By: Natasha Feduick, LVT*
Does your dog lick and chew her paws all the time? Do you have to constantly deter her away from obsessively licking her toes? Does it drive you nuts to have little wet spots on the couch and bed from where she was spending her day chewing on her paws? Do you ever sit and watch, and just wonder why she is chomping away on her own little foot or if there is a “dog chewing paws remedy?”
We can explain a few reasons why your canine companion may be doing this, both physically and behaviorally.
Skin Irritation or Allergies
This is a very common reason for excessive licking in dogs.
There may be something stuck in her paw pads or webbing that is bothering her. She may have stepped in or on something that has left an irritant on her paw, such as a floor cleaner or grass fertilizer.
Many dogs will chew their paws if they are itchy, commonly due to allergies or infection. In this case, it may be an indication of food, seasonal, or environmental allergies. Itchiness may also indicate the presence of fleas, or flea allergic dermatitis. You can check for other signs of fleas, such as little black dots that look like black pepper on her skin, which is flea “dirt.” If fleas are found, you can give her a Capstar flea tablet**, which begins to kill adult fleas on her within 30 minutes of administration. Then follow up with your veterinarian for their flea preventative recommendations. It may take up to 3 months to be fully rid of an infestation, so be patient, and keep at it.
You may also see skin redness, or feel heat, or swelling with allergies or infection. If you are suspicious of any of these conditions, you should also contact your veterinarian.
Anxiety, Stress, or Boredom
These are some of the behavioral reasons that a dog may be licking his paws raw.
Licking releases endorphins, and makes your dog feel good. So in times when he may be feeling some discomfort due to loneliness or fear, he may try to make himself feel better. He may be suffering from separation anxiety, too. There are many different items on the market that could serve as a remedy for your dog licking his paws.
You can speak to your veterinarian about prescription medications or there are also products, such as iCalm, that will play clinically-tested soothing music in your absence and help relax your dog. Or you can leave a radio or TV on to help make him feel as though someone is home with him.
And if he is bored, there are fun self-occupying toys on the market, such as Furbo, which is a camera with a treat dispenser built in. This way, you can watch what he is up to, and give him a treat, even when you’re not home!
Often, if dogs are experiencing pain, they will lick, chew, or bite at the area. If you see your dog chewing his paws, the first thing you can do is to examine the paw. Look for any lacerations, cuts, bleeding, foreign material, or cracked or broken nails.
Be sure to check between the toes and all through the fur and around each nail and nail bed. If you cannot find any obvious reason for the licking, then it may be time to have your veterinarian examine him. If he shows any sign of pain, such as crying or whining during examination of his paw, or resists you looking at it, he may need medical attention.
He may have injured himself, or be suffering from underlying chronic pain, such as arthritis. If this is the case, he’ll want to protect what hurts, so be careful when manipulating any part of his leg or paw that may be painful.
Whether the licking is acute or chronic, isolated to one paw or general across all paws, it should be addressed by a veterinarian. They will be able to determine what the underlying cause is, and get your dog back on the road to health and wellness!
*Ms. Feduik received compensation from Elanco US Inc., the maker of Capstar, for her services in writing this article. Recommendations in this article are Ms. Feduick’s, and are not recommendations of Elanco. Trademarks used in this article that are not the property of Elanco are the property of their respective owners.
** Capstar (nitenpyram) is for dogs and cats 2 lbs or greater and 4 weeks of age and older. Always read, understand, and follow the label and use directions.