It can be distressing for an owner to see his dog chewing on his paws. This kind of behaviour is common but it can be self-destructive and cause injury if it isn't caught early. Although dogs will chew and lick objects around them, continuous chewing on their paws is a sign that something is wrong. The reasons could be health-related or behavioural but it is important to seek advice from a vet.
This kind of behaviour will be very noticeable in your dog. She will continuously chew on her paws and you might also see her licking the area vigorously. Even if you haven't noticed this behaviour regularly, if your dog's paws are red, flaky or are losing fur, it is important to visit your vet to determine the cause. You might also notice that the fur around the paws becomes stained with your dog's saliva.
Although it can be common in dogs, this kind of behaviour usually indicates a medical or behavioural problem. Either way, this will need treatment, or the dog is at risk of injuring himself. If he continues chewing and irritating the area, it could lead to skin infections and difficulty walking. A vet's diagnosis will help prevent this kind of behaviour in the future.
As Professor's House explains, if a dog is continuously chewing or licking her paws, this could indicate a skin problem, parasite, existing injury or some kind of internal health problem such as arthritis. If no medical cause is apparent, obsessive compulsive disorder could be behind this activity. Veterinarian Dr. Matthew Cooper says that irritated paws might also be caused by allergies to food or the dog's environment.
Once your vet has confirmed the source of the problem, you can take the appropriate action to prevent this kind of behaviour recurring in the future. Your vet might give you certain ointments that have a smell or taste that deters the dog from chewing the area. If the cause is behavioural, your dog might need professional training. You can also help by ensuring that she has enough stimulation, exercise and play time.
Although it will be easy for you to intervene with this kind of behaviour when you are around, it can also be caused by boredom, so it is important to ensure your dog has enough toys to play with when you leave him alone. If his chewing is severe, your vet might also recommend a restraint collar so your dog can't reach his paws, allowing any infections to heal.