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When you think of an animal grooming themselves, you might picture a cat licking their coat.
Dogs are known more for being messy than trying to get clean.
Maggie would much rather roll around in dirt at the dog park than get in the bathtub, but there are a few common ways dogs try to take care of themselves.
One way is by licking their paws.
Constant paw licking is a sign that something’s going on with your dog. Check out why your dog bites or chews their nails and what you can do to help them.
They Need Grooming
It’s easy to get used to the sound of your dog’s nails clicking along your floors as they chase you to their dinner bowl or head out for a walk.
You might be tempted to forget about the sound, but it’s an indication that you dog’s nails might be getting a little long.
When you dog’s nails press into the floor, they create an uncomfortable pressure on their feet.
Given enough time, the nails can grow down and into the paw pads, leaving your dog in pain whenever they walk.
If you can easily see their nails or hear them on the floor, it’s time to get out the clippers or make a grooming appointment.
The nails may be overgrown or chipped.
It’s a problem with an easy solution, so take care of it as soon as you can.
They’re Having an Allergic Reaction
Dogs have allergic reactions to all kinds of things, depending on their DNA.
They may have seasonal allergies to things like pollen or have a new dietary allergy.
Some dogs will have a bad reaction to new kibble because of a single ingredient, but won’t show signs like an upset stomach or diarrhea.
Instead, their paws may itch, which many owners don’t think to look for.
When a dog’s allergies flare up, the first symptom is often itchy paws. The skin between each pad gets irritated and makes them lick.
The paws may appear to be dark pink or red, especially if they’re discolored from your dog’s saliva.
Solution: Talk With Your Vet
Potential canine allergies could be anything from seasonal irritants like pollen to where the protein comes from in their kibble.
It’s best to talk with your vet and discuss your dog’s routine.
They’ll help identify if your dog may have walked through grass they’re allergic to, developed a dietary allergy or is experiencing a reaction to new medication.
They’re Anxious About Something
It’s easy to think dogs have nothing to worry about because they hang out at home all day, but they can get anxiety too.
Your dog may worry more if they’re left alone frequently, spooked by loud noises, or don’t enjoy meeting new people on walks.
Separation anxiety is the biggest canine stressor and it can affect dogs of any age. You may want to set up a pet camera in your home and review how your dog acts while you’re away.
They may have anxiety if they show symptoms like:
- Howling or barking
- Potty accidents even though they’re housebroken
Chewing is another big sign of anxiety, which is what tips off most owners.
When your dog is anxious and alone in their crate, the only thing they can take it out on is their bedding or their paws.
Solution: You Have a Few Options
There are many ways to try to solve your dog’s anxiety problems.
The first is to help them not feel so lonely while you’re away. Leave them with one of your recently used shirts so they can rest surrounded by your scent.
Try leaving the TV on at a low volume, potentially on a channel they’d be interested in.
Some dogs relax easily to the sounds of human voices coming from the screen.
Others nod off to classical music playlists that float through speakers.
Another solution depends on when they chew their nails.
If you catch them doing it while you have friends or family over, they could just need quiet time alone.
Watch your dog carefully and note when they bite their nails most often to local any sources of anxiety around them at those times.
They Have an Infection
Paw infections occasionally happen, which makes the skin between the paw pads itchy.
Your dog can’t scratch between each pad with their nails, so they chew on their foot.
It may seem like they’re biting their nails when they may actually be trying to itch irritated skin.
Your dog could have either a fungal or bacterial infection.
Take a close look in bright lighting and separate the hair between your dog’s paws. You may see things like:
- Greasy discharge
- Raised skin
Infections happen whenever organisms try to make a home between the pads.
Your dog could have come in contact with them while walking through mud or swimming in dirty water.
They could also have had wet paws for an extended period of time, leaving the bacteria to grow in the damp dark places between their pads.
Solution: Schedule a Check-Up
The only way to know exactly how to fight an infection is to get your dog’s vet to check them out.
They may test a swab from the area to get a better idea of what’s going on and prescribe something like a wipe, cream or wash for your dog’s paws.
Dogs sometimes lick or chew on their paws because they’re bored or want to groom themselves.
That’s completely normal and shouldn’t raise any red flags unless they’re licking for extended periods of time, multiple times per day.
Start with the most simple answers and work your way up from there.
You could solve the problem by trimming their nails or making them less lonely during the day.
They could also need to see the vet. Always give their vet a call if you have any questions or concerns.