7 Reasons Why My Dog is Biting his Paws

Paw biting is probably one of the most common symptoms we see among our clients at My Pet Nutritionist. It’s daunting when your dog just wont stop! The noise of paw chewing, every owner of a paw biter knows… it can be draining! Our handy guide may help you understand why your dog is biting his paws, and what you could do to help alleviate it.

Exposure to chemicals

Exposure to chemicals in various aspects of life, can have a massive effect on your dog’s health – especially gut health, which can lead to symptoms such as itchy paws and undercarriage. Let’s discuss the effects flea and worm treatments, household cleaners, and environmental products can have on itchy paws!

Flea and Worm Treatments

Flea and worm treatments may seem rather an odd cause of paw biting, as flea and worm treatments are administered either orally, or on the skin. These products are so very damaging to the body, both internally, and externally. Not only can they cause chemical burns, and sore skin, as well as neurological problems, they can also damage the gut. A damaged gut can cause a histamine response in the body, which brings with it, symptoms such as excessive itching and licking, including paw biting.

We would recommend switching to natural alternatives for flea and worm prevention.

Household Cleaning Products

It’s important to be mindful of the ingredients used in household cleaning and laundry products. An enormous amount of the ingredients in many laundry products and cleaning products are skin irritants. Try to use as natural products as possible – some natural pet companies stock natural laundry and cleaning products, probiotic laundry and cleaning products, or you can make your own!

But my cleaning product states ‘pet friendly’?! Unfortunately, this simply means that it wont kill your pet. Great, but skin irritations are still very prevalent! Dogs make nearly constant contact between their feet, and the floor or soft furnishings, meaning they are more at risk of contact allergies on the feet, causing biting.

Environmental Products

Navigating around environmental toxins can be extremely tricky. The vast majority of councils in the UK tend to spray weed killer on the streets. These are just one of the environmental products which can contribute to paw biting. Others include patio cleaners, professional astroturf cleaners, grit/antifreeze, and many others.

Washing paws after walks is a great idea to help reduce the risk of these toxins affecting the comfort of the dog’s paws.


Yeast tends to have a very familiar symptom, along with the paw biting; a rusty colour on and around the toes. Yeast has two pathways – from the gut, and purely on the skin. Most yeast we see is down to an unhealthy gut, which allows for the overgrowth of candida, however, less commonly dogs may get Malassezia; which is a yeast infection on the skin.


Candida is a fungus which occurs naturally on the skin, and in the gut. When it is present in the correct amount, it’s a healthy part of a well-functioning microbiome. The issue comes when candida out competes good bacteria – this leads to a yeast infection. This predominantly occurs in the small intestine, and is aptly named Small Intestine Fungal Infection (SIFO).

Overgrowths of candida can be down to exposure to the aforementioned toxins, poor gut health (and therefore a weakened immune system), allergies and intolerances, and antibiotics. As antibiotics not only attack bad bacteria, they also attack the good bacteria, which allows for the growth of fungi such as candida.

As yeast thrives on sugar, its important to cut out any high carb, starchy, and sugary foods. Dry food can contain anywhere between 30 and 70% carbohydrates! This means that feeding a balanced fresh food would be the best option. It is also very important to keep on top of, or get to the bottom of allergies and intolerances; running an elimination diet, and healing the gut with mucilage herbs and probiotics is usually the winning combo when getting to the bottom of intolerances.

Vaccines, some types of fish such as tuna, and even tap water are contaminated with heavy metals – yeast also thrives on heavy metal exposure, so it’s also important to not use such products, and use filtered water. Working on gut health is very important – you may find our Gut Guardian supplement useful!

Findings Here
Findings Here

Malassezia Folliculitis

Affecting only the skin, Malassezia Folliculitis is the skin-specific species of yeast fungus. Often called Fungal Acne, Malassezia causes acne-like pimples on the skin due to the yeast infecting hair follicles. Malassezia can be harder to treat than candida, but thankfully, rarely affects the paws.

Findings Here
Findings Here
You can fund out more about yeast in our blog here!

Allergies and Intolerances

Unbeknownst to many, allergies and intolerances are very different from one another, and intolerances are often mistaken for allergies. Intolerances are the digestive inability to break down certain foods, specifically proteins. The inability to digest proteins properly, causes intolerances to develop. They can be worked on and improved through gut-work using mucilage herbs, and probiotics such as our Gut Guardian supplement. Allergies are much more severe, and are down to immune modulation – true allergies cannot really be improved. In some cases, allergies are life threatening. An interesting fact, is that in food reactivity cases, on average 10% are true allergies, whereas 90% are intolerances.


