Dogs bite their paws for a number of reasons, including anxiety and several medical conditions.
This is not unusual in dogs. While you may find the constant biting annoying, more seriously your dog can cause injury to himself. Determining the cause of the paw biting is the first step toward putting an end to it.
Potential Causes of Paw Biting
Allergic reactions are 1 reason a dog might bite his paws. Animals, like people, can get contact dermatitis, an irritation on the skin that results from contact with chemicals such as soap or pesticides.
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Dogs may also have allergic reactions to ingredients in their food. Environmental allergens, like mold or mildew, can also cause an allergic reaction that could affect your dog’s skin. When the skin becomes irritated, your dog will lick and bite the skin; because his paws are easily accessible, these are commonly chewed on.
Here is a quick video from Dr. Fiona Caldwell, DVM, that discusses how allergies are a common medical reason behind dogs biting their paws:
Dry skin can be as uncomfortable for a dog as it is for a human.
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The dry air that comes with winter can cause your dog’s skin to dry out. If your dog’s diet does not contain enough fatty acids that help moisturize and protect his skin, that could be a cause of dryness.
When your dog’s skin is dry, it becomes itchy or irritated, and your dog may bite at his paws because of the discomfort. Unfortunately, when your dog is biting and licking at his skin, this can cause the dry skin to become chapped, making him even more uncomfortable.
Your dog may also bite at his paw if he is in pain. A cut, thorn or splinter, or even rocks stuck in the pads of his foot, are common causes of pain. Your dog is trying to remove the foreign object or alleviate the pain of a wound.
Boredom or Anxiety
Paw biting is not necessarily the result of a wound, allergy or other medical condition. Sometimes dogs will bite at their paws out of boredom, and this becomes a habit.
Your dog may also do this when he is anxious about external factors in his environment, such as fireworks, the move to a new area or the addition of a new family member. Dogs can also develop conditions similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans; paw biting is a manifestation of this disorder, which is often caused by stress or anxiety.
End Constant Paw Biting
Try these tips to keep your dog from chewing his paws off:
- Examine your pet’s paws for signs of injury; if your dog has a wound that has gotten infected, you may need to take him to the vet for treatment. If he has a foreign object embedded in his pads, remove the object and put an antiseptic on the wound.
- Avoid putting chemicals in areas your dog can access, and train him to stay out of your garden or other areas where you may use chemicals. Use only a shampoo that is made for dogs so that his skin won’t become overly dry. You can also buy shampoos for your dog that contain moisturizing ingredients to hydrate his skin.
- Feed your dog a high-quality pet food that contains a well-balanced formula of vitamins and minerals, including fatty acids. Don’t let him indulge in greasy table scraps to which his body may be sensitive.
- Try redirecting his attention when he begins biting, such as giving him a toy.
If you don’t see improvement, take your dog to the veterinarian for a more thorough examination.