A dog chewing their paws is actually quite common, and is usually nothing to worry about. However, if you think that your dog might be doing it excessively or you’d just like her to stop doing it, here are 5 ways to help stop your dog from chewing her paws.
Paw chewing (or licking) becomes a problem if your dog does it somuch that the flesh on her paws are practically raw. Whatever the possible cause of your dog’s chewing in the first place, I think we can all agree that bloody paws are just another scenario we’d rather not see our dogs in.
Like with most problem behaviors, paw chewing and licking can be addressed accordingly if you know the reason for them. So before we head over to the remedies for your dog chewing her paws, let’s talk about the reasons.
Reasons Why Your Dog Is Chewing Her Paws
1. Allergies or Skin Irritation
If your dog is chewing on her paws excessively, you should consider allergies as a possible cause. Like us humans, dogs can get allergies too, and the culprit is usually in their food. However, possible allergens can also come from mold, pollen, and changes in the season. Allergies manifest in itchy skin and paws, and thus the chewing and licking. Allergies are the most common reason for paw chewing.
If it’s not allergies, your dog may be suffering from dermatitis or another form of skin irritation. Dermatitis is usually caused by your dog coming in contact with harsh chemicals. These chemicals may be present in their soap, shampoo, or other household items you have lying around.
2. Dry Skin
Another possible reason for itchy paws is dryness of skin. If the skin on your dog’s paws is dry, then it would be uncomfortable for your dog. The chewing and licking are done by your dog to attempt to soothe the discomfort on their paws. Dry skin can be caused by the weather or lack of nutrition (particularly fatty acids).
Separation anxiety is another common problem for dogs, and compulsive chewing and licking are just some of its symptoms. Even if your dog does not have separation anxiety, general anxiety, sadness, depression, or illness are all possible causes for the compulsive paw chewing.
4. Discomfort or Pain
When your dog starts to lick her paws and it’s out of character , check to see if her paws have gotten hurt. There are many ways by which dogs can hurt their paws, considering that their paws are in constant contact with the ground. If your dog had just been outside, there are thorns, splinters, and other items that could have caused the injury. The chewing may be the means by which your dog is attempting to get the offending item out of their paw.
Even if your dog is not injured from the outside, she may also attempt to relieve pain coming from internal sources. Your dog may be suffering from hip dysplasia, joint pain, or arthritis. If this is the case, your dog may also walk with a limp to avoid aggravating the pain in their paw.
If your dog gets infested with ticks, mites and fleas, then they may be causing the itchiness and discomfort that triggers the chewing. Mites are usually small and hard to see, so you may not be aware of the problem until after you take your dog to see the vet. Fleas are also small but more visible, but they’re pretty easy to miss if the infestation has just started. Ticks on the other hand, are the most visible of them all.
Let’s face it. Sometimes your dog doesn’t really have any serious medical issues that prompt the paw chewing. Sometimes, your dog’s just really bored and chewing and licking is how she prefers to spend her time.
5 Ways to Stop Your Dog from Chewing Her Paws and Feet
1. Address Medical Problems
Majority of the reasons for your dog chewing her paws listed above are medical, so it makes sense that you should address such problems first. Have your vet diagnose your dog for any internal injuries, and they will also tell you how to treat your dog. They may prescribe some pain medication and therapy to heal your dog’s paw or foot.
If the injury is brought by an external source, do your best to remove it yourself and put an antiseptic on your dog’s wounds. If it’s too risky for you to attempt removal by yourself, consult your vet.
For allergies, skin irritation, and parasites, consult your vet as to how you could properly treat these conditions. To avoid the reoccurrence of paw chewing brought about by any of those reasons, here are some tips:
- Food allergies can be avoided by feeding your dog quality dog food. For any specific allergies, remove the food allergen from your dog’s diet completely. Sometimes, this may imply having to overhaul your dog’s diet completely.
- Skin irritation from harsh chemicals can be avoided by keeping your dog from chemicals in and outside your home. While some of these chemicals are necessary (like insecticide), take care not to give your dog access to the areas where the chemicals are. Change your dog’s shampoo and soap if necessary.
- Wash your dog with soap/shampoo that repels parasites, or invest in a spray that does the job. If your dog is heading somewhere where infestation is likely (like the dog park), proactively spray them with such repellants to avoid getting an infestation.
2. Relieve and Treat Dry Skin
If the reason for your dog’s paw chewing is dry skin, then there are several measures by which you can relieve the discomfort before you address the dry skin itself. Measures to treat dry skin may not kick in as fast as you or your dog would want to, so your dog will need something to tide her over.
- You can give your dog an oatmeal bath to reduce the itching. It’s easy to make and to use!
- If you prefer to give your dog a regular bath with shampoo, make sure that the shampoo is made for dogs with dry skin.
- A lot of the nutritional remedies for dog shedding are also quite useful for keeping your dog’s skin hydrated and healthy, believe it or not. Increase the fatty acid content in your dog’s diet and keep her hydrated.
- It may surprise you, but the regularity of baths can also factor into a dog’s dry skin. Watch out if you’re bathing your dog too often.
3. Redirect Your Dog’s Attention
If your dog’s boredom is causing her to chew and lick her paws, then you can redirect her attention to do something more productive. Here’s how:
- You can give your dog a boredom busting activity to occupy her attention.
- Toys are also a good distraction, make sure to give your dog variety so she doesn’t get tired of that and start up the paw chewing and licking again.
- You can start DIY Dog Training to teach your dog some nifty commands and address behavioral problems while you’re at it.
4. Treat Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
The 300-Peck Method is utilized by a lot of dog trainers in order to increase the rate of training success by gradually increasing and reinforcing the amount of distance or time that a behavior is achieved. Initially, you’re going to focus on the distance aspect of training your dog to not have separation anxiety.
You can start off by getting your dog to sit or stay at his spot, waiting for him to relax then taking a step back. Do not begin this drill if your dog is still exhibiting signs of anxiety. Reward your dog if he stays calm and then take two steps back.
If your dog remains calm, keep on increasing the number of steps that you take away from them until you reach the door, rewarding after every increased distance. However, once your dog falters, you have to reset your criteria and start over from one step again. For each of the days that you’re going to do this drill, you can try it out at different rooms of the house.
The 300 Peck Method is used again, but this time for duration instead of distance. Start off by leaving the room for 10 seconds, then 20-30 seconds, then a minute, increasing the amount of time that you’re out of your dog’s sight. You can positively reinforce your dog being calm by giving him treats once you get back to the room. Once again, if he fails to stay calm or stay put once you’re out of the room, start over again.
For this drill, it could be helpful to have a baby monitor or any other means that you can track your dog’s reaction once you leave the room. That way, you will know if they are responding well to your absence or not.
5. Bitter Spray
If you’ve exhausted all possible reasons and remedies to your dog’s paw chewing and it still won’t stop, then you can resort to using a bitter spray to put your dog off of chewing her paws. There are several products available, like
Grannick’s Bitter Apple for Dogs, which are safe for dogs and are actually specially made to deter dogs from chewing on their paws and other household items. The smell and taste of these sprays should be enough to deter your dog from paw chewing, hopefully for good.
Like many other dog problems, a dog chewing her paws can be addressed by looking at the underlying reason. Common causes include medical problems, anxiety, even boredom. And once you get to the root of the problem, you’ll find that it’s easier to stop your dog from chewing her paws excessively.
Keep in mind that the occasional paw chewing is normal, and there is only reason to be worried if your dog starts doing it too much to the point where she is only further hurting her paws.
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