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 is 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. 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® Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Pet Foods.

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