Why Do Dogs Chew on Their Feet?

By Linda Cole

Since dogs can’t tell us when something is bothering them or they don’t feel well, we have to figure it out ourselves by observing what they do. Sometimes when we see them doing certain things, we ignore their behavior as long as they aren’t getting into trouble. However, dogs do things for a reason and although chewing on their feet may be nothing to worry about, there could be a medical reason or simple boredom.

Arthritis or some other type of pain could be causing enough discomfort for a dog that he tries to relieve it by licking or chewing his foot. A dog’s paw pads are not immune to picking up rocks, thorns or other foreign objects they step on. They can cut their pads while romping in the backyard or playing at a dog park, and a hot sidewalk or road can burn their pads. Snow, road salt and ice can build up between their pads during the winter months. When the hair in between the pads of some breeds (like Siberian Huskies) becomes too long, a dog might bite their paws if ice, rocks, burrs or other irritants become tangled in the hair. Lumps (interdigital cysts) can form in between their toes. Allergies to the cleaner you use on your floor, yard or flower garden can cause a dog to react by chewing his feet. It’s possible he’s allergic to his food, the carpet in your home or rugs he lays on. A dog will chew on his feet for all of the above reasons.

A type of mange called Demodicosis mange (Red Mange) is a microscopic mite that affects one or more of a dog’s feet, and it’s a common skin disease in dogs. Yeast infection and flea allergies will also cause a dog to chew his feet. So the first thing you need to do if your dog is constantly chewing on his feet is to have him checked out by a vet to make sure his chewing isn’t a medical condition.

Another reason why a dog could be chewing on his feet is because of an obsessive compulsive behavior. Dogs can develop Canine Compulsive Disorder, which Dog Animated - no offeris brought on by anxiety, stress, or boredom. Andrew Luescher, director of Purdue’s Animal Behavior Clinic and a board certified animal behaviorist, estimates that among the dog population, only 2% of dogs have canine compulsive disorder. This disorder is not a neurological problem, it’s a behavioral disorder that can be modified with medication and changing the dog’s behavior. A qualified animal behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist can assist you in changing your dog’s behavior if you aren’t sure how to tackle the problem yourself. Read “What Does an Animal Behaviorist Do?” and “What Does a Veterinary Behaviorist Do?” for more information.

A bored dog will also chew on his feet, which means you simply need to make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise and provide him with stimulation that will exercise his body and mind. Going for walks, taking him to a local dog park or joining a dog club and participating in activities that you and your dog enjoy doing are good ways to keep him from being bored at home.

Teaching basic commands is another good way to help stimulate his mind. A bag of his favorite CANIDAE TidNips™ treats will get his attention and get his mind off of chewing on his feet. Make sure to provide him with safe toys he can chew on and play with, whether he’s home alone or sitting with you in the evening.

It’s important to take care of your dog’s feet. A dog who is constantly chewing or licking his feet risks developing a bacterial infection if he licks or chews his foot raw. An occasional biting on his foot to relieve an itch or pull something out from between his toes is normal and nothing to worry about. It becomes a problem when he’s chewing his foot every time you look at him.

Check your dog’s paws after walks. It’s always a good idea to clean them off with a damp cloth to remove any chemicals from between the paw pads and toes. Burrs, rocks, small pieces of grass or twigs can become lodged between their toes and can cause them discomfort. Make sure their paws aren’t dry, flaky, red, swollen or cut and there are no suspicious lumps between the toes. Excessive chewing that leaves raw or sore spots is a sign your dog is trying to tell you something. Pay attention to your dog’s chewing to help keep him and his feet healthy.

Photo by paragon-paradox

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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22 thoughts on “Why Do Dogs Chew on Their Feet?

  1. thanks so much my dog Athena is a german shepherd mixed with a boxer and she just recently started chewing her paw constantly I was very concerned but I was thoroughly checking her paw and she had some gravel in the middle of her toes thank you again

  2. my sons dog got ran over by a car last summer, he has nerve damage to right leg. some feelin has came back, but h
    not in his paw he drags it. it healed up but today
    he chewed his foot off. why after a year would he do this?

  3. My dog has chewed her paw pads off on her left front foot and somewhat on the other three feet. This has been going on for over three weeks. Benadryl seems to help somewhat. The problem is she can’t walk and is gaining a lot of weight. The Vet doesn’t seem to know what is the problem. I am beside myself! When I put boots on all four feet she seems happy enough to run and jump. Can she wear boots 24-7?

  4. This is great information.Thank you! My puppy a Bischon Shutzoo has been constantly chewing on her paws since her last grooming. She would do it rarely before. I am really wondering if it is the shampoo that was used.Could it be?

  5. Would there be another reason they chew on their feet? My Chihuahua has bad allergies ever since I adopted him, I havent heard anything about that from her, like if chewing on him feet was a medical issue or anything; so I was wondering if it could have anything to fo with allergies.

  6. I have an english bull pup he is about 8 months old lately he has been bitten his front paw on the joint checked all the above cant work it out any advice would be greatful thanks

  7. Thank you so much, Lily has been chewing a little bit over the past couple of days, after reading this and having a closer inspection she had a piece on snail shell inbedded between her pads, removal with some tweezersa and she`s stopped chewing :-)

  8. I have a Jack Russell and her pads are burned from playing on the carpet~I live in a basement apt,so taking carpet out is a no go~When it is cold out,we have no choice, but to play indoors~

  9. I’d also like to add an additional possibility. I am a breeder of Chinese Cresteds and my very first female sucks on her feet. We were quite concerned when she started doing this and had exhausted every avenue to see why she was exhibiting this behaviour, including everything you suggested in the article. It was after her first litter was born that we found out that this was a genetic issue (3 of the 4 pups exhibit this behaviour as well). We did finally determine that it was like thumb sucking in children. It is just something that was programmed into their DNA.

  10. Excellent article. May I add one additional possibility? Once when we took our 3 dogs camping, we brought home a number of ‘boarders’ in between the pads of their feet–ticks. Removing them was tricky, but fortunately our dogs are patient with grooming. This is a good thing to look for after walking in woods or under heavily-treed areas.

  11. Good information. Luckily so far, my dogs haven’t chewed on their feet but if they do, I know what to look for. Great post.

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