It's not unusual for a dog to bite or gnaw at her forepaws from time to time, but there's a point at which it can be harmful. Whether your dog is chewing her feet or nipping at a spot on her haunches, there is an underlying reason why she's doing it. Although it might be necessary to see your veterinarian to diagnose the cause, there are home remedies that will help you deal with most causes of canine chewing.
If an allergy is the suspected cause of your dog chewing herself, there are a few different ways you can help alleviate the discomfort she is feeling and effectively stop the chewing. Many times an allergy is a reaction to the dog's diet or to something introduced otherwise. Assorted dog foods on the market are formulated for dogs with allergies, so switching your dog's food may do the trick. Other actions you can take are things like changing her bedding and laundering it with vinegar and an allergen-free detergent, bathing her with a colloidal oatmeal shampoo to soothe her skin, and supplementing her diet with Omega 3 fatty acids.
No one likes the thought of their darling pup having fleas, but those annoying parasites can be the cause of a dog chewing, licking and scratching to the point of hair loss and bleeding. You'll find plenty of flea remedies at pet supply stores and your vet's office, but there are also a good number of ways you can deal with the tiny creatures at home. Groom your dog well daily with a flea comb and dip it into soapy water between strokes through your dog's fur. Putting a few drops of eucalyptus oil in your dog's shampoo when washing her will repel fleas. Adding brewer's yeast and garlic to a dog's food has been known to discourage the little blood-suckers, too.
If your dog is bored, she might resort to chewing on her feet or other area of her body just out of needing something to do. Making sure she is mentally stimulated will keep her busy enough to stop her chewing habit. Having plenty of stimulating toys available -- specifically ones that involve chewing -- helps to discourage chewing by encouraging a positive alternate activity. Take her along with you when possible, too, either for a walk or in the car. The excitement of doing something different and seeing new sights will break up the monotony of her day and eliminate boredom.
Separation anxiety is a possible cause for self-mutilating chewing in dogs. It is a serious problem, but if you recognize it and take steps to deal with it, your dog will lead a happy life without resorting to chewing for relief of anxiety. If she is anxious over being left alone all day while you're at work, try leaving the radio or television on when you leave. You can also vary your routine, such as by leaving your house by a different exit every day; going quietly, not making a production of leaving; feeding your dog before you leave in the morning; and similar tactics. Use your imagination to keep the dog wondering, not fretting or feeling depressed. Such measures will keep her occupied as you are leaving as well as fill her tummy, which can have a relaxing effect and a positive reinforcement. Interact with her as much as possible when you are home, giving her ample exercise and consider enrolling in a training course for dogs and their owners. If it is possible, consider getting a second pet -- dog or cat -- to keep her from feeling lonely and give her an entity to interact with while you are away from home.
- "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats": Prevention Magazine
- K9 Magazine: Why do Dogs Chew on Their Feet?
- Veterinary Partner; Self Mutilation: Dogs Who Chew, Lick or Scratch Themselves to the Point of Harm; Kathy Diamond Davis
- Met Pet: Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.