It's not uncommon to notice your dog chewing its paws every now and then, but it might actually be a warning sign for dog owners.
In fact, celebrity veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber says it could be a sign of something serious happening with your pup.
While there are many reasons your dog might be paying special attention to its feet, Werber says the most common is allergies. "This could be a food allergy, which is common, or a contact allergy from coming into contact with some irritant or substance to which they are allergic, such as grass."
He says an easy way to determine what kind of allergy your dog is suffering from is by paying attention to what paws it is chewing. "If the focus is on the two front feet, or all four, consider a food allergy. Food allergies also usually affect the bottom of the foot rather than the top. If the focus is on one foot or one front and one back, consider it was something the dog came into contact with."
According to Werber, other reasons for paw chewing may be injury or fungus. If the chewing is happening in the spring or summer months, consider barbed plants, such as foxtail.
Werber says it's important to stop your dog from chewing its paws as soon as you notice it. "Dogs can easily access their feet and can damage themselves by unrestrained chewing. They are not able to stop themselves, and this actually causes a vicious cycle of irritation, chewing, more irritation, more chewing."
According to Werber, the best way to stop the chewing is by treating the paws as an open wound — by using an e-color or inflatable collar. He says to avoid covering the dog's paws as this seals in moisture and often only makes the problem worse. If you must wrap the dog's paws, keep it loose and use a breathable material.
He adds that you should also wash or soak the affected area and dry it very well, using a drying powder if needed. If you find any sores on the paws, treat those with an antibiotic cream.
Just like some people bite their nails when they're nervous, Werber says some dogs may chew their paws as a nervous habit.
"If the dog is chewing its paw raw, even if it's just a nervous habit or boredom, it's 'bad' because it can be damaging, causing secondary infection and other complications," he says.
If you notice the chewing only occurs in anxiety inducing situations — like when you are preparing to leave or have company — there's a good chance your dog is chewing in response to stress.
"Use a collar to prevent him from chewing, while experimenting with ways to distract your dog's attention from the site and address the underlying cause of the anxiety," Werber advises.
If your dog has wounds that aren't healing, or you just can't put a stop to the chewing, follow up with your veterinarian.
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