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Chew Paws

When a Poodle Chews or Licks His Paws 

Overview

A Poodle puppy or older dog may have an issue in which they obsessively chew and/or lick at the paws. This can cause an array of problems such as the hair thinning down, sores appearing and skin becoming red and raw. Some Poodles may do this so much that the paws actually bleed. Once skin breaks open, infection may set in that brings about a whole new set of issues.

There are several different reasons why a Poodle may do this. This section will cover the most common causes and steps that you can take to resolve the issue.

We will also discuss treatments and at-home remedies no matter what the cause.

The most common reasons are:
  • Bug Bites
  • Surface Irritants
  • Allergies
  • Hairs
  • Injury
  • Anxiety
  • Habit/ Boredom
Let's take a look at each of these to help you pinpoint the reason for chewing and licking at the paws.

Bug Bites

Fleas will most often affect the entire body of a dog, however if a Poodle has been out in the yard, low flying insects including mosquitoes may have bitten at the paws. 

This sort of issue is usually very brief, lasting only a day or so. 

It can turn into a larger problem if the Poodle felt an intense itch that lead to chewing that broke the skin open. 

If you notice that your Poodle began paying attention to his paws right after being outside, do inspect the paws for any insect bites. 
Red bumps can be treated with a simple at home remedy of baking soda and water combined to make a paste. Apply this to ease itching and for mosquito bites, this should resolve within 24 hours.

Surface Irritants

While we'd like to think of our yard as lush, soft, green carpeting that is safe to stand and sit on, it can often contain chemicals that are irritating to a Poodle's paws. If you have a Toy Poodle, you may also notice that there is irritation to the stomach after walking over grassy areas.

If you see a consistent pattern of your Poodle chewing at his paws after being outside on the grass, this may point to the lawn containing irritants that are causing either discomfort or itchiness. There may or may not be physical signs such as redness or swelling. Chemicals for growth, weed killers and fertilizers are the most common triggers. Public parks with grassy areas may apply these things as well, so it is not just your immediate yard that you need to think about.

Another element may be pollens that have settled onto the ground and are causing contact allergies.

In the winter, ice melt chemicals are often the course of chewing at the paws. Even if owners do not use this at home, many towns have city municipal services that spread this on major roadways. Vehicles then pick this up on the tires and can bring it onto the roads in your neighborhood.

Another way that the paws can be affected by this is when snow banks start melting as spring draws near. Chemicals that were contained in piles of snow will trickle down into puddles. When the Poodle walks through this, the paws can receive a minor form of chemical burn. This will cause itching that then triggers the puppy or dog to lick at the paws or chew at them in an attempt to find relief.

Both lawn care and wintertime chemicals and pollen can be tracked into the house and they stick to the hairs of the paws, which mean that the issue will not go away once the Poodle is back inside.

Here are some tips to prevent this:

1) It is best to avoid grassy areas if you suspect that they have been treated and to avoid having your Poodle walk through puddles.

2) If you suspect that an outside surface element is causing the problem, it is best to place doggie shoes on the Poodle. This not only protects the paws from triggers that cause chewing and licking, but also safe guards the paws from hot pavement in the summer, cold icy roads in the winter and tiny pebbles that can cause irritation all year round.

3) If you opt to forgo the doggie shoes, do be sure to rinse off the paws before entering back into the house.

More ahead on treatment to ease itching…

Allergies

A Poodle may be having an allergic reaction that is manifesting via intense itching. Itching due to allergies may be present all over the body, however a Poodle may chew at the paws simply because that is a body part that is easily accessible and at least one area that can be 'scratched' via licking and biting.

Aside from the contact allergies discussed above, there is a vast array of elements that a Poodle may be allergic to. This includes inhaled seasonal elements such as pollen, mold, flea bites, cleaning solutions, carpeting fibers and certain commercial food ingredients such as artificial coloring and/or preservatives.

Pinpointing allergies can take a bit of work. It is best to make easy changes first such as washing all bedding and dog bed covers with a hypo-allergenic detergent - you will want to wash everything you can in hot water and dry on a hot setting.

