Dogs use their mouths and teeth to investigate many physical problems because, besides their paws, this is their only means of relieving itching, for example. Sometimes, dogs also chew on their claws. What does this mean?
When dogs chew or bite on their claws, it usually indicates that something is bothering them about their paws. However, it could also be a sign of an anxiety disorder. If this chewing on claws becomes chronic, it could indicate a more severe problem.
Any time your dog exhibits strange behavior, you should take a closer look.
If he is chewing or biting on his claws, you should also watch for other unusual behaviors that deviate from the norm.
There are many possible causes when dogs chew on their claws. This article will discuss some of the most common reasons for this behavior.
Why Do Dogs Chew On Their Claws?
What fingers are to humans, teeth are to dogs. Since dogs don’t have hands and fingers like we do, they rely on their teeth and mouths to scratch places they can’t reach with their paws.
So a dog’s biting and chewing is equivalent to a human’s scratching. By biting and chewing, dogs are trying to explore or eliminate something on their body that makes them uncomfortable.
There are several causes for a dog to bite or chew on its claws. They may be too long, something may be caught in them, or it may be a medical condition.
This behavior can be worrisome to the dog owner if it occurs frequently or becomes very intense.
Just like when a dog compulsively licks a body part, constant chewing on claws is not something to ignore, especially if it has been going on for a while.
A dog that chews and bites its claws communicates that something in that area is causing discomfort. But what are the possible reasons for this behavior?
Why Do Dogs Bite and Chew Their Claws?
Now, look at the most common reasons for biting and chewing claws — these range from easily fixable causes like claws that are too long to medical problems.
The Claws Are Too Long
When a dog chews on its claws, it is often a natural self-care process. It then simply means that the claws need to be trimmed.
When a dog’s claws get too long, it can make his normal activities difficult. Too long claws can pressure the paw pads, causing discomfort and pain when walking.
Heavily overgrown claws can even grow into the skin, causing severe pain and infection. Long claws also increase the risk of nail injuries, which can be very painful.
Trimming the claws regularly will help prevent such complications and keep your dog comfortable.
In some cases, the fur on the paws of dogs with heavy fur growth interferes with the nails, which can be another reason for chewing and biting the claws.
Some dogs have dense fur growth on their paws and legs that can get stuck between their toes.
This is similar to the feeling of a thick thread interfering with the foot in the sock. It is not unbearable for the dog, but it is annoying. You can also fix the problem by regularly de-felting your dog.
If you observe your dog licking and chewing his claws, the first thing you should do is check if the fur on the paws and between the claws is too dense or the claws have grown too long.
Grooming the coat and trimming the claws is usually the least painful and least expensive solution.
Dogs can also get allergies. Just like in humans, they can be triggered by various environmental factors.
Allergies can cause your dog a great deal of discomfort. Skin allergies not only cause itching, swelling, redness, and, in more severe cases, pain in humans but also in dogs.
Some allergies that can occur in dogs are:
- Grass allergies: every dog owner knows that dogs love grass. They love to roll around in it, eat it, and find out what surprises might be hiding underneath. However, some dogs can be allergic to the grass they are frequently exposed to. Such dogs come home from being outside and suffer from severe itching, which they try to relieve by biting and chewing on their paws. And just when the itching subsides, they are exposed to grass again on their next trip outside. Grass allergies can be a big problem for dogs. You can usually remedy this by using a dog shampoo for sensitive skin or a special allergy shampoo from your veterinarian.
- Food allergies: food allergies in dogs often manifest themselves in the form of skin redness and itching. Most dogs suffer from itching all over their body but will also bite their paws to relieve their symptoms.
- Seasonal allergies: Just like humans, some dogs experience seasonal allergies triggered by allergens present in the environment. An example of this is the well-known hay fever. These dogs often seem healthy one day and suffer from itching the next at certain times of the year. Their paws may be incredibly itchy if the allergen is also present on the ground they walk on.
If you think your dog is suffering from allergies, be sure to talk to your veterinarian.
The vet can prescribe an antihistamine, which is used to relieve the symptoms of mild allergies. For many dogs suffering from itching due to allergies, this provides relief.
The area between a dog’s claws is the perfect breeding ground for infection. When moisture is added to the mix, such as from licking the paws and claws, it worsens things.
When dogs feel itching or discomfort in a spot, they lick and bite at the area to alleviate the problem. The more they bite and chew, the more damage they do to the affected area.
This often leads to severe skin irritation and paw sores, which can quickly become infected from contact with dirt and germs on the floor.
If the area around your dog’s claws and paws is red and irritated, you should visit your veterinarian before the situation worsens.
The vet will administer antibiotics to your dog if needed, give a spray to take home for the affected area, and perhaps apply an Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from further licking.
Another consideration is the possibility of foreign objects in the paw or around the claw.
Parts of plants or wood splinters can quickly become lodged in your dog’s paw. Foreign objects from the household can also get into these susceptible areas.
Such foreign objects are often complex for the owner to detect, and the dog will attempt to remove them by excessive biting and licking. This is often accompanied by chewing on the paws and claws, redness, swelling, and limping.
If you notice any or multiple of these symptoms in your dog, you should have him examined by your veterinarian as soon as possible.
There are many anxiety symptoms, but nail biting and chewing may indicate anxiety or boredom in your dog.
Humans often bite their nails when anxious, which is no different from an anxious dog.
Whether this is due to your absence, a change in environment, or boredom, nail biting can become an obsessive-compulsive disorder that can lead to complications down the road.
If you feel this happens when your dog is alone or has no entertainment, try offering him stimulating toys and activities.
