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Dog chewing on its leg and paw

The essentials

  • Your dog may chew their paws for many common reasons — Including allergies, parasites, fungal infections, wounds/injuries, burns, chemical irritants, dry skin, and boredom.
  • Persistent chewing can lead to infection — Too much licking can make matters worse, resulting in bald spots or further injury.
  • Help your dog stop it — Treatment usually requires a vet visit and sometimes medication. Pet parents must be consistent with proper hygiene and care.

You may notice that your dog has shifted their chewing habits away from their toys to their very own toes. When you go to investigate, they quickly pull the paw away. Something’s up.

While your pet can be doing this to satisfy boredom, habit or comfort needs, excessive chewing isn’t usually a good sign—and it can lead to worsening complications, even if it’s just a habit from puppyhood.

Let’s take a look at reasons why your dog may be chewing their paws and ways you can treat them.

10 reasons your dog may be chewing their paws

Though not exhaustive, these are some of the most common reasons why your pup might be chewing their paw pads.

1. Allergies

Grass, dirt, specific kinds of food, molds, and fleas can cause itchy skin and watery eyes in dogs.

What to look for: Itching or biting that occurs shortly after being outside or after eating. Does chewing occur at certain times of the year?

2. Chemical irritants

Yard fertilizers and treatments, indoor/outdoor pest control applications, floor cleaners, and salted streets can all irritate a dog’s paw pads.

What to look for: Paw chewing occurs after chemical applications, indoors or outdoors. Redness, itching, inflammation.

3. Burns

Burns can happen by accident — and are most often the result of a walk on a hot summer’s day. If your pet has burns, they could be causing itchiness, irritation and crusty-looking paw pads.

What to look for: Paw chewing occurs when it’s hot outside or after walking on roads, sidewalks, pavement, or the beach.

4. Wounds/injuries

Your pup is on all four feet every day. Their paws are susceptible to ingrown nails, torn toenails, nail bed infections, cuts, wear and tear, and even stingers from insects.

What to look for: Swelling, bleeding, pain, or pad abrasions. Check the nails Wounds and injuries often occur after a long hike or exposure to icy snow, which can cut paws.

5. Arthritis

Your pup may be chewing to alleviate the pain of arthritis — a condition that causes inflammation of your pet’s joints. Vet intervention might be needed for pain control and to limit chewing.

What to look for: Limping, hindered movement, pain, or favoring legs.

6. Cysts

Cyst formation can be irritating to your pet, and can cause chewing.

What to look for: Lumps or protrusions on or around your dog’s paw. Excessive paw licking.

7. Dry skin

Dry skin can be itchy, flaky, and overall unpleasant. Your pet might be chewing to alleviate these symptoms or frustration caused by them.

What to look for: Dry, flaky, or cracked paws.

8. Parasites

Fleas, ticks, and mites can all bite your dog’s skin and cause irritation.

What to look for: Check for any embedded parasites, particularly after walks in tall grass or wooded areas.

9. Fungal infection

Some of the most common fungal infections seen on doggie paws are ringworm and yeast.

What to look for: Bald spots in the fur, rashes, red and crusty lesions

10. Boredom/anxiety

Similar to how a human might nervously or absentmindedly chew their fingernails, your dog might nibble their toes out of boredom or due to anxiety — or they may do it out of habit.

What to look for: Sad puppy eyes, restlessness, pacing, damage to furniture, clothing, or household items

When to speak to your vet about paw chewing

Dogs lick, chew, and clean their paws as part of their self-grooming process. It’s essentially their way of giving themselves a bath. But it’s important to understand when it’s gone beyond self-grooming and into medical-attention territory. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Persistent chewing or intense licking
  • Excessive bleeding or gaping wounds
  • Embedded foreign objects
  • Swelling, pus, or odor

If any of these symptoms are observed, or if the skin is bleeding from excessive licking/chewing or from a wound, then a vet visit should be scheduled as soon as possible.

👉 Always wash your hands with soap and water before handling your dog’s paws to prevent infection.

How to stop your dog from chewing paws

There can be a range of underlying causes behind your dog’s paw licking, ranging from food allergies to bacterial infections. The best way to help your pet is to talk to a vet to determine why the chewing is happening — taking the steps outlined in these sections to give them a higher degree of comfort.

Here are our recommended fixes for most of the common paw-chewing causes:

Addressing allergies

Allergies are often seasonal or food-related. Consult your vet about altering your dog’s diet or testing for allergens. You may also consider an aller-immune supplement such as Native Pet’s or Premium Pet Care’s. Consult your vet before giving your dog any antihistamines or other medications.

Medications and therapies

If you’re looking to curb chewing behavior, your vet can support you in finding the right medications and supplemental therapies to help. If your dog’s feet-chewing problem is rooted in anxiety, for example, it might be a good idea to inquire about anti-anxiety medication. Or, if it’s related to contact dermatitis, your vet may be able to help you treat with creams or meds.

Using e-collars or booties

Redirect your pet from licking or chewing on their own skin by giving them a Kong toy, Nylabone, or other dental chew. Use physical deterrents, such as no-lick strips, E-collars, and booties to prevent your pet from continuing to lick or chew certain areas of the body.

