Pet dogs are known for exhibiting funny behaviors that make us laugh. You can log onto any social media platform and find videos of dogs being cute, unusual, or extraordinary.
What some pet owners fail to realize however is that a few of the strange habits your dog has may not be quirks. Our dogs cannot talk to us and exhibit certain behaviors when they are sick, unhappy, or need care.
If your dog is chewing on their feet, it could be no big deal or just weird puppy behavior, but this behavior could also indicate a health problem.
Common Health Problems Associated with Feet Chewing in Dogs
Many dogs chew their feet because they are dirty, have something stuck between their toes, or are just bored. Some dogs will even chew at their paws when the hair gets too long. However, if this type of behavior is persistent or your dog shows signs of pain or distress while they are chewing their feet, a more significant health issue may need to be addressed.
Pain from Injury
Dogs can easily get rocks, thorns, and gravel in their paw pads that can cause them to chew at their feet. Most of the time, dogs can relieve themselves of the pain and use their teeth to dislodge whatever is stuck in their paw, but sometimes they need their people to intervene. Dogs paw pads can get injured from hot pavement, cuts, and even road salt build up or ice.
Arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects many dogs, especially senior dogs. Arthritis affects the joints and structural architecture of the bones causing degeneration. This immune system disease is treatable with medication but is painful and crippling for dogs if left untreated. Domestic dogs will show signs of arthritis such as being careful, or hesitant before jumping, getting up, or running. Dogs may also gain weight, have a change in attitude, or show other odd behaviors such as biting their feet. If your dog begins having range of motion issues or pain, you should talk to your veterinarian about possible arthritis.
There are several different types of skin cancers, and tumors that dogs can be afflicted with and these tumors can sometimes show up on their feet and between their toes. One common type of cancer that affects dog feet is the squamous cell carcinoma. These tumors are generally malignant and invasive and present as a scaly tissue that lines body cavities such as between toes.
Squamous cell carcinoma is usually first seen around the toenail and affects the bone and tissue of typically just one toe. Tumors can look like small nodules with a reddish plaque surrounding it, or a blistered appearance. Cancer will grow and ulcerate eventually and large breed dogs, as well as dark-colored dogs, are most commonly affected. If your dog has swollen feet or toes, is limping, has a sore or ulcer, solid mass on his toe, or is showing signs of his foot bothering him such as biting his feet you should consult with your veterinarian immediately.
Dogs can have allergies to some of the same things that humans have allergies too including pollen, dander, plants, other animals, insects, dog food, and medications. Allergies can affect the skin and cause itching, rashes, and skin inflammation that will make your dog chew or bite, and scratch at their skin.
Some dogs have atopic dermatitis which is chronic allergies brought on by grass, mold spores, house mites, and environmental triggers. You will know if your dog has atopic dermatitis by the time they are six months old in most cases, but some cases may present mild symptoms. For most dogs, symptoms will become severe by the time they are three years old.
Only your veterinarian can determine if your dog has an allergy and what they are allergic. Therapies for allergies range from injections to decrease itching, pill medication, or topical ointments. Anti-itch shampoos and regular bathing and skin conditioning regimen may also help.
Mange is a common inflammatory skin disease caused by Demodex mites inhabiting the hair follicles and skin. Demodex mites can cause lesions, skin infections, hair loss, and itchiness. The severity of symptoms depends on the severity of the disease.
Demodectic mange (demodicosis) can be localized or affect a dog’s entire body. When the patches are localized, symptoms tend to be less severe. Mange is common on the legs, torso, and face of most dogs. Mange can disappear spontaneously in dogs, but dogs with long term cases often need medication to help get rid of the mites and control skin infections. Flea and tick medications and treatments are the best way to treat mange; however, there are also pills dogs can take daily to stop mange.
Canine Compulsive Disorder
Although uncommon, dogs can have compulsive disorders where normal dog behaviors become exaggerated or last longer than appropriate or expected. Excessive spinning, tail chasing, licking, biting, scratching, chewing, or staring into space can indicate a compulsive disorder in your dog including feet biting.
Canine compulsive disorders are usually caused by trauma or stress and frustration. Compulsive behaviors in dogs get worse over time, and impulsive behaviors can be dangerous. Dogs that bite too much or chase their tail too much often risk self-mutilation which can cause numerous health problems including needing emergency surgery.
Some behaviors that may seem compulsive are your dog’s way of trying to get attention from you. If your dog only exhibits odd behavior in your presence, the behavior is most likely a response to boredom or needing more attention from you. Set up a nanny cam to see how your dog behaves when you aren’t home.
Signs of compulsive disorders can also be signs of other health problems such as neurological or biological issues. If your dog is exhibiting what you believe are compulsive behaviors such as biting, licking, barking, scratching, or chasing, talk to your veterinarian first before starting therapies or training.
While feet biting may be one of your dogs’ little quirks, there can be underlying health issues that the biting is indicating. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for your dog’s behavior.