Sammy is in perfect health. Most days, he eats all of his food and loves going on his daily walks. There has never been an indication that anything has been wrong with Sammy’s health. Yet, you have begun to notice that Sammy chews on his paws after his daily walks. It looks like he is itching the bottom of his paws with his mouth, but his paw pads are actually red and inflamed. With Sammy’s persistence to chew, you now are on a search to find the truth of why Sammy needs to chew on his paws because you want to help him in any way that you can.
The Root of the Behavior
Sometimes, we need to discover when something is wrong with our dog by observing their daily activities. If your dog is chewing on their paws, there is a valid reason for it and most times, that reason is because of pain or discomfort. Depending on the breed of dog you have and your dog’s sensitivity level, there may be different reasons for it. Firstly, allergic skin disease may be the most common reason dogs create a chewing habit and secondary infections from that disease as well as yeast bacteria will contribute to their discomfort. Sammy may chew and lick his paws because of a basic allergic reaction but his habit may continue because it feels good on his paws. In fact, his habit can become obsessive until his pain dissolves. Sometimes, your dog’s discomfort also comes from lick granulomas, which is a wound caused by constant licking of the feet and lower limbs. Dogs may also chew on their paws because they are bothered by foreign items that are stuck in their paw, a wound, or they have a fractured claw or toe.
Golden Retrievers will always chew, lick, and try to self-heal their wounds, unlike humans. Specifically, with Golden Retrievers, paw chewing will result in redness, swelling, odor, bleeding, and your dog may even start to limp. You may even notice that your dog’s paw turns a light pink color from the consistent irritation and porphyrin pigments found in their saliva. Regardless of the beginning cause, Golden Retrievers will continuously lick their paws and chew on them. The smallest trigger can start a habit in your dog. It is specific in Golden Retrievers like Sammy because they have a lot of energy and are actually prone to anxiety. You may want to look out for any anxiety triggers, loud noises, and other bothering factors that could affect your dog. Not many breeders focus on the long-term health of Golden Retrievers, which may be why paw chewing is common in this breed. If your Golden Retriever came from a mass breeder, they may have a genetic factor that does not assist mental and physical stability.
Encouraging the Behavior
You want to watch your dog’s behavioral patterns as often as you can. There are different causes that can trigger your dog’s chewing habit. During the summer months, the heat on the sidewalk can cause burns on your dog’s paw, which can be quite irritating. This is common for most dogs but you also want to pay attention during the winter months. Your dog’s paw pads can have ice build-up if you are not careful. Yet, regardless of the cause, you want to help take care of your dog's paws so they do not need to chew on them.
If your Golden Retriever is consistently messing with their paw pads, they can become raw and irritated. You are going to want to check your dog’s paws after each walk and as often as you can. Make sure there are no burrs, rocks, small pieces of glass, or any other items lodged in their feet. You also want to make sure that their paws are not red, flaky, swollen, or cut. Most dogs will try to fix their irritation and it can sometimes lead to canine compulsive disorder. If your dog has this issue, it is important to know that it is a behavioral issue and not a neurological issue. Therefore, it can easily be fixed with training and possibly medication. If you feel like you need extra help, you may hire a behavioralist or take your dog to the veterinarian for a check-up.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Sometimes, dogs will chew on their feet because they are just bored. If this sounds familiar, you may want to take your Golden Retriever out for some extra exercise and even provide stimulation for their mind. You can use training techniques and basic commands to help your dog with this. Providing extra chew toys will also give your dog something to chew on that is not their paw. It is important to keep your dog occupied, especially if they are hyper. Yet, don’t forget to check your dog's paws as frequent as you can. You want to make sure they are healthy and hydrated.