Discontinue the use of any carpet fresheners that may have been being sprinkled on the rugs. Shampoo and coat products should always be gentle products and cheap generic canine shampoo and/or conditioner should never be used. Vacuum the house well with a HEPA certified vacuum machine that is capable of trapping microscopic allergens. Do not dry dust; instead use a damp cloth so that dust is not just moved around since dust mites are a common cause of allergic reactions.
Poodle with painted nails
Scarlett, 18 months old
Photo courtesy of owner: Dorothy
With food allergies, while there may only be the symptom of chewing at the paws there can also be a thinning coat, stomach distress, vomiting, diarrhea, an itchy rear end and/or even ear infections.

If a food allergy is suspected, owners can narrow down the culprit by putting the Poodle on a plain diet of white, non-seasoned, boiled chicken meat and plain white rice or sweet potato for several weeks. If symptoms subside, one new ingredient can be added every 1 to 2 weeks.

It is best to have the Poodle under the care of a veterinarian, as medications may need to be prescribed.

Hairs

One very simple and easily resolved cause of a Poodle chewing at his paws or obsessively licking at them is the matter of stray hairs. Long hairs may randomly grow out from between the paw pads and from between the toes. A Poodle may find these to be annoying and bite at them.

Keeping the paws nicely trimmed will quickly resolve the problem.

Injury

Paws pads - though thick - are made of skin and are subject to all sort of injury including tiny issues such as slivers that can be so annoying that a Poodle digs at it with his mouth.

Tiny pebbles from road surfaces can become stuck between the pads or thin wooden slivers can slip into the skin. 

Do inspect the paws and carefully remove any foreign object with a pair of tweezers if possible. In some cases of a deep vertical splinter, it may not be easy to remove. If left under the skin, it may be pushed out by the body however it may also be wedged even deeper as the Poodle chews and licks at it.

You can try to move the splinter by using a sterilized needed and tweezers, though it is recommended to have the veterinarian perform this task since it may break off and a portion of it may remain under the skin.

Any other sort of injury such as a cut should be brought to the attention of the vet since it may need to be stitched or treated with antibiotics (and dogs will lick off any topical antibiotic salves).

Anxiety

When a Poodle is feeling anxious, this may manifest in many different ways. Each dog has his or her own coping skills. A common way to react to stressors is to chew and since the paws are easily within reach, a stressed Poodle may obsessively lick and chew at his paws.

Poodles may be reacting to the stress of being home alone or to a change in the environment at home. Health issues such as infection, fleas or allergies should be ruled out first. If anxiety is indeed the suspected cause of the paw chewing, there are some things that you can do to help:

1) Comfort. Create a comfortable safe haven for your Poodle for both when at home alone to help with Separation Anxiety and also for when others are at home but the puppy or dog may feel overwhelmed.

One of the biggest mistakes is to create an area that is too small. Owners mistakenly believe that issues such as potty accidents or destructive chewing will be reduced if the Poodle is kept in a small pen. However, being confined to a tiny space can be very claustrophobic to a dog and cause him to become very stressed.

The area should be large enough for the Poodle to have a good sized play area with all of his favorite toys, a bed to rest and sleep, an area for food and water and away from all of that, a spot for pee pads. Being able to walk from one spot to the next and have room to stretch muscles is vital to combating the confinement and isolation that will be felt in a small crate.
Be sure that your Poodle has plenty of toys and for those that struggle with being alone, a SnugglePet may be just the trick to ease loneliness. See the Poodle Specialty Shoppe for this and other recommended toys under 'Toys - Separation Anxiety' 
2) Help a dog cope with changes in the home. If there has been an addition to the family (human or pet) or a sudden increase in noise levels and/or foot traffic, a Poodle may not react well. Offering a good place to retreat as described avoid can help. 

Some dogs do not react well to moving to a new house or even a change in the layout of a home (particularly true for older, senior dogs that depend on knowing where things are). 

Therefore, if you have recently moved or altered the furniture in the house and your Poodle has suddenly begun to chew at his paws - this would be due to either an allergen in the new environment or the effects of stress that the changes have brought about.
3) Keep your Poodle active. Having an increase of exercise helps just about any Poodle that is suffering from anxiety to the point of chewing at his paws. Two good bouts of exercise per day via walks or by playing in the yard can go a long way in offering a method to vent frustration and to release pent up energy.

