Unfortunately for your itchy schnauzer, her big, sharp chompers are far more suited to making quick work of boney meals than to scratching her delicate doggy feet. Your furry friend's foot-chewing can lead to injury and infection, so digging up the problem and ending the itch is your prime directive.
It might seem counterintuitive, but doggy foot chewing is usually the equivalent of hay fever in humans. That's right -- what gives us the sneezes gives your furbaby a bad case of itchy peds. Atopy, or inhalant dermatitis, is the official name for this unfortunate condition. It is usually seasonal, and treatment includes keeping your pup away from the pollen, grass, or other trigger for the duration. Yup, this can be exactly as difficult as it sounds for a dog who loves the great outdoors, and your veterinarian might prescribe some allergy meds for your pooch if her case is severe and the allergens unavoidable.
You'll rarely see the little blood suckers on your dog's feet, but fleas might be the culprit in your schnauzer's new-found taste for her own paws. A dog with a flea allergy can develop itching all over her body, not just at bite sites, and contact with even a single flea (or its droppings) can be enough to send her into a fit of itch. Consistent flea treatment and careful grooming is the answer to relieving your pet's flea-allergy-related discomfort.
Is a Mani-Pedi the Cure?
Nail and toe problems cause some itch-related foot chewing. Infection of the nail beds or long, untrimmed nails might be driving your pet to take matters into her own paws. A schnauzer's wiry fur also can trap debris between her toes, creating an irritating itch that is irresistible for the chewing. Diligent grooming, including nail and foot care, and washing the feet with a pine-tar-based dog shampoo (and rinsing them extra well) are recommended by schnauzer enthusiasts.
Schnauzers also might fall victim to a breed-specific irritation called schnauzer comedown syndrome. This acne-like condition can cause itchy, infected bumps in your pup's skin, and allergies make it significantly worse. Schnauzer experts recommend treating any bumps to a thorough washing with pine-tar-based shampoo or a benzoyl peroxide product, and daily dabbing with an astringent (such as witch hazel).
Can't Stop Munching!
Though the itch may end, your pet's paw-chewing can become a habit. It also can lead to severe wounds and secondary infections, so it is your job to put a stop to the munching. Distraction can be the key to modifying this unsightly and dangerous behavior. Watch your pup for times of high paw-chewing (as with human nail-biting, these can be related to boredom), and treat her to a special walk, a vigorous game of fetch, or a 15-minute training session. Taking her mind off her feet -- and filling her time with healthy exercise -- will help break the habit.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.