Why Is My Dog Chewing On Its Paw in Park Ridge, NJ?
You know that feeling. You are sitting on the couch, enjoying a snack and your favorite television show, and you hear it. Teeth clacking, snuffling, maybe some grunting and groaning- your dog is chewing on their paw again. Why do they do this? You are sure it’s just something they do to annoy you, because you notice it most when you are trying to relax. Let’s talk about why your dog chews their feet.
There are so many possibilities, even some that won’t be listed here. Allergies, behavior, neurologic, arthritis, wounds or other trauma, each of these could be a reason.
Allergies and Itchy Paws
First, let’s talk about allergic skin disease. Allergies often present in animals differently than they do in humans. Environmental allergies in people show up with a stuffy nose, runny eyes, sometimes coughing or sneezing. Allergies in dogs look like itchy, irritated skin- constant chewing and scratching, rubbing on rough surfaces, etc.
When your dog chews his feet because of an allergy, it’s often because of an issue with grass or other environmental contaminants like dust mites or pollen. When an allergen comes into contact with the skin, inflammation and irritation occur. This makes the skin in the affected area very uncomfortable, so the dog starts chewing. If you notice your dog chews his feet after running around in the yard, try rinsing his feet every time he’s been outside.
Talk to your veterinarian about how to manage the problem. It is an uncomfortable condition, so it is important to keep your pet’s health and happiness in mind. Your veterinarian might prescribe a medicated shampoo, a foot soak, or some kind of allergy medication.
Your Dog is Chewing Its Paws Because of Long Nails
If your dog has overgrown nails, this can cause some serious pain and discomfort that might lead them to chew at their own feat. Long nails don’t grow out straight. Instead, they curve downward.
If they get long enough, they’ll come into contact with the ground. That’s the “click- click- click” sound you hear when they’re walking around the house. As the nails continue to grow, every step they take creates downward pressure on their toes.
They may even get long enough that they tilt sideways, and torque the whole toe sideways too. This can cause incredible pain. If your dog has long nails, get them trimmed back as soon as possible. If you can’t do it yourself, take them to a groomer or your veterinarian.
Excessively long nails may take four to five nail trimming sessions, over a period of months, to get cut back to a comfortable length.
Behavioral Problems and Paw Chewing
If your dog doesn’t have an allergy, their foot-chewing might be behavioral. There can be an underlying neuroses or obsessive behavior. You, and your dog, may never know why they do it. In this case, it’s important to manage the neuroses behind the behavior – anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed by your veterinarian.
Your Dog Could be Bored
Boredom is another behavioral cause. If you have a dog with a highly active mind (working or herding breeds are most common), but they don’t have a constructive outlet for it, they might start chewing because they don’t know what else to do.
Constructive activities include everything from agility, to puzzle games, to rotating out a variety of toys. Even obedience and socialization classes can help. If you and your veterinarian have ruled out a medical cause of the issue, talk to a dog trainer about options for mental stimulation.
Anxious Dogs Chew Their Paws
Some anxious dogs chew on their feet as a self-soothing behavior. Like people who bob their knee, or twirl their hair, or cats who obsessively knead and suckle on soft blankets, some dogs pick a repetitive behavior to soothe themselves in stressful situations.
For these dogs it is important to relieve their stress and anxiety. Create a safe space that is stress-free, like a kennel that is designated for them, or a dog bed in a secluded area of the house. Consider using canine pheromone products that can promote calmness.
If your dog’s chewing isn’t rooted in allergies or behavior, they may have a neurological problem. If there is a nerve issue, they may feel pain, tingling, or irritation. Since they can’t communicate with us verbally, their only solution is to take care of it themselves.
They might chew at the area in a misguided attempt to remove whatever is causing their pain and discomfort. This chewing might actually progress to self mutilation- it is not unheard of for dogs with nerve pain to amputate their own toes.
Again, it is absolutely vital to discuss a foot chewing problem with your veterinarian. They can help discover the root cause, and recommend appropriate treatment.
Arthritis and Paw Chewing
Circling back to communication, dogs can’t tell us when they are in pain. If your dog has arthritis in their feet and toes, they will likely lick and chew at the affected area in an attempt to relieve the pain. Talk to your veterinarian- there are many pain management options for arthritis.
Omega-3 supplements can reduce inflammation. Nutraceutical joint supplements that contain glucosamine, chondroitin, and anti-inflammatory supplements might reduce pain and inflammation.
Additionally, your veterinarian may prescribe pain medications or dog friendly NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for long-term pain control.
Wounds or Other Trauma
If your dog has a wound, or sustained trauma to their foot, again, they can’t communicate their pain, so they’ll resort to licking/chewing. Wounds or trauma can include skin infections, splinters or other foreign bodies, broken toenails, broken toes, etc.
Because these are potentially painful conditions, your veterinarian may need to sedate your dog to fully examine the area. Even x-rays or exploration of a wound may be necessary.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Dog Chewing Their Paws in Park Ridge, NJ
If you’ve ever known your dog to frequently lick/chew at any area of their body, it’s worth a trip to your veterinarian. What you observe as an annoying behavior may actually be your dog’s way of communicating that something is wrong.
It is best for your dog not to ignore it, but rather to get it fixed right away. It’ll be good for your sanity, and great for your dog.
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