Why Do Dogs Chew and Lick Their Paws?
If you ask the famous "dog whisperer" Cesar Millan about dogs and paw itching, he would say that there are a "variety of reasons why dogs might chew their paws" and among the most common (and ones that indicate the need to head to the vet) are:
- Dry skin
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Hormonal issues
At the top of the list, though, are allergies, and he explains that "Dogs, like people, have allergies, and allergies tend to be the number one cause of paw chewing." Yet, it is important to note, as the experts at WebMD explain, "compulsive scratching, licking, and chewing behaviors are quite common in dogs," and that it is essential to find out first if the behavior is indeed an allergy.
Allergies in Dogs
We might think of our human selves as the only species that can develop allergies, but it is a common occurrence in many animals. When dogs suffer from allergies, it can be a food allergy, environmental or seasonal allergy (such as pollen and mold), chemical allergies, and contact allergies (dermatitis) brought on by materials such as soaps, cleansers, and even pesticides.
Treating the Issue
Because there are many reasons for dogs chewing and licking their paws, it is important to always pay a visit to the vet the moment you realize that their behavior is persistent. When it is allergies, many steps can be taken to alleviate this upsetting issue.
One dog expert explains that "food allergies develop frequently among dogs and often result in skin irritation that affects various parts of the body." Unfortunately, a dog of any age can develop an allergy to an ingredient in its food. The good news is that a dog must have had "prior exposure to the ingredient in question, meaning it’s likely one of the ingredients in your most tried-and-true dog food is causing the problem." So, take along examples of the foods you are feeding the dog on a regular, daily basis when you head to the vet. You can then see if it is a protein like dairy, chicken, beef, lamb or even grains, eggs or soy that is a potential problem.
You might find your vet recommends an allergy diet or special food that is known to avoid triggering allergies in most dogs.
Of course, it takes a while to help your dog overcome a lot of the itching and irritation caused by an active allergy. As another expert has said, "Food allergies, in particular, are typically the culprit, and secondary infections from yeast and bacteria can further exacerbate the behavior." What that means is that you might also want to help alleviate the issue by giving your dog's feet a daily bath or every time they come inside from a walk as there may be irritants caused by an allergy within your own backyard. Or you can invest in special My Busy Dog’s dog shoes that can be used to prevent the persistent licking and chewing, no matter what the cause, from continuing, worsening and leading to further issues.
Eliminating food, or other allergens, is usually the solution, but it is only your vet who can diagnose the actual cause and lead you to the ideal solution.