Some owners find this hard to do on days that have bad weather (snow, rain, cold, etc.) however if both owner and Poodle are dressed appropriately, this can allow you both head outside for a good 20 to 30 minutes. Choose quality sweaters, vests, rain gear and even parkas for the winter so that weather does not keep a Poodle housebound and vulnerable to the effects that can bring about.

Playing with your puppy or dog, having interaction each day for more than just grooming and bathroom trips and taking some time to engage your Poodle can help de-stress a dog that got wound up from being home alone.

Habit/Boredom

A puppy or dog may chew at his paw simply because it is there. Then, within a short amount of time, it has become a habit. It can become so severe that it may be categorized as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

One of the most common reasons why a Poodle licks at his paws as if they are frozen yogurt snacks or chews at them as if they are tasty treats if due to the easily resolved issue of boredom that turns into habit.

Here are some tips:

1) Never make the mistake of thinking that placing some toys on the floor is all that a dog needs to keep himself busy. Many Poodles need incentive to play with a toy and some even need to be taught how to play with certain toys.

2) Invest in some good, quality toys that will hold up to chewing and offer incentive such as those that hold treats and those that react to a dog's chewing such as making noise.

3) Keep two different toy bins; keeping one accessible and one hidden away. Aside from a possible favorite toy that should always be available, you can switch out the bins on a regular a basis so that your Poodle always has something 'new'.

4) When introducing new toys, show your Poodle what the toy does and encourage play. Give praise when he does take an interest. Pay attention to the types of toys that are being ignored and those that are receiving some attention so that you can build up a little stock pile of the ones that will actually be noticed.

5) While we all have busy schedules and it can be difficult to find time to break away, a Poodle really needs to have at least one good session of interactive time with his owner each day and preferably twice.

This may mean bringing your Poodle along with you to run errands or even setting an alarm to remind you to take a break from household chores or other tasks in order to spend more time engaging your puppy or dog. 

For some owners, this may mean carving out time in the morning or the evening to take the Poodle for a walk or to play a game of fetch. When a Poodle is chewing at his paws due to boredom, this is a huge cry for help that the dog really feels isolated. When all is said and done, both human and dog will be happier with a routine of quality time. 

Home Remedies for Itchy Paws and Chewing/Licking Behavior

It should first be noted that any sort of infection (bacterial, fungus, etc.) is going to need professional medical treatment. Any allergies or injuries will also need to be treated by the vet. If you see bleeding, pus, discharge or moderate to severe swelling, this is your signal to obtain professional treatment.

However, if a Poodle is chewing or licking at his paws due to basic irritation there are several things that you can do to treat this.

1) Adding chamomile tea bags to a shallow container of water and soaking the paws may offer relief.

2) For small areas of red skin, a paste of baking soda and water may ease discomfort. This is best applied when your Poodle is sleepy and ready to rest so that it does not rub off due to walking.

3) Using a deep cleaning fizz can work wonders for disinfecting the paws from fungi, bacteria and other germs. The right fizz can be very soothing.
Poodle with clothes on
18 months old Poodle, Scarlett
Photo courtesy of owner: Dorothy
4) For toy, mini and standard Poodle puppies and older dog that chew due to stress, a calming collar with lavender may help. For minis and standards, a safe all-natural supplements that support stress reduction may help take the edge off.

5) Many Poodles will chew at the paws due to the skin being dry. It begins as a small issue and snowballs into a bigger problem.

The right soothing butter or the right salve will almost instantly relief raw, chewed, itchy and even crusted paws. A quality product will treat the issue that is causing the chewing (irritated skin) and also protect the paws from becoming problematic in the first place. Look for butters that have all natural ingredients and work well for the Poodle breed.
Not sure what to use? If you would like to see recommended products, look to 'Grooming - Ear, Eye, Nose, Paw' and 'Separation Anxiety Aides' in the Poodle Specialty Shoppe.
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