Dog Foot Chewing: When to Be Concerned, and What to Do About It

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: April 29, 2022
Image Credit KPhrom/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:

Your dog occasionally licking or chewing his foot is completely normal, but if it gets excessive, there may be cause for concern. It can be hard to tell whether your dog chewing his foot is something to worry about or completely normal.

We’ll cover the various reasons why your dog might be biting his feet, where to draw the line, and how to get him to stop.

Why Dogs Chew Their Feet

There is a long list of reasons why your dog may chew (or lick) his feet. You will have to take a closer look at your dog’s health and potential stressors to figure out which one is to blame for your dog’s current issue. Your vet can typically help with this.

3,940 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

Take a closer look at some of the most common answers to why do dogs chew their feet.

Allergies

It’s incredibly common for dogs to bite their paws to alleviate an itchy feeling. Think of it as a doggie alternative to scratching an itch (although dogs will sometimes do that with their paws as well). Allergies are a common cause of itchiness as well as irritation, leading to the urge to bite.

Anxiety

Many dogs chew on or lick themselves when they are feeling anxious, lonely, or nervous. The best way to spot this issue is to look for other indications of anxiety, such as poor digestion, elevated breathing and heart rate, and excessive drooling. You can also look out for pacing, an inability to relax, and unusual posturing.

A chihuahua chewing on its back paw
There are many reasons dogs chew their paws, from anxiety and boredom to health issues.

kamilpetran/Shutterstock.com

Bacterial Infection

Occasionally, dogs will develop bacterial infections on their paws. This can be the result of moisture. If this is the case, the area will also likely be red. Your vet can treat bacterial infections with antibiotics.

Boredom

Every dog deals with boredom in a different way, and some decide to lick or bite themselves when bored. The remedy for this should be obvious – give your dog some activities. Maybe specifically focus on things he can chew on.

Burnt Paw Pads in Summer

When you take your dog for walks in the summer, you need to pay attention to the temperature of the concrete. If it is too hot, your pup may burn his paw pads. This can lead to chewing to relieve the pain. Prevent it with doggie booties.

Claw Problems

One of the first things to check when working through why do dogs chew their feet is his claws. If a claw is broken or loose, he may be chewing on it to try to fix it. You can take care of this for them by trimming the claw. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, bring your pup to the vet.

On a related note, ingrown claws can also cause a similar reaction. You typically need a vet to treat the ingrown claw, as it can be challenging. The vet will also check for an infection.

Contact Dermatitis

The itchiness or irritation causing your dog to chew may also be because he came into contact with an irritant. Certain grasses or yard chemicals, for example, can lead to temporary irritation.

Dry Skin

Your skin gets itchy and irritated when it is dry, and your dog’s is no different. If it is cold and/or dry outside, one of the first things to check should be whether your dog’s skin is dry. Moisturize his fur and the itchiness and irritation should disappear.

Injuries

It is very common for dogs to lick their wounds. This means that anytime your canine companion starts to lick or chew his feet (or another part of his body) excessively, you need to take a closer look. Look for irritation, splinters, cuts, or punctures. You can also confirm it is an injury by seeing if your pup puts weight on the relevant paw.

Interdigital Cysts

These cysts are the result of a clogged hair follicle. They are more common on the front paws and can lead to chewing to alleviate the discomfort. Unfortunately, chewing can also cause these cysts.

Hyperkeratosis

If your dog has hyperkeratosis, it means his body produces extra keratin. That makes his toe pads or nose skin get thicker. That, in turn, results in dryness and cracking, hence the urge to lick. It is more common as your pup ages.

Pain

You don’t want your pooch to be in pain, but one of the signs of canine pain is chewing on or licking limbs. The pain doesn’t even have to be focused on the paw area for dogs to chew on their paws with pain. Of course, that should still be the first part of his body you check for a source of pain.

Parasites

Parasites, including fleas, can make your dog feel itchy, among other symptoms. As we’ve already established, if your dog has an itch, he’s likely to relieve it by chewing on the affected area.

Winter Salt Irritation

If you notice your dog chewing on his paws in the winter, it may be irritation from the salt put on roads and sidewalks. The best solution to this cause is to get your pup some shoes or booties.

