Why Do Dogs Chew on Their Feet?

May 5, 2011

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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  1. Gail Finnigan says:

    I am spending a fortune on my poor little King Charles for the last few months. All his pads on his feet are very blistered and sore & full of a yeast or bacteria infection and the vet has tried numerous antibiotics but to no avail. Now he can hardly walk. Is there anyone out there that had the same pad problem with their pet and can help. He is on the following meds so far but they appear not to be helping:
    Apo Meloxicam
    Synthroid for his thyroid.


  2. Barry says:

    My five year old Staffordshire terrier bites his feet raw, tryed everything well quite a lot to sooth his paws.
    Never thaught it could be arthritis.
    Vet visit I think. Thanx

    1. Dee. D.A says:

      At 5 y/o don’t you think arthritis is not likely? My 1 yr old began mild feet chewing 2 months ago. Vet automatically just gave antibiotics & a standard 15 day coarse of Corticosteroids, I should have known better & asked WHY NOT GET A “CULTURE’ SKIN SCRAPING before I allowed this. But we were 2 days from leaving for a month overseas & didn’t do what I should have-ask for more than what I call the Veterinarians’ typical recipe. We left him at his favorite kennel where the dogs interact & play. When we returned, he smelled awful! I didn’t isolate the odor for 3 days. Then I sniffed his ears; they smelled rancid! Again to the Vet (on a Sunday) a young Vet who didn’t pay much attention to his earlier history, diagnosed 2 disorders: Ear infection (bacteria unknown because AGAIN, no Culture taken to identify the black material deep in his outer ear. Then, she diagnosed an “allergy”! Allergic diagnosis is what I call the “Trashcan Diagnosis” cause it’s an easy one to toss around for Vets & difficult to actually PROVE….especially without getting that tine-consuming Culture or Skin scraping culture. Without knowing what the actual cause(s) were, she gave us the other ‘Trashcan’ treatment! Flush ears 2x daily followed by an antibiotic cream after flushing. Worse, she told my husband “give this ANTIBIOTIC for 2 weeks & we’ll check him again.” Here’s the real rub! She didn’t exactly tell us the truth. She TRIED to treat us like idiots. It was NO PLAIN ANTIBIOTIC she ordered. It was a new allegely “miracle drug” that stops the NORMAL IMMUNE RESPONSE by interfering with normal & natural inflammation. This drug unknown to her & probably most Vets, is dangerous. It’s also given to the dog long term. After reading the FDA report, I became furious. This “antibiotic” was NO ANTIBIOTIC at all, it is a drug given for severe autoimmune diseases including certain Cancers. I called the next day & not in the nicest way, asked WHY she’d tell us an untrue statement? It’s no antibiotic and it’s got serious long term side effects with major organ damage. I read a lot about this miracle drug. And YES, it will stop almost any dog from chewing feet, scratching ears or any inflammatory symptom… That is until aboutv2 years on the drug. At that point it STOPS WORKING ALL TOGETHER! The owners and the dog are back where they started but this time with no decent treatment and with damage to the normal immune system and ,Iikely, organ damage…Liver, Kidney, spleen, brain & who knows what else? This drug was only tested on 400 dogs & since it was very expensive & a huge money maker, the FDA pushed it through trials in less than2 yrs. this drug that’s NOT an antibiotic is called APAQUEL. Look, my dog’s still chewing his feet & yes it could be from an allergy ir just plain boredom. But 1 thing I’m doing this week is, taking my dog to a University Veterinary center where they don’t just toss a “Trashcan diagnosis” around but actually do CULTURES & SENSITIVITIES after doing a scraping off skin, feet, wherever the dog Scratches. Maybe it’s a fungus, bacteria or even a virus, who knows? But 1 thing I do know, NO PET DOG SGOULD BE TREATED WITH ANTIBIOTICS OR ANY DRUG, WITHOUT A THOROUGH WORKUP TO SEE IF THERE REALLY IS A TREATMENT WITHOUT MAJOR DANGERS ASSOCIATED WITH IT. One thing we do know after lots of experience with different breeds; Summer is always the WORST, which makes Fungi & bug bites a major cause of itching but next time any Vet gives a dog antibiotic every time they’re seen, the time will cone when NO ANTIBIOTIC will work; just like humans, “Suberbugs” develop like MERSA & then, there won’t be any treatment left to cure a real infection. Good luck & oh, if you haven’t tried it yet, the over the counter, anti-itch “Benadryl” Diphenhydramine, is not as harmful as treatment without knowing the “bug” the organism causing the condition. PS: I AM going to try a diet w/o sugars & starches in case the causative agent is fungal.

  3. Carol says:

    I recently adopted a dog and was told she is a Terrier mix. She looks almost exactly like the picture on this website. What kind of dog is that? We’re told she is 1 year and 3 months old, and we’ve only had her for 3 weeks. She was trembling profusely when we met her, has been staying in the bedroom and sleeps almost all day, and, eats (with leash tied to refrigerator door) when no one is in the room. I think it would help to know a little about this breed. Maybe you can help. Thank You!

  4. Carole Sharp says:

    I am currently feeding my older Papillons your Grain Free Pure Sky.
    I recently got a puppy. What is the best food for him, or is it fine to feed him the same food as the older ones? Thanks.

  5. daelynn says:

    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

  6. trisha lay says:

    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?

    1. Barry says:

      The paw was holding him back. Animals hate being trapped. Animals will run faster with three legs than dragging a damaged foot around.

    2. Dee. D.A says:

      As a nurse, I know this: people who have both amputation for disease or traumatic amputation, feel what’s called: “Phantom Sensation” where the limb once was. They can feel, itching, pain, and any neuritis “Similiar to your foot falling asleep then waking up with pinching-like pain, in that part. Ask your Vet if an injection to numb the nerves or if the limb doesn’t work at all, cutting the spinal nerves to that area. The latter is pretty severe but if the dog’s in constant pain, it may be time for a more severe option. You & your dog are in my prayers. It’s no fun to feel phantom pains or a neuritis. Ask any Diabetic who gets these pains!

  7. Mary Skelton says:

    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?

  8. Angel says:

    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?

  9. My dog constantly is licking her feet. She will do it for hours if I let her.

  10. 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.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank you very much this was some great information for me.

  12. Jay Oneill says:

    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

  13. My puppy chews her feet all the time thanks for the advice

  14. Anonymous says:

    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 🙂

  15. Anonymous says:

    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~

  16. Priscilla says:

    I did wonder why dogs chew their feet before and thanks so much for your information. It’s really great!

  17. K9friend says:

    So often it seems to happen in spring, when the allergy counts are high. For allergic dogs I hear that washing off the paws before they come inside helps.


  18. L Thomas says:

    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.

  19. Nubian says:

    Thank you so much. Our Chihuahua has started chewing on her feet after we take her for a walk. This information is very helpful.

  20. Linda says:

    Thank you, Carrie,

    That is another possibility that I didn’t think of.

  21. 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.

  22. Marg says:

    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.

  23. Great advice. I really enjoy reading your posts and appreciate all you bring to our attention. Hugs

  24. This is all very much GRRRRRREAT information. Thank you!!!