Why Do Dogs Chew Their Feet? Reasons Why and What to Do

A dog on the grass chewing his feet and paws.

I’ve been known to put my foot in my mouth. But dogs do it on purpose. So, why do dogs chew their feet? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Sure, there’s a simple explanation for the behavior. “A dog is essentially trying to scratch the itch,” says Christopher Pachel, DVM, owner of the Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland, Oregon. But finding the cause of foot chewing can be complicated. “It can be multiple different things,” Dr. Pachel says. “This is not one size fits all.”

Chewing and licking feet are common behaviors. “Just because a dog is licking his foot doesn’t necessarily mean that he needs to be rushed into the vet clinic,” Dr. Pachel says. But if the behaviors come on suddenly and intensely for extended periods, they can be cause for concern.

Why do dogs chew their feet? Allergies might be at play.

A curly dog chewing his feet.
Why do dogs chew their feet? Allergies might be the answer. Photography ©Barrie Harwood / Alamy Stock Photo.

One of the common answers to, “Why do dogs chew their feet?” Allergies. If the behavior coincides with a change of seasons, that offers a clue that an environmental allergen, such as pollen, mold or mildew, might be triggering the behavior. More long-term chewing could signal a food allergy. But determining the exact food ingredient is difficult and time consuming. “It is a process of trial and error, and it’s impossible to predict just by looking at the dog just what they are allergic to,” Dr. Pachel says.

A 12-week food-elimination trial offers the best chance of finding a specific culprit, says Rebecca Remillard, PhD, DVM, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. These involved trials start with feeding a simplified diet of foods the dog has never eaten.

Why do dogs chew their feet? Due to these diseases and illnesses.

So, what are some other common answers to, “Why do dogs chew their feet?” Numerous between-the-toes skin diseases can cause a dog to chew his feet, says Dr. Remillard, who founded Veterinary Nutritional Consultations Inc. in Hollister, North Carolina. In addition, injury or pain (such as from arthritis or hip dysplasia), as well as autoimmune diseases, cysts, tumors and cancer can lead to foot biting. Some dogs might munch their digits due to skin infections caused by hormonal imbalances, namely too much cortisol or too little thyroid hormone.

Something as innocuous as dry skin from winter weather, an arid climate or a deficiency of fatty acids in the diet can cause excessive paw chomping. A cracked claw could be to blame or even a corn (Greyhounds are said to be prone to corns). Maybe a thorn, pebble or other foreign object is lodged in or between the paw pads. Fleas, ticks, mites and other parasites irritate the skin, as can some soaps and shampoos,…

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