Yeast Infection

Dogs sometimes get yeast infections on their paws. When this happens, it will typically lead to irritation, itchiness, and redness. Your vet can diagnose a yeast infection and suggest treatment.

A golden retriever chewing its paw
If you suspect that your dog is chewing its feet due to a health issue, your veterinarian will be able to provide a diagnosis and a treatment.

Robert Moldvaji/Shutterstock.com

When to Be Concerned About Your Dog Chewing His Feet

Simply put, you should worry about your dog chewing on his feet if it becomes excessive. The issue can be deciding what is excessive. This is where your experience with your dog can come in handy. After just a few months of owning a dog, you likely have a good idea of how often he chews on or licks his foot. If he starts doing so more often than normal, this is a sign that it is excessive.

Sometimes, the fact that your dog is excessively biting his feet will be more obvious because he caused physical injuries. Anytime that you notice physical injuries to your dog’s paws from the biting, it is time to take the issue seriously and consult a vet.

Some important symptoms to look out for include:

  • Bald spots
  • Red or swollen skin
  • Bleeding
  • Skin that is warm to the touch
  • Foot fur discoloration
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Cuts or other wounds

Your vet will need to confirm which of the above potential causes is the reason why do dogs chew their feet for your pooch.

What to Do About It

The steps you take to stop your dog from biting his feet depend on the answer to why do dogs chew their feet in your situation. If he is chewing his paws from anxiety, treat the anxiety. If it is because of an infection, treat the infection. This is why getting to the bottom of the problem is so important.

The following are some of the specific remedies that can encourage your pooch to stop biting himself.

Switch to Food for Allergies

If you think the problem is allergies, start by switching your dog to a dog food designed for pups with allergies. Your vet can help you figure out which ingredient he is most likely allergic to.

Avoid or Wash After Contact with Other Allergies

In the case of environmental allergies, the best solution is to keep your pup away from them. When this isn’t possible, get in the habit of giving him a nice bath after he comes into contact with them.

A blue-eyed miniature Australian shepherd in a white bathtub
If environmental allergens cause your dog to chew its paws, a bath will wash them away.

Danielle W Press/Shutterstock.com

Care for Your Dog’s Coat to Prevent Itching

In the case of itching from a dry coat, just work on taking better care of the coat. Add a conditioner to your dog’s bath routine or switch to a moisturizing oatmeal shampoo. Or get a balm to soothe his paw pads.

Buy Toys to Reduce Anxiety and Boredom

In the case of anxiety or boredom, look into getting your pup some toys to keep him entertained. You can also try taking him on long walks or runs to get out excess energy.

For anxiety, in particular, you should also try to identify what triggers his anxiety and then avoid those triggers.

Give Him Something Else to Chew

If you aren’t sure why your dog is chewing his paw or it has become a behavioral pattern, you can try redirecting him. The best way to do this is by offering alternatives to chew on like chew toys.

Stay Up to Date with Your Dog’s Dewormer

The most obvious solution for chewing due to parasites is to stay up-to-date with your dog’s dewormer and flea medicine.

Get Your Dog Some Booties

If the chewing is likely due to salt irritation in the winter or burns from hot pavement in the summer, doggie booties are the best solution. There are plenty of great options available.

Conclusion

There are plenty of answers to why do dogs chew their feet. From injuries to infections to parasites, you will have to get to the source of the issue. Check your dog for injuries or other symptoms, such as swelling and redness. Check for dry skin and make sure your dog isn’t anxious. Always take your dog to the vet for excessive itching. They will help you treat the underlying problem.

Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the entire world?

How about the fastest dogs, the largest dogs and those that are -- quite frankly -- just the kindest dogs on the planet? Each day, AZ Animals sends out lists just like this to our thousands of email subscribers. And the best part? It's FREE. Join today by entering your email below.

What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?

X-Small
Small
Medium
Large
Xtra-Large

If you have kids or existing dogs select:

Kids
Other Dogs

Should they be Hypoallergenic?

Yes
No
How important is health?
Which dog groups do you like?
How much exercise should your dog require?
What climate?
How much seperation anxiety?
How much yappiness/barking?

How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
How trainable/obedient does the dog need to be?
How intelligent does the dog need to be?
How much chewing will allow?
Share this post on:
About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.