Lots of dog owners have observed their dog chewing on their feet and often wonder if this is something they should be concerned. Many times, dogs will gently lick their paws- but in some cases, you’ll find your dog chewing on his toes, which can be a serious concern.
Should You Worry?
The quick answer is “maybe”- this is something that you should discuss with your vet- especially if it is something that suddenly starts, lasts for extended periods, or is accompanied by bleeding, limping, odor, redness, or swelling- or other indications of infection/pain.
Sure, it is true that many dogs do chew on their feet now and then for reasons that are unclear- others will excessively chew on their feet. In these cases, their feet will begin to look pink/rusty in color. This discoloration is the result of constant contact with the porphyrin pigments found in a dog’s saliva.
Possible Causes for Licking/Chewing
There are several reasons why your dog may suddenly start licking/chewing his feet, including wounds to his toes or paw pads, a fractured toe/claw, corns, burns, or even foreign bodies such as ticks, burrs, and grass clippings caught between their toes.
In other cases, your dog may start chewing on his feet due to more severe conditions such as tumors, cancer, cysts, autoimmune diseases, and allergic skin diseases.
Causes for Chronic Licking/Chewing
The most common reason why a dog may lick/chew on his feet constantly could be an allergic skin disease. Food allergies are the typical suspect- and secondary infection from bacteria/yeast could further encourage the behavior.
Many times, dogs who engage in this behavior over extended periods of time will do so because it feels good. If this is the case, a vet may look to an underlying disease that could have initially started the behavior. For example, a dog will lick a granuloma, which is a wound that is the result of obsessive licking. They could have been drawn to start licking the area due to an itch, reaction to an allergen, or an injury.
While it’s true that many dogs will try to eat just about anything they can get to, the thing that seems to be the most tempting for them is cat food. Sure, it’s true that on the surface, cat food and dog food seems very similar. However, there are some very important differences. First of all, cats are carnivores- which means that meat must be their main food source. On the other hand, dogs are omnivores, which means their diet needs to consist of more fiber than a carnivorous diet will offer. Still, there is meat in dog food- so why do they tend to go after cat food?
Unfortunately, dogs can’t talk, so they’re not able to explain to us why they love cat food so much. Experts guess that perhaps it’s the high amount of protein it contains and the effect that has on the overall flavor. In fact, some vets suggest that you use cat treats for training dogs because it seems to encourage positive behaviors more. The dogs love them and their stomach can handle them- so it helps to encourage them to behave the way you want them to.
However, you must keep in mind that just because they like it and will eat it- they don’t need to have access to it all the time. One expert compares dogs eating cat food to humans eating cake. It’s delicious, but it’s not exactly the best thing for a diet- and if you were to eat cake all the time, you’ll end up getting sick.
Keep in mind though, even on rare occasions, cat food can cause some dogs to have an upset stomach. After all, they’re not made to consume a diet rich in protein. There are some dogs that will be perfectly fine and others will end up suffering with vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog gets into the bag of cat food, it’s not going to kill him. He may end up having vomiting and diarrhea to get it out of his system. You’ll just need to keep a close eye on him in the future and don’t purposely give your dog the cat food.
Most dog owners have experienced this at least once- you’re sitting there lounging on the couch after a long day, trying to unwind. Then, suddenly, you hear some scratching and whimpering. You worry about what is going on- and you rush to make sure your dog is okay. You find him sleeping peacefully- is it possible that he was having a dream?
However, is that really what is going on when your dog is moving around and making noises while he sleeps? After all, the dog can’t exactly wake up and tell us what he was dreaming about, right? While it’s true that we may never get a definite confirmation- there is some scientific evidence that shows that dogs really do dream.
Human & Dog Brains are Similar
While it’s clear that there are lots of differences between the brains of dogs and humans, they’re also quite alike when it comes to the way they are structured. Therefore, it is quite possible that dogs can- and do- dream.
Humans & Dogs Sleep Similarly
According to EEGs, the way humans and dogs sleep is very similar. Just like humans, dogs have a “deep sleep” stage, which is much like REM sleep in humans- with irregular breathing and rapid eye movement. This is the stage where we know that people have dreams. This is also the stage in which you are most likely to hear your dog growling or pawing at the air for what seems like no reason.
Also, in lab tests, it has been proven that rats have electrical activity in their brains similar to that of humans when they are sleeping- even though their brains are much more different than humans and dogs. The real shock would come if science were to show us that dogs don’t dream.
What Do We Know?
While it’s not been 100 percent proven, there are some things that we do know- that is, assuming that the dreams really are happening.
Small Dogs Dream More Often
While the reason is not clear, it does seem that smaller dogs dream more than larger breeds. For example, Chihuahuas and Toy Poodles may experience a new dream approximately every 10 minutes- but a Golden Retriever may only dream once every hour and a half.
It’s Nothing to be Concerned About
While it may be shocking and even scary to watch your dog acting out while he is sleeping, you should be aware that this is completely natural, healthy, and normal.
They Dream of Dog Things
As humans, there is a part of our brain known as the pons, which prevents us from acting out. When this part of the brain was deactivated by scientists in dogs, they started doing things such as chasing other animals, fighting with burglars, and even digging imaginary holes.
So, how can you know whether your dog is having a dream? It’s pretty simple- just watch him after he goes to sleep. If you start noticing strange sounds/movements about 20 minutes in, chances are that your dog is having an adventure.
Why Do Dogs Eat Their Poop?
Dogs are much like humans and have their own motives for the way they behave. Dogs eat their poop for a variety of reasons, based on: age, training, living conditions, and diet. There are basically five different reasons that your dog may be eating his poop.
