This post is part 2 of a 3-part series on dog behavior.
In the first post of this series we gave you some simple tips to help you stop your dog from barking excessively.
In today's post we'll take a look at another common dog behavior problem – paw chewing.
There are a variety of reasons your dog may chew his paws, and the behavior can start suddenly or become habitual and compulsive.
Keep reading to find out the most common reasons for paw chewing and some of the warning signs your pup may need a trip to the veterinarian.
Injuries to the paws like cuts, grazes, and puncture wounds can cause pain and irritation. If you notice your dog suddenly licking or chewing his paws he may have sustained an injury that's causing him discomfort.
Foreign bodies like small stones, thorns, or shards of glass can become lodged between your dog's toes or caught in the skin of his pads. If you suspect that your dog is injured check his paws thoroughly to see if you can identify the cause.
Allergies are a common cause of chronic paw chewing, and food allergies are often to blame. Dogs can develop allergies to ingredients in their food at any age, even if they've been fed the same food for years.
Your dog's paws come into contact with environmental allergens on a regular basis, and this can lead to skin irritation and paw chewing as your dog attempts to alleviate the pain and itchiness.
Common environmental allergens include pollen, mold, and household cleaning products. Pesticides and other harsh chemicals may also irritate your dog's paws, so it's important to minimize his exposure to allergens as much as possible.
3) Dry Skin
Another cause of paw chewing in dogs is dry skin. This is especially common in the winter months when moisture levels in the air are low. Dry skin can also be caused by a lack of fatty acids in your dog's diet.
Unfortunately, continuous chewing of the paws can cause them to become chapped and irritated, reinforcing the paw chewing cycle and causing pain and discomfort for your dog.
Parasites like fleas, ticks, and mites are another major cause of paw chewing in dogs. And because of their diminutive size they can easily hide in cracks and crevices between your dog's toes and paw pads.
It's worth checking your dog's paws for parasites, but they may be very difficult to detect. Ticks will be the easiest to spot, but fleas are adept at hiding, and mites are microscopic.
5) Anxiety or Depression
Compulsive paw chewing may be a sign of an underlying problem such as anxiety or depression. Dogs that are depressed or anxious will often lick or chew their paws in an effort to soothe themselves.
Causes of depression and anxiety include a lack of physical exercise and mental stimulation, so make sure to keep your dog as active and engaged as possible to curb unwanted behaviors.
6) Secondary Infections
Whatever the initial reason for your dog's paw chewing, repetition of the behavior can lead to secondary infections from yeast and bacteria.
When infected, your dog's paws can become increasingly itchy and irritated. And this can lead to a vicious cycle of compulsive paw chewing, pain, and irritation.
Occasional paw chewing is usually nothing to worry about, but if your dog suddenly starts chewing his paws or the behavior becomes compulsive it's important to visit your veterinarian to identify the underlying cause.
Thanks for reading. And don't forget to check back next week for the final post in this series, Teaching Your Dog to Walk on a Leash.