This can include a Kong ball with treats inside, a food bowl that entices him to look in hidden compartments for the treats, or a healthy bone that he can chew on while you are away.
If your dog shows other signs of anxiety like destructive behavior, panting, urinating in the house, or frolicking, this may indicate more severe anxiety disorders.
So, if this is a chronic problem you can’t control alone, you should consult a dog trainer or your veterinarian.
The dog trainer can help you take appropriate steps to alleviate the anxiety, and the veterinarian can prescribe anti-anxiety medication if needed.
Ticks and Fleas
Fleas and ticks like to hide in dark, hard-to-see places on dogs. Ticks especially love the area between the toes on the paws and can cause significant discomfort there.
If you see your dog chewing on his claws or toes, check between the toes and on the paw pads for fleas or ticks.
If you discover ticks or other unwanted pests between the toes, be sure to visit a veterinarian to have them removed.
It can be challenging to remove ticks altogether, and often, parts of their bodies are left behind in the skin when they are removed. Your veterinarian can show you how to properly remove these pests.
Another condition that can cause itching is flea dermatitis. It is characterized by red and itchy skin from acute or previous flea infestations.
Fleas can cause an allergic reaction that leads to severe skin irritation and itching all over the body. If your dog has fleas and is chewing on his claws and paws, it could be due to this itching.
A monthly tick and flea preventative for your dog can prevent secondary diseases caused by these annoying pests.
There are many different ways to treat fleas. Topical solutions are among the most common treatments for fleas and ticks.
Dogs are not exempt from broken claws, either. These can be excruciatingly painful, and your dog may not know how to tell you what’s wrong.
Since dogs are so active, most of them will injure their claws at least once in their lifetime.
This can easily happen if they get their claws caught on objects or if some action tears the claws.
This is often very painful and may cause the dog to lick or bite the affected claw to relieve the pain.
Other symptoms of a claw injury may include:
- Excessive chewing on the claws
- Licking the paw and affected claw
- Redness around the claws
- Swelling on the paws
- Blood on the paw or the floor
- Sensitive paws
- Refusing to put weight on a paw
- Pulling the paw away when you want to examine it
- Emotional distress from the pain
If you suspect your dog has a claw injury, be sure to have him examined by your veterinarian immediately.
These injuries can quickly lead to infection and cause your dog severe pain.
If left untreated, such infections can affect your dog’s health or even be fatal in severe cases.
Mange and Other Skin Diseases
A long list of skin diseases can occur on your dog’s paws and claws, leading to chewing or biting on claws and paws.
One of the common skin diseases is mange, which often appears on the paws. It is usually manifested by hair loss on the paws and legs, chewing on the paws, and possible secondary infections on the paws from chewing.
To properly diagnose a possible skin condition, your veterinarian will take a skin sample. This involves scraping a small amount of skin cells with a small blade and examining the skin tissue under a microscope.
Once diagnosed, your dog may receive medicated baths, oral medications, or injections to address the condition.
Which treatment method the veterinarian chooses depends on the severity of the condition.
Other skin conditions that can lead to claw and paw chewing in dogs include allergic dermatitis, fungal skin infections, bacterial infections, and ringworm.
Some of these conditions may cause your dog to smell strongly, making them slightly easier to spot.
It is essential to see a veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog might suffer from mange.
One of the less common reasons for chewing on claws and paws is the presence of growths or tumors on the paws.
Occasionally, dogs may develop interdigital cysts, which are cysts between the toes, growths around the claws, or abscesses on the claws due to a previous injury.
While growths and tumors are less common, it is vital to recognize them. You should see a veterinarian immediately if you notice noticeable lumps on your dog’s paws.
Arthritis can also cause a dog to bite or chew on its claws and lick its paws excessively. This is not always as obvious as injuries or similar problems.
Chewing due to arthritis may develop over time as your dog tries to relieve the pain in his bones and joints.
Discussing claw chewing with your veterinarian is always best to rule out underlying problems and help relieve your dog’s pain.
Is It a Problem When Dogs Chew On Their Claws?
It is not harmless if your dog chews and bites on his claws frequently. While this may happen occasionally and be a part of his regular self-care, it is unhealthy when it becomes compulsive.
Most of the time, this behavior is a sign that your dog has some problem that is causing him pain or discomfort.
Therefore, you should find out what is behind it; otherwise, it can lead to more severe problems in some cases. Watch out for behavioral clues that indicate something is wrong with your dog.
How Can You Prevent Dogs from Chewing On Their Claws?
It is best to talk to your veterinarian when you notice this behavior. He can rule out medical problems for the behavior and advise you on treatment.
A good approach at home is to offer your dog a distraction, such as a food toy, a long-lasting chew, or a new favorite toy.
Ensure your dog’s paws are always clean, even if that means washing them daily. Trim the claws regularly and go to the groomer if you need help.
What Should Dog Claws Look Like?
Your dog’s claws should all be a similar color. Discolored claws are often a sign of a problem.
The claws should not be dry, cracked, or peeling. They should be no longer than the paw and should only stick out a little.
If the claws clack and scratch on the floor, they are too long. Unusually colored nails or those that look infected or injured should be examined by a veterinarian.
Summary: Why Do Dogs Chew On Their Claws?
Generally, a dog’s urge to chew and bite at their claws is a sign that something is wrong.
Whether the claws have grown too long or indicate a disease, you should not ignore the behavior.
Even though the above reasons for your dog chewing on his claws are usually the most likely, a veterinarian should investigate other reasons.
The first step to diagnosing your dog’s problem is to take a careful inventory of symptoms.
And if your dog has a problem you can’t solve, you should go directly to the vet.