmental allergies
- Switch the dog's diet to a high-quality, balanced diet, preferable a raw diet good for allergies
- For anxiety and boredom, buy dog toys for entertainment. Also, try walks and routine exercises while keeping watchful eyes on them
- Try dog paw balm for dry paws and moisturisers to soften them
- In case of injuries, apply honey to the wounds, cover with a bandage and change them twice a day to reduce bacteria
- Try adding apple cider vinegar to their food or water to help relieve arthritis pain
- Keep the dog's nails trimmed as long nails can injure them and hinder their walks
- Ensure to walk the dog early in the morning or late in the evening during summer to avoid burns
- During winter, let the dogs put on booties when going outdoors
- Offer alternative things for the dog to chew on, like chew toys.
As common as paw biting is, its causes may be mild or fatal, necessitating a vet's intervention.
Regardless of the causes, it is good for dog owners to consider their dogs' normal behaviours in case of sudden changes.
Perform regular health checkups at home for basic symptoms like swelling, redness or debris between the dog's paw pads. Also, look out for dry paws and anxiety in your dog.
The dog deserves a healthy, nutritious, balanced diet for improved immunity.
A simple licking or biting of the paw can become a habit and lead to something more serious. It is good to always be alert concerning your dog's health to avoid surprises and fatal infection cases.