What are Chewing His Paws?
You catch your dog excessively chewing, licking, and biting at his paws. You ask him to stop but he keeps on chewing. It continues when you are trying to sleep; you hear your dog biting and gnawing his paws. You are frustrated but concerned for your dog. There are different reasons why your dog may be chewing at his paws such as:
- Behavior issues
- Pain/discomfort from a foreign object lodged in the foot
- Secondary yeast or bacterial infection
If your dog is excessively chewing, licking and biting at his paws he should be seen by a veterinarian. The veterinarian can help determine and eliminate the cause.
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Why Chewing His Paws Occurs in Dogs
The chewing on the paws may be from:
Flea allergy is the most common allergy in dogs and cats. It is usually not the flea bite that causes the itching, it is the flea’s saliva which causes the allergy.
Environmental or Chemical Allergens
Your dog may have been exposed to a certain chemical, pesticide, soap or seasonal pollen, which is causing his paws to be irritated. Cleaning supplies used on the floor or carpets may be too harsh on a dog’s paws. If your yard or your neighbor’s yard was recently treated with pesticides, it may be the reason his paws are bothering him. New shampoos or soaps may be causing an allergic reaction to the products. Grass pollen can cause great discomfort if your dog is allergic to it.
Your dog may have itchy paws caused by a food allergy. The most common food allergens in dogs include beef, dairy, corn, wheat and soy.
Dogs sometimes bite at their paws due to stress, fear or anxiety. Boredom may be another behavior issue, which may cause the dog to chew at his paws.
Pain or Discomfort from a Foreign Object
The dog may have a spur, awn or piece of glass in his paw. Ticks sometimes burrow between the dog’s toes causing great irritation.
Corns are painful growths found on the toe pads of dogs. They are common in the Greyhound and Lurcher breeds.
Secondary Bacterial or Yeast Infection
The constant chewing, licking and biting may cause a secondary bacterial or yeast infection. The infection will cause more discomfort and itchiness.
What to do if your Dog is Chewing His Paws
A veterinarian can help determine the underlying cause for your dog chewing at his paws. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination and the dog’s overall condition will be evaluated. The patient’s paws will be checked for any foreign objects.
The vet may recommend a complete blood count (CBC), skin biopsy or a cytology test. The complete blood count can help determine if there is a bacterial infection. A skin biopsy takes a small sample of skin, to be examined under a microscope. A cytology test scrapes or swabs the surface of the itchy skin to examine the cells more closely.
If the veterinarian suspects allergies he may suggest an intradermal allergy test. Small amounts of common allergens are injected under your dog’s skin. If your dog is allergic to a certain allergen his skin will get red and swollen.
A food trial test helps to determine food allergies. This test introduces one new protein for 6 to 12 weeks. If your dog shows a reaction to a protein, it is eliminated from the diet. During a food trial, your dog can’t be fed any treats, table scraps or raw hides.
Dogs with environmental allergies may need to have daily allergy shots. Dogs with flea allergies should be on monthly flea preventative medication. Corns may need to be surgically removed from the pads. Foreign objects will be removed from the pad and bandaged. Secondary yeast infections are treated with topical antifungal medications. Bacterial infections are treated with topical and oral antibiotics.
If the veterinarian believes the paw chewing is caused by behavior issues he may suggest a consultation with an animal behaviorist. An animal behaviorist may be able to recommend activities which may help your dog overcome his stress, boredom, fears and anxiety issues.
Prevention of Chewing His Paws
Some conditions cannot be prevented but some can. Dogs should be on monthly flea and tick preventative medication. This will prevent flea allergy reactions and irritated skin. It is important to prevent your dog from being exposed to toxic chemicals. If you spray your lawn with pesticides, your dog should not be allowed to walk on the grass until the chemical is dry. The same thing goes for recently cleaned floors or carpets. Dogs should be provided toys, attention and daily exercise. Additional activities may help prevent a dog from feeling bored or anxious.
Cost of Chewing His Paws
The cost will vary depending on the condition diagnosed. Food allergies can have a treatment cost of $1500; flea bite allergy treatment cost may only be $350. To clear up bacterial infections, the expense may be $350 and yeast dermatitis treatment may average $250.
Chewing His Paws Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog constantly licks and chews his legs. His legs are covered in bare red skin, it looks like it's been skinned. He constantly does this when he is lying down, I have to physically remove his head from licking. I don't know why he does this but it started a few months ago. Should I take him to the vet?
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My dog constantly chews and licks her paws. She has done this for several years. She also throws up at least once a week. Sometimes it’s the undigested food, other times it’s yellow color. Three times it has been blood. The vet thinks it’s food allergies, so I changed her food two weeks ago and she is still throwing up. Her WBC is always low too when we do blood work. What else could be the cause?
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