My dog constantly chews and licks her paws. She has done this for several years. She also throws up at least once a week. Sometimes it’s the undigested food, other times it’s yellow color. Three times it has been blood. The vet thinks it’s food allergies, so I changed her food two weeks ago and she is still throwing up. Her WBC is always low too when we do blood work. What else could be the cause?
To help, we've put together this 3-step guide so you can "chews" wisely (and safely). And, since no two dogs use a toy the exact same way (see “Chews-onality” section below), we’ve also included a few words of caution about the different types of chews and chew toys so you can best assess which types might be best for your dog and so you can know what to look out for if any problems arise.
So long as they’re not too flimsy, rubber chew toys often represent the safest options for many dogs. The best rubber chew toys are those that are firm enough to stand up to serious chewing, yet have enough “give” so they don’t cause tooth damage. Just make sure that the size of the toy is appropriate for your dog—the better toys come with a handy “size guide” on their packaging or on their website. Giving your dog a toy that's too small could lead to choking, while too large could lead to excessive strain and damage to their jaw and chewing muscles.
Discourage chewing inappropriate items by spraying them with chewing deterrents. When you first use a deterrent, apply a small amount to a piece of tissue or cotton wool. Gently place it directly in your dog’s mouth. Allow him to taste it and then spit it out. If your dog finds the taste unpleasant, he might shake his head, drool or retch. He won’t pick up the piece of tissue or wool again. Ideally, he will have learned the connection between the taste and the odor of the deterrent, and he’ll be more likely to avoid chewing items that smell like it. Spray the deterrent on all objects that you don’t want your dog to chew. Reapply the deterrent every day for two to four weeks. Please realize, however, that successful treatment for destructive chewing will require more than just the use of deterrents. Dogs need to learn what they can chew as well as what they can’t chew.
Because chewing is good for your dog’s mental and physical health, it’s important that you provide them with plenty of safe and appropriate things to chew on. Fail to do so and they’ll come up with their own chew “toys,” which often wind up being your most expensive pair of shoes, the legs of your dining room chairs, the nearest electric cord, or even your arm! None of which are desirable, and several of which are downright unsafe!
I’ve been known to put my foot in my mouth. But dogs do it on purpose. So, why do dogs chew their feet? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Sure, there’s a simple explanation for the behavior. “A dog is essentially trying to scratch the itch,” says Christopher Pachel, DVM, owner of the Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland, Oregon. But finding the cause of foot chewing can be complicated. “It can be multiple different things,” Dr. Pachel says. “This is not one size fits all.”
So, what are some other common answers to, “Why do dogs chew their feet?” Numerous between-the-toes skin diseases can cause a dog to chew his feet, says Dr. Remillard, who founded Veterinary Nutritional Consultations Inc. in Hollister, North Carolina. In addition, injury or pain (such as from arthritis or hip dysplasia), as well as autoimmune diseases, cysts, tumors and cancer can lead to foot biting. Some dogs might munch their digits due to skin infections caused by hormonal imbalances, namely too much cortisol or too little thyroid hormone.
Dogs who chew to relieve the stress of separation anxiety usually only chew when left alone or chew most intensely when left alone. They also display other signs of separation anxiety, such as whining, barking, pacing, restlessness, urination and defecation. To learn more about separation anxiety and how to treat it, please see our article, Separation Anxiety.
Chewing is a perfectly normal behavior for dogs of all ages. Both wild and domestic dogs spend hours chewing bones. This activity keeps their jaws strong and their teeth clean. Dogs love to chew on bones, sticks and just about anything else available. They chew for fun, they chew for stimulation, and they chew to relieve anxiety. While chewing behavior is normal, dogs sometimes direct their chewing behavior toward inappropriate items. Both puppies and adult dogs should have a variety of appropriate and attractive chew toys. However, just providing the right things to chew isn’t enough to prevent inappropriate chewing. Dogs need to learn what is okay to chew and what is not. They need to be taught in a gentle, humane manner.
In addition to getting some chew toys for puppies, consider puppy-proofing your home. It will minimize the damage to your house while you’re training your puppy, and prevent them from getting hurt. Keep a close watch on your puppy or problem adult dog by using Petcube, a pet camera that will broadcast your voice from a remote location. It’s a good way to let your dog know that you’re watching, even when you’re not in the room.
Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews contain no artificial coloring and are made from carefully selected hides. These chews also include a powerful and beneficial enzyme called glucose oxidase, which helps protect your dog's teeth by breaking down the sugars that disease-causing bacteria feed on. You can buy them online or get them from your veterinarian.
Offer your dog some edible things to chew, like bully sticks, pig ears, rawhide bones, pig skin rolls or other natural chews. Dogs can sometimes choke on edible chews, especially if they bite off and swallow large hunks. If your dog is inclined to do this, make sure he’s separated from other dogs when he chews so he can relax. (If he has to chew in the presence of other dogs, he might feel that he has to compete with them and try to quickly gulp down edible items.) Also be sure to keep an eye on your dog whenever he’s working on an edible chew so that you can intervene if he starts to choke.
Some dogs lick, suck and chew at fabrics. Some experts believe that this behavior results from having been weaned too early (before seven or eight weeks of age). If a dog’s fabric-sucking behavior occurs for lengthy periods of time and it’s difficult to distract him when he attempts to engage in it, it’s possible that the behavior has become compulsive. If you think this might be the case with your dog, please see our article, Finding Professional Behavior Help, for information about finding a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) with specialized training and experience in treating compulsive behavior.