Maybe you're never tempted to gnaw on your foot, but your pooch may have a good excuse for biting the top of her paw. Talk to your vet to determine whether it's allergies, an infection, boredom or something else entirely, since the cause determines how best to stop the behavior.
Check Out the Paw
If your doggy keeps biting the same paw, it's likely there's a problem specific to it. This may mean an infection somewhere, including the nail bed, or it might indicate an injury, a tick, or some sort of dermatological problem. Take a good look at the paw in question and check for discoloration, bleeding or discharge, swelling, small black specks, a stuck foreign object, a rash or dry patch and other abnormalities. Tend to any problem you encounter -- be it with a tick removal tool, a topical anti-itch application or antibiotic, or another remedy recommended by your vet.
Paw biting is most often an itch-related problem in your pooch, and this in turn often means allergies. It may be a food allergy, an environmental allergy or contact dermatitis. Rash, hives, redness, swelling, dryness and other skin symptoms are telling clues. Talk to your vet about the possibility. If he suspects food allergies, he'll design an exclusion diet for your doggy to figure out the problematic ingredient. He may run blood or skin tests to check for allergies too. Once it's identified, avoid the allergen to get your dog to stop itching and biting her paw. Your vet may also suggest using topical products to relieve itchiness, dryness and other irritation associated with allergic skin conditions. If no allergens are identified, ask your vet to check hormone levels.
If your doggy's paw biting is an obsessive or compulsive behavior, it may very well result from too little stimulation. It's likely to be this sort of behavior if there's no identifiable cause and if she's difficult or impossible to interrupt. While there are other possible causes -- making it advisable to consult your vet -- boredom and anxiety often trigger this sort of behavior. Get your pooch some new puzzle toys, spend more interactive time with her, take her for more walks and excursions to the dog park, and consider enrolling her in a doggy daycare or getting an additional pet if nobody's at home much of the time.
Taste deterrents may help stop your pooch from biting her paw. It's a temporary solution to use until you get to the bottom of what's going on, and it's especially useful if your pet is self-inflicting injuries with her biting. Numerous products are available with a bitter or spicy taste that most four-legged friends don't enjoy. Check the label before purchase to confirm a particular product is safe for use directly on your doggy. Also check with your vet first, as many of these products can sting when used on broken skin or increase irritation in the area. Remove your dog's water bowl for about an hour after application to ensure she can't just drink away the unpleasant taste and carry merrily on with her paw biting.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.