Dogs chew or lick their paws for many reasons. Easy identification of some causes is possible, while others are not obvious. Determining the cause may involve ruling out different possibilities. Often an initial problem starts the behaviour, but the chewing creates additional problems, such as infection. Therefore, it is important to check your dog's feet routinely for problems and treat them before it gets worse or a serious condition develops.
Excessive licking and chewing symptoms vary depending on the frequency and forcefulness of the behaviour. The pads may be wet or slightly irritated. With aggressive chewing, your dog may remove hair, cause lesions and sores. The pad, toes and nail beds may be damaged or swollen.
Paw injuries, thorns or other foreign objects, cuts, insect bites, dry cracked pad and nail injuries may be causing the chewing. According to Vetinfo, the cause of your dog's chewing behaviour may be allergies to its food, carpet or floor cleaners, lawn chemicals or grass. Interdigital cysts are lumps that grow between the toes. Flea allergies and yeast infections can create chewing behaviours. Demodicosis mange, caused by a mite that infests only the feet or just one foot, may result in a bacterial condition with a deep infection, according to Alice M. Jeromin, D.V.M.
Obsessive-compulsive behaviours are among the hardest problems to treat. Often the cause of licking is due to stress, boredom or anxiety. Sometimes the chewing and licking behaviours began due to medical problems and then became a habit. Because chewing feet may become a habit, it is important to determine the cause and stop the behaviour quickly.
Examination of the paws helps determine some conditions, including infection, dry pads, injury or cysts. Cysts require removal or drainage to determine if they are benign or malignant. Scrapings are necessary to determine if demodex mites are a factor. Food allergies are difficult to verify. Some blood tests may help suggest the cause, but an elimination diet is the preferred method. On the elimination diet, your dog eats food with low risk of allergic reaction until symptoms are gone. Next, adding one suspected food at a time, observe your dog for allergic responses.
Treatment for injuries depends on the severity of the injury and your control of your dog. If the dog is in pain, attempting to remove a foreign object or clean a wound may require a veterinarian. Demodicosis requires prescription medications that will depend on your dog, as some medications are toxic to some breeds. Moisturising dry pads enough to relieve dryness without over-softening may help. Known allergies require removal of the allergen, allergy medications and possibly steroids to control reaction to unknown allergens or those that are unavoidable. Because most dog allergies are to certain proteins, a diet using an uncommon protein base, such as fish, may be the cause. According to VeterinaryPartner Educational Director Wendy C. Brooks, D. V. M., another option is the use of hydrolyzed proteins, which are proteins that are broken down so small they do not cause allergic reactions. Obsessive behaviour treatments include anxiety medications, distraction, exercise, behaviour training and barrier equipment such as collars or bandages to prevent chewing.