We humans bite our fingernails when we’re nervous. So it’s not surprising that dogs also nibble their paws to calm down or keep themselves busy.
This article explains when nibbling can become unhealthy and how you can identify the cause of the licking.
In a nutshell: Why is my dog nibbling on his paws?
Dogs often chew their paws when they want to relieve psychological stress or when they are bored. Dry skin also causes annoying itching.
Incessant licking of the paws and legs can also indicate injuries. Then you need to take action, because licking can worsen the healing process.
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6 causes of paw biting
Before you worry about why your dog is chewing and licking his paws, you should examine the leak site.
This way you can quickly identify the causes – and determine if your lucky dog might just have stepped on a dollop of peanut butter.
1. Dry skin
Some dogs suffer from dry skin, especially in winter, when the heating removes moisture from the air. They usually lack unsaturated fats such as linoleic acid or omega-3 fatty acids.
Unfortunately, nibbling on the paws also inevitably leads to moistening of the dry areas, which relieves the tense skin in the short term, but does not replenish it and thus does not improve the dryness problem.
A typical problem of dry dog skin is the regular use of the wrong soap. For dogs, you should only ever use labeled products that have the right pH for dog skin.
2. Minor injuries
Splinters and small cuts from broken glass or sharp stones are not dramatic, but annoying for the dog.
When scabs form, the skin around the wound itches and encourages the dog to lick.
Dogs can develop allergies at any age. Chewing on the paws is most commonly observed in the case of food intolerance or contact allergies.
Contact with allergy triggers usually happens when walking and therefore mostly via the paws. But even inferior shampoo can lead to a contact allergy on the skin.
Food allergies are mostly allergies to certain proteins and usually occur after a change of food, but can also develop gradually after years of unproblematic feeding or through mold due to improper storage.
4. Fungal Infection
A fungal infection is rather uncommon but can result from infection of a small wound or an improper diet. Such an infection causes severe itching and does not go away on its own.
5. Parasitic infestation
Unfortunately, fleas, ticks and mites quickly settle on a dog.
You can recognize fleas as small, black dots that are constantly moving. They are difficult to get rid of and can transmit diseases.
Ticks are larger and bite the skin. You have to be careful with them because they can transmit Lyme disease to the dog.
You can’t usually spot mites with the naked eye, but only conclude that they are infested from the symptoms of itching and hair loss. They are not dangerous, but extremely annoying.
6. Stress and behavioral disorder
Just as we humans chew our fingernails, dogs react to stress by nibbling their paws and claws. Licking their paws stimulates their nervous system and distracts the dog from its fear.
The cause of such stress is very diverse. Depression, sadness, loneliness and anxiety can be present, but boredom also causes stress in dogs.
When should you go to the vet?
Licking your paws isn’t a bad thing. However, if no cause is apparent or treatable, you should consult your veterinarian to be on the safe side.
With a food allergy
Food allergies are usually tested by exclusion: controlled omission of known allergens and observation for improvement.
However, this should be done under veterinary supervision so that the dog continues to be supplied with all the nutrients. Your veterinary practice will also advise you on a possible change in diet and what you may need to feed.
In the event of a significant injury
If you are unable to remove splinters yourself, your dog is limping, or there is a major wound on the paw, you should visit your veterinarian’s office for wound care.
A dog’s tongue is unhygienic and also rough, so constant licking at a wound impedes healing. However, a persistent wound can develop into canine neurodermatitis.
In case of parasite infestation or a fungal infection
Getting rid of parasites is not easy and only your vet can confirm if you suspect mites. He will prescribe an antifungal or antiparasitic and make sure no diseases have been transmitted by the infestation.
Tips against paw-chewing
A great home remedy as a first measure are cold compresses. A wet washcloth around the paws immediately relieves the itching and soothes the skin. However, your dog may prefer to chew or play with the washcloth.
Against dry skin
Dry skin due to a lack of fatty acids can be gently remedied by temporarily adding a teaspoon of olive or fish oil to the dog’s food every day. The fatty acids normally prevent skin inflammation and thus reduce the itching of the dry patches.
You can rub a thin layer of dog balm on sore spots. The same applies here: Only use products marked for dogs.
In case of injury or contact allergies
Washing your hands after the walk is a must, including for the dog. It is enough to wipe the dog’s paw with a wet washcloth. You can also regularly check the paws for dry, sore spots or injuries and remove splinters, dirt or broken fragments.
For behavioral problems
If you can distract your dog from licking, he’s probably just bored. As an alternative to paw-nibbling, offer him something to do for his nose and head.
If it’s not boredom but a serious symptom of stress, identify the source of the stress. Avoid the stress factor or train your dog to deal with it.
How can you prevent paw biting?
Examine your dog’s entire body regularly. It’s best to combine this with a training session, so he strains his head and you prevent boredom.
Long-haired dogs benefit from having the fur on their paws trimmed. This improves air circulation and fewer parasites or sharp objects get caught in it.
If your dog often licks its paws, you should investigate the cause. Because the itching usually doesn’t go away on its own, but you can easily treat it.
For all questions about the health and behavior of your dog, you can contact Dr. Get Sam connected to a vet. There, professionals are available to you every day and at all times with competent advice.