Read on for my tips for why dogs chew and lick their paws, and what you can do to give your dog some relief!
Whenever someone finds out I am a veterinarian, this is often one of the first things they will ask me about. I hope this article can shed some light on this common symptom!
Where to Start
If a dog is chewing or licking their paws excessively, it can cause damage and irritation to the skin. Don’t hesitate to schedule a veterinary exam! In the meantime, here are my tips:
If you see your dog chew and lick their paws, take note of when it started. Is it new or has it been going on for a while? Did it start or change at a certain point?
If your dog lets you, examine all of the paws using a light, especially between the toes and paw pads. Notice if there is redness, swelling, discharge, moisture or if the hair is stained brown.
Take note of any symptoms for each paw and write down what you notice for future reference.
Until you determine the underlying issue, use a cone or e-collar to prevent more licking. Bandages can cut off the circulation to the feet if applied too tight, and slip off easily if too loose. Only a veterinarian should place a bandage on a dog’s foot. A baby or child sock can work but if the dog removes it and eats it, that could lead to intestinal blockage. Only use a sock in conjunction with a cone or e-collar.
Click above for my suggested e-collar! This comes in a variety of sizes and is more comfortable than a hard plastic cone.
Sometimes a dog will chew and lick their paws as normal self-grooming behavior. Some dogs are fastidious about cleaning themselves and chew and lick their paws to clean their feet. This is nothing to worry about, but it is always worth checking the feet just in case.
This is one of the most common reasons for a dog to chew and lick their paws! The skin on the paws can be sensitive and may absorb allergens in the environment. Then they become itchy and the dog can’t help but chew and lick their paws constantly.
These may include types of grass, pollen, mold, tree sap, dust, dust mites. Mango is a common allergenic tree where I live, in Hawaii. There may be herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals sprayed on grass or plants next to sidewalks or in parks.
Just remember how itchy your skin gets if you lie in the grass without anything protecting your skin!
If your dog seems extra itchy after going on walks, try soaking their paws after each walk in warm water with a little iodine for 5 minutes. This helps to remove any substances from the skin and also soothe the skin on the paws.
Here are some products you can try as well:
Here is an herbal remedy for itchiness: Nettle Extract. Give one dropper by mouth up to four times daily for relief.
Here is another formulation containing Nettle available on Amazon:
You also might consider using paw booties to protect your pet’s feet when they go on walks. They’re like shoes or socks for dogs! Check out these booties:
Food allergies can also play a role, so if you think this could be a factor, talk to your veterinarian. If you want to do allergy testing I recommend the saliva test called Nutriscan from Hemopet Labs. Most of the blood tests that are available are not very accurate. Alternatively you can see a veterinary dermatologist for an intradermal grid allergy test.
Injury or pain
Dogs are prone to paw and nail injuries and if they have a hurt paw they will always lick at it. I see many types of injuries such as bee stings, torn nails, lacerations, burns from hot pavement, bruises from rocks. If you think something like this has occurred, it’s best to have a veterinarian examine your dog and determine the best treatment.
Paw licking can start because of paw infections. These may be from bacterial, parasitic, or fungal causes. A veterinary exam can help to determine if that is the reason.
Licking can also cause an infection if the dog is allowed to chew and lick their paws constantly.
Soaking the paws in dilute iodine can help (as described above), until you can have a veterinary exam. An e-collar or cone is also important to prevent further irritation.
Here is one of my favorite products that can help with bacterial or fungal foot infections, and it’s easy to apply because it is a foam.
Anxious dogs may develop obsessive-compulsive type habits, and one of there may be paw licking or chewing.
Try this amazing CBD product to help with your pet’s anxiety!
Some dogs chew on their feet simply because they are bored and need more enrichment, interaction, exercise or mental stimulation. Consider if your dog is really getting their needs met if you think this is the reason why they chew and lick their paws.
There can be other reasons for your dog to chew their toes. There may be a tumor or nodule growing somewhere on the foot. Animals can also have autoimmune conditions that affect the skin, paws and nail beds. Your veterinarian can help you determine what is going on with your dog’s paws.