Most dog owners have seen the behavior at one time or another—a dog just sitting by itself and chewing or licking incessantly at one paw. Sometimes, the cause is obvious. Other times, the paw looks fine to the naked eye. So, why do dogs chew their paws?
There are a variety of reasons, but it’s important to know that a dog licking or chewing its foot nonstop is not a normal behavior and should be looked at by a vet. Even if the chewing has become a habit, possibly caused by anxiety, it needs to be stopped before the dog creates a hot spot or other problem. The list of possible causes for chewing or licking a paw is long and includes:
- Food allergy
- Environmental allergy
- A tick or other bug caught in the foot or fur
- A pad that has been burnt by the pavement or other surface
- A wound to the pad or toe that isn’t healing
- A fractured bone in the foot
- A burr from the grass
- Pain that may be radiating from somewhere else
- Ingrown hair or toenail
As you can see, there are a lot of things that can bother your dog enough to make him or her lick a paw. In some cases, you won’t be able to see the problem. In others, you may notice redness or swelling or even see a cut or an object lodged in the foot. Some animals will also limp.
Whatever the cause, if you see your dog licking or chewing his or her paw, don’t panic. Many of the issues listed above can be easily diagnosed and remedied. In the case of a suspected food allergy, your vet will probably recommend a change to your dog’s diet. Proper diagnosis and treatment begins with a trip to your vet.