He Was Born That Way
Before dogs were domesticated, they lived as scavengers- living off of what they were able to find. Dogs most often ate the waste of other animals- which means that eating poop could be just a remnant of their history.
In some cases, such as a mom with a newborn litter, eating poop is an instinct and is totally normal. A new dog mom wants to keep her den clean so she doesn’t attract predators with the scent.
If you have several dogs, it could be indicative of the pecking order. The submissive dogs will typically eat the poop of the dominant one.
He Learned To Do It
Unfortunately, dogs can quickly learn new things- and will often learn things you don’t really want them to do. For example, if you are trying to housebreak your dog and you rub his nose in his poop when he has an accident- he will learn to eat it to get rid of the evidence in the future. On the other hand, if you clean up after your dog while he’s watching, he may start “cleaning up” after himself.
He Prefers Poop to Dog Food
Your dog’s digestive tract depends on a specific mixture of enzymes to successfully break down carbs, fats, and proteins. There is also some evidence that is suggestive that a dog’s digestive tract hasn’t quite evolved enough to handle the modern diets that include more carbs and plant proteins and less animal protein. Some vets suggest that dogs will eat poop to replenish those enzymes so they can more easily digest their food.
You are a Neglectful Owner
Many times, the behavior of a dog is directly related to the behavior of his owner. Most of the time, a dog will eat his poop simply because it gets attention from his owner- just like a child misbehaves to get attention from his neglectful parents. After all, negative attention is still attention.
Finally, if your dog is bored and lonely, he may start eating his poop- or perhaps he’s not getting enough real food. If your dog’s living quarters are not cleaned regularly, he will often start eating his poop in a “housekeeping” effort.
Why Do Dogs Eat Cat Poop?
As a cat owner, you may be delighted at having a litter box that never needs to be cleaned- but finding your dog with a mouthful of cat poop is a nightmare. The condition of coprophagia, or purposefully eating fecal matter, is an issue that every dog owner will deal with at some point- especially if there are cats in the home. There could be just one- or even several- reasons for the behavior, depending upon the circumstances.
Cat Poop Contains Nutrients
One of the primary reasons that dogs eat cat poop is because it is full of undigested proteins. Both humans and dogs can use carbs and proteins as an energy source- but cats cannot use anything other than protein for energy. Therefore, their diet must contain lots of protein. In order to properly digest protein, your cat must also have 10 essential amino acids. If the cat is eating more protein than he needs, there will be leftover protein in his poop.
Eating Poop is Instinctual
Believe it or not, if you see your dog eating your cat’s poop, it could be from instinct. Dogs descended from wolves are much more likely to keep their area clean. Often, mother dogs eat the poop of their young in order to keep the den clean. He may be acting on the instinct to keep the den (your home) clean. This is reflective of his desire to keep the weaker dogs and his den mates safe.
He Has Learned to do It
Your dog, like your children, has been watching you. He may be mimicking you. This is a behavior that is known as allelomimetic behavior, which simply means that your dog is trying to be like you. He sees you as the “pack leader” and wants to help you out by lightening your load a little.
Solutions to Dog Eating Cat Poop
Pay attention to when your dog is visiting the litter box. Is he doing so after he eats or if his food bowl is empty? Have you noticed any indications that there could be an underlying issue? Is he only eating the poop when you are not home? Be sure to jot down the circumstances and the times when it happens and speak with your vet or other canine professional to find out if there could be a more serious medical or psychological issue as the root cause.
Your dog is your best friend. We know! Did you know your dog may be able to keep your doctor away better than any apple? Okay, maybe not quite as well, but it’s pretty close. There are some pretty major physiological and psychological benefits you get just by being a dog parent.
How would you react if I told you that dog owners tend to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels even though they’re more likely to be drinkers and have more of a penchant for fast food?
Pretty cool, right?
And it’s not just speculation. There’s good, hard science to back it up. Below, you can see a run-down of some of the awesome ways your pup contributes to your health.
This is a very common question among dog owners. Could it be a medical problem or a behavioral one? Why won’t they stop? Could it be harmful for them to lick their feet? The truth is that these questions really don’t have a simple answer.
Anytime you have a question about your dog where a “behavior” is involved, it’s critical that you first rule out any potential medical reasons for it. Once you have ruled out all medical concerns, then you can deal with the issue as a behavioral one- and you can use behavioral modification techniques.
Your vet is really the only one that will be able to determine exactly what is going on- and here are a few things that he is going to want to know and will be checking for upon examination.
Red, Swollen, Crusty/Flaky Feet
If your dog’s feet are crusty/flaky, swollen, and/or red- it could indicate that there is a local irritant or even an inflammation or infection due to a parasitic, bacterial, or fungal source. Even if the cause is no longer present, the constant licking/chewing can become a cycle of continued trauma to the skin- which continues the inflammation.
Could Licking be the Result of an Allergy/Infection/Something Else?
Your dog’s licking could be the result of a food or inhalant allergy, which is resulting in general itching. Foreign bodies can also be quite painful and are a very typical source of infection in the feet. In addition, arthritis and other internal conditions can result in pain in the area without there being a visible infection on the foot- and can cause your dog to lick. In addition, cysts can occur, which cause discomfort and cause your dog to constantly lick his feet.
No Signs Something is Wrong
Something else you should know is that foot licking can be a habit-formed behavior that the dog does when he is bored, stressed, or simply relaxing. There are even some dogs that will chew at their nails.
Depending upon what your vet finds when he examines your dog, treatment will be directed at the cause. If it’s an allergy, you can change your dog’s diet or give him medications. If pain is the cause, it will be directly dealt with. An abscess will most likely be surgically removed. Keep in mind that changing this behavior is going to take consistency, patience, and time. It will not happen overnight.