Food allergies and intolerances can affect paw biting, due to poor gut integrity which causes a histamine response by the body. When the body reacts to a sudden influx of histamine, one of the most common symptoms is itching. Irritation can, and often does happen all over the body. Red sores, constant scratching, restlessness, and frustrated panting can all show your dog is itchy. Paw biting is one of these common symptoms too – this shows the dog’s paws are itching, as part of the immune response to foreign particles in the bloodstream.


Contact allergies are true allergies, as opposed to intolerances. While contact allergies aren’t life threatening, they can cause a very low quality of life. Many of our customers struggle to battle with seasonal allergies in their dogs – these are contact allergies to something in the environment, usually pollens and grasses. It is important to work on gut health, because 70-80% of the immune system is located in the gut; all allergies are related to poor immune health!

Rinsing your dogs paws after being in the garden, or going on walks may help keep your dog’s paw biting at bay, by removing particles of the allergen. Using Epsom salts and baking soda in the rinse may also help to soothe the area, draw toxins out, and remineralise the paws.

Stress and Anxiety

Biting at paws can be a major sign of stress and anxiety. Whether it’s a newly rescued dog, something in the house worrying the dog, another pet or human in the house worrying the dog, separation anxiety, or any other form of stress and anxiety, paw biting can be one of the few outward signs, if other behavioural signals are not as easy to spot.

Paw biting may seem strange with regards to anxiety and stress, however it can bring comfort to the dog. Chewing releases serotonin – the happy hormone. Serotonin release is so important for calmness in dogs – when their body is flushed with serotonin, they feel calmer, happier, and more level headed. If they’re not given plenty of outlets to chew on – such as long lasting treats and chews, they tend to chew their paws. Sometimes, even when offered a selection of toys and chews, they will chew their feet, purely because they’re there, ready to provide the instant serotonin release.

Findings Here

Anal Glands

When your dog’s anal glands are full, many people notice their dogs begin to ‘scoot’ on their bottoms. Another common sign that the anal glands need attention, is paw biting, typically on the back legs. This is largely down to discomfort, which the dog tries to alleviate by chewing their back paws.

Paw chewing due to full anal glands can usually be alleviated by expressing the anal glands. It’s best to try to get this done naturally, through dietary supplementation. Some cases require manual expression, however in the UK, this is considered a job for vet or vet nurse as it is classed as an internal procedure. The more regularly the anal glands are manually expressed, the weaker the anal muscles get, the more often the glands fill; much like a vicious circle.

High fibre supplements can help naturally express anal glands, such as psyllium husks. Feeding a fresh diet with either raw bone, and/or lightly cooked, high fibre, vegetables included can also help keep the anal glands clear.

Read more about keeping anal glands healthy here!

Musculoskeletal Pain

Similarly to the discomfort from full anal glands, paw biting can be due to pain somewhere in the body, especially in the spine, hips, elbows, hocks and toes. Paw chewing is also common in dogs with arthritis. Like in stressed and anxious dogs, the reason a dog may chew his or her paw when in pain, it for the serotonin release. They chew for comfort.

Grass seeds can be stuck inside the toes/pads, and can travel further inside the foot, due to the barbed hook they possess. These can cause immense pain, and even infection. If your dog has been walked through grassy areas, particularly during spring and summer months, and is seen to be excessively biting any of his or her paws, which is out of character for that dog, it’s important you seek veterinary attention as soon as possible, so they can scan for a grass seed, and hopefully remove it before it migrates too far into the body.

Findings Here

Disease in the Body

Paw biting may also be caused by variety of secondary infections, inflammation and discomfort from different disease in the body. The above points (1-6) would be ruled out first before worrying that your dog has an underlying disease but among other symptoms, paw biting may accompany disease. In these cases, it’s important to have your vet rule out underlying illnesses as a possible cause to your dog’s paw biting.

Findings Here

Does one of these potential reasons feel familiar to you? If you need extra support in getting to the bottom of your dog’s paw biting, or any other health complaints, you may wish to book in with one of our team for a consultation. At My Pet Nutritionist, we understand every case of paw biting is very much an individual to that dog, so upon booking a consultation, we deal with every case as a tailored, unique plan.

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