Regular paw checks

If your dog is dealing with excessive licking, paw checks might be a helpful first step to curb the habit. You’ll be able to see if the habit has worsened or if they’ve found helpful distractions — and you’ll also be able to see if there’s skin irritation that needs your vet’s attention.

Providing mental stimulation

Your furry friend might have taken up paw-chewing out of boredom. The good news is, this is fixable. All you’ll need is some mental stimulation. There are plenty of toys that can help your pet stay busy, such as snuffle mats, puzzle toys, and licky-mats — all of which can be great ways to keep your pet’s attention.

Ensuring proper nutrition

Itchiness, food allergies, and more could all be the root cause of the issue for your dog’s chewing habit. Ensuring that your pet is having a well-rounded diet (as well as any special diet considerations they might need) can be helpful in curbing the behavior.

We recommend speaking to your vet if you believe this could be the cause of the chewing, as they can help you find the best possible nutrition regimen for your dog.

Using healthy and safe chewable toys

Safe chew toys are key to redirecting your dog’s paw chewing, giving them something similar to enjoy that’s safe (and not your dog’s toes). As you choose your toys, make sure they aren’t made from anything that could cause an allergic reaction.

We also recommend asking your veterinarian for recommendations, as some chew toys may not be safe for your dog. Too weak of a chew toy can result in a foreign body blockage later on, which requires costly surgery to fix.

What are the effects of paw chewing?

When a dog licks and chews on its paws, it’s often because its paws are irritated in some way, and this is an instinctual reaction. That’s because their saliva has antiseptic properties that can help clean wounds and even inhibit the development of some nasty bacteria, such as E.coli and Streptococcus canis, among others.

However, too much licking and chewing can actually make matters worse, resulting in bald spots or further injury by not allowing wounds to heal. What’s more, moisture from saliva can get trapped in the paws, making it easier for bacteria and yeast to breed, resulting in infection.

If not treated, chewing can also become a sort of compulsory psychological/behavioral tic — one that’s hard to overcome. The action becomes habitual to the point where every time they lay down, they start to lick and chew. It’s a vicious cycle only broken by deliberate distraction and stimulation.

👉 If you’ve reprimanded paw chewing behavior, keep an eye on your dog. They may sneak away out of sight to chew their paws, knowing they will be scolded if observed chewing.

Tips for paw hygiene and care

Keep your puppy’s paws healthy with regular care and proper hygiene. The ASPCA provides practical guidelines for paw maintenance:

  • Ensure that nails are trimmed regularly
  • Be on the lookout for skin irritation and what could be causing it (allergies, shampoos, food, parasites, etc.)
  • Check paws frequently to make sure they’re free of wounds, embedded foreign objects, or redness and infections.

Hydrate dog paws with paw balms

Give special attention to your dog’s paw pads. They provide shock absorption, protect underlying tissue, and are the first line of defense against wear and tear and exposure to the elements.

Dog paw balms are a must to keep them in top shape, especially during cold weather. Paw Soother™ by Natural Dog Company is one of our favorites because it’s made with organic, vegan ingredients that won’t irritate your doggie’s itchy paws.

Cover up those paws

Though not always the first choice for dogs, you might also consider using dog boots. These are great for longer walks, snow, hot pavement, and pest avoidance. But be warned — they certainly take some getting used to, for both you and your dog! Make sure the booties aren’t put on too tight or worn for more than 1-2 hours at a time as they can cause swelling or infection.

👉 These anti-slip booties feature reflective straps, so your dog can be easily seen at night.

Keep your doggie entertained and stress-free

And sometimes it’s sheer boredom, stress, or a significant life event (loss of pet pals, moving, separation, etc.) that’s making your dog focus on their paws. So, make sure your dog is mentally stimulated, is getting plenty of exercise, and has other things handy to chew on besides their paws, like chew toys or dental chews to clean those teeth.

Frequently asked questions

Why does my dog chew his feet?

Your dog could be chewing due to dietary allergies, inflammation, pain, nervousness, or simply out of habit. Your vet can help you to determine the underlying cause.

Can I put vaseline on my dog’s paws?

If you notice irritation on your dog’s paw pads, vaseline can help — creating a barrier that can allow your pet to heal. It’s generally safe to use this to help bring your pet some relief, just be sure that you don’t put on too much. Also, try to keep them from licking it off, as overconsumption can lead to an upset stomach.

Can I put coconut oil on my dog’s pads?

Coconut oil offers helpful anti-fungal properties and can be soothing to some pets. Just avoid putting too much, as ingestion of high quantities can cause diarrhea and GI issues.

How to get my dog to stop chewing their feet?

A vet visit should be your first stop, helping you get to the underlying causes of the paw chewing. They can tell you if your pet needs medication, cream, or stimulating toys to help limit the chewing behaviors.

Why does my dog lick his paws?

Your dog can be licking from boredom, out of habit, or due to some underlying cause. Try to keep a record of how often they are chewing, and any circumstances that could have brought the behavior on. This can help your vet to determine possible causes and help more effectively.