Why Do Dogs Chew or Bite Their Paws? Reasons & How to Stop

Last updated on: Feb 07, 2024

By: Stephanie Dunne

Brown Dog Lying on Wooden Floor With Legs Outstretched

Have you ever noticed your furry friend spending a lot of time chewing, licking or biting at their paws? It's a sight that can make any dog owner pause and wonder.

A little bit of paw chewing is part of their self-cleaning routine. But when this behavior goes overboard, it's time for us to step in and figure out what's bothering them. Excessive feet chewing or biting might be their way of telling us that they're in discomfort or pain, dealing with itchy skin, or even feeling stressed out.

So, why exactly do dogs engage in this behavior, and when should you start worrying?

Common Reasons Why Dogs and Puppies Chew Their Paws

Injuries and Irritations

Just like we might get a splinter or stub our toe, dogs can injure their paws too. They might step on something sharp, get a burn from hot pavement, experience frostbite in cold weather, or have something stuck in their pads. These injuries can make their paws very uncomfortable, leading them to chew in an attempt to relieve the pain.

Skin Conditions and Infections

Dogs can suffer from various skin conditions that make their paws itchy and irritable.

Allergies, whether to certain foods or environmental factors like pollen, can cause significant discomfort.

Bacterial and yeast infections, as well as parasites like fleas, ticks, and mites, also lead to itchy paws that dogs will chew on to try and soothe.

Pain and Discomfort

Sometimes, the chewing doesn't stem from a problem with the paw itself but reflects pain from elsewhere in their body, such as arthritis or internal injuries.

Overgrown or injured nails can also cause discomfort that dogs try to manage by chewing.

Behavioral Issues

Boredom, anxiety, and stress can manifest in various ways, including paw chewing.

Dogs that are left alone for long periods, lack mental and physical stimulation, or live in stressful environments might develop this compulsive behavior.

Separation anxiety is a common cause of excessive paw chewing and licking.


This is a fancy term for inflammation of the foot. It can be caused by infections, allergies, or other underlying health issues. It makes the paws very itchy and sore, leading dogs to chew on them for relief.

Signs Your Dog Might Be Suffering

When your dog starts chewing or licking their paws more than usual, it can be a sign that something is wrong.

Physical Symptoms

  • Redness and Swelling: If you notice the skin around your dog's paws looks red and swollen, it's a clear sign of irritation or infection.
  • Cuts and Wounds: Visible cuts, wounds, or even limping can mean that your dog has injured their paw and is trying to care for it by licking or chewing.
  • Licking and Chewing: While some paw licking is normal, excessive licking or chewing, especially if focused on one paw, can point to a problem.
  • Bad Smell: A foul odor coming from the paws is a telltale sign of an infection, such as a yeast infection.

Changes of Behavior

  • Restlessness: A dog in discomfort may seem unable to settle down, constantly moving from spot to spot trying to find relief.
  • Signs of Pain: Whining, snapping, or pulling away when you try to touch their paw can indicate that your dog is in pain.

These symptoms can stem from various issues, from minor irritations to serious health conditions. If something doesn't seem right, it's better to seek advice from your vet.

How to Address and Stop It?

If you've noticed your dog or puppy chewing their paws a lot, there are several steps you can take to help them feel better.

It's always better to consult your veterinarian first, as this is the most direct way to help your dog.


Treatments for Infections: If your dog has a bacterial or yeast infection, your vet may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medications. Follow the treatment plan closely to ensure the infection clears up completely.

Managing Allergies: For dogs with allergies, antihistamines can provide relief from itchiness. if you suspect food allergies, examine your dog's diet. Supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help improve skin health and reduce inflammation.

Pain Management: For conditions like arthritis or other sources of pain that might be causing your dog to chew their paws, your vet might prescribe pain medication or recommend supplements that support joint health.

Behavioral Therapies: If anxiety or stress is behind your dog's paw chewing, medications to manage anxiety, coupled with behavior modification, can be very effective.

Home Remedies

Apple Cider Vinegar: A diluted apple cider vinegar solution can help soothe minor skin irritations. However, it's important not to use this on open wounds as it can sting. Always consult your vet before using it.

Nail Trimming and Grooming: Keep your dog's nails trimmed and their fur clean can prevent discomfort that might lead to paw chewing. Regular grooming helps to remove debris that could be irritating their paws.

Environmental Adjustments: Reduce exposure to allergens to minimize allergic reactions. For example, wash your dog's paws after walks in grassy areas.

Stress and Anxiety Reduction Techniques: Provide a calm, stable environment and plenty of mental and physical stimulation to reduce stress and anxiety. Toys, puzzle feeders, and regular exercise can keep boredom at bay.

Consult Your Vet

If your dog's paw chewing is accompanied by any signs of infection, injury, or if it doesn't improve with basic home care, it's time to see the vet. They can help identify the underlying cause and recommend the best course of treatment.

Preventive Measures

Preventing is always better than cure. Here are some possible measures:

Regular Paw Cleaning and Care

  • Paw Inspections: Regularly check your dog's paws for signs of injury, irritation, or foreign objects like thorns or pebbles.
  • Cleaning: Keep your dog's paws clean by wiping them down after outdoor activities, especially in areas where allergens like pollen may be present.

Protective Gear for Paws

  • Booties: Consider using dog booties for protection during extreme weather conditions, like hot pavements in summer or icy sidewalks in winter.
  • Paw Balms: Applying protective balms can help keep your dog's paw pads soft and prevent cracking.

Diet and Nutrition for Skin Health

  • Balanced Diet: Ensure your dog is on a well-balanced diet that supports their overall health, including skin and coat health.
  • Supplements: Supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids can help maintain healthy skin and reduce the likelihood of skin issues.

Engaging Toys and Activities

  • Mental Stimulation: Provide plenty of toys and activities to keep your dog mentally stimulated and prevent boredom. This can help with compulsive behaviors such as foot chewing and licking.
  • Physical Exercise: Regular exercise helps manage stress and anxiety levels.

Training and Socialization

  • Behavioral Training: Training can help manage and prevent behavioral issues that may lead to stress-related paw chewing.
  • Socialization: Expose your puppy to various environments and situations from a young age to reduce anxiety and stress.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my dog chew their paws at night?

Sometimes, dogs chew their paws at night because they feel itchy or uncomfortable. When everything is quiet, small itches or worries can seem bigger to them. Make sure their sleeping spot is cozy and stress-free.

Can my dog's diet make them chew or lick their paws?

Yes, what your dog eats can make a big difference. Some dogs get itchy skin from certain foods, making them chew their paws. Feeding them the right food and talking to a vet about allergies can help find out what's making them itchy and stop the chewing.

Is it necessary to use a cone to stop my dog from chewing their paws?

Sometimes, using a cone, or Elizabethan collar, is recommended to keep them from reaching their paws. This is especially true if they have a bad cut or skin problem that needs to heal. But, it's also important to find out why they're chewing in the first place and fix that problem too.

Wrapping up

Remember, your dog relies on you to help them live a happy, healthy life, free from unnecessary pain and discomfort.

You may also enjoy our other articles on dog health and behavior. Read about why dogs chase their tails, why they sometimes scratch the floor, and why their noses are wet.

If you're just raising a puppy, learn when and how to give your puppy their first bath, and why puppies sometimes eat poop (gross!).

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