Why Is My Dog Biting His Paws? (And How to Stop It)

Why is my dog biting his paws? By: horizontal.integration/Flickr

Does your dog bite or lick his paws constantly?

This is not unusual in dogs, and the causes of the biting vary. While you may find the constant biting annoying, your dog can cause injury to himself. Determining the cause of the paw biting is the first step toward putting an end to it.

Dogs bite their paws for a number of reasons, including anxiety and several medical conditions.

Allergic reactions are one reason a dog might bite his paws. Animals, like people, can get contact dermatitis. This is an irritation on the skin that results from contact with chemicals, such as soap or pesticides.

Although more rare, dogs can also have allergic reactions from ingredients in their food. Environmental allergens, like mold or mildew, can also cause an allergic reaction that could affect your dog’s skin. When the skin becomes irritated due to an allergen, your dog will lick and bite the skin; because his paws are easily accessible, these are commonly chewed on.

Here is a quick video from Fiona Caldwell, DVM, that discusses how allergies are a common medical reason behind dogs that bite their paws:

Dry Skin

Dry skin can be as uncomfortable for a dog as it is for a human.

The dry air that comes with winter can cause your dog’s skin to dry out. If your dog’s diet does not contain enough fatty acids, which help to moisturize and protect his skin, that could be a cause of dryness.

When your dog’s skin is dry, it becomes itchy or irritated, and your dog may bite at his paws because of the discomfort. Unfortunately, when your dog is biting and licking at his skin, this can cause the dry skin to become chapped, making him more uncomfortable.

Pain

Your dog may also bite at his paw if he is in pain. A cut, a thorn or splinter, or rocks stuck in the pads of his foot are among the common causes of pain in a dog’s foot. Your dog is trying to remove the foreign object or to alleviate the pain of a wound.

Boredom or Anxiety

Paw biting is not necessarily the result of a wound, allergy or other medical condition. Sometimes dogs will bite at their paws out of boredom, and this becomes a habit.

Your dog may also do this when he is anxious about external factors in his environment, such as fireworks, the move to a new area or the addition of a new family member. Dogs can also come down with conditions similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans; paw biting is a manifestation of this disorder, which is often caused by stress or anxiety.

Ending Constant Paw Biting

Depending on the cause of the biting, there are some things you can do to help your dog stop this habit.

The first thing you should do is examine his paws for signs of injury; if your dog has a wound that has gotten infected, you may need to take him to see the vet for treatment. If he has a foreign object embedded in his pads or his paw, remove the object and put an antiseptic on the wound.

Avoid putting chemicals in areas your dog has access to, and train him to stay out of your garden or other areas where you may use chemicals. Use only a shampoo that is made for dogs so that his skin won’t become overly dry. You can also buy shampoos for your dog that contain moisturizing ingredients to hydrate his skin.

Feed your dog a high-quality pet food that contains a well-balanced formula of vitamins and minerals, including fatty acids. Don’t indulge your dog with greasy table scraps that his body could be sensitive to.

You can also try redirecting his attention when he begins biting, such as giving him a toy to play with. Your dog should have plenty of toys to play with and chew on.

If you are still not seeing any let up in his paw biting, take your dog to the veterinarian for a thorough examination.

Additional Resources

FROM THE PETS ADVISER SHOP

  • Julie

    My friend’s dog was hit by a car a few months ago and does not use his front paw anymore. He does not act as if it hurts him but there are time he sits and naws on it. What would make him do this? When we touch it, it doesn’t hurt him so I don’t believe that is his problem. He gets very angry when we try to make him stop chewing on his leg. What can we do to get him to stop doing this?