It's not uncommon to see your dog chew on his leg or paw—after all, even dogs get occasional itches that need scratching. But if your dog has become an obsessive chewer of his leg or paw, there may be a serious problem underlying his behavior, and an examination by his veterinarian could be necessary.
How to tell if your dog is a chronic chewer
The most obvious way to determine if your dog has become a chronic chewer is to watch him. If you notice that he is spending an abnormally high amount of time performing this behavior, take a closer look at the area that he's chewing. If the leg or paw has become sore, raw, inflamed, or if the fur has been licked away, you should be concerned.
Medical or physical causes of this problem
Dogs that chronically bite/chew/lick their paws or legs are experiencing more than just a typical itch. It could be that your dog has developed an allergy or is suffering from an insect/bug bite or a fungal infection. Another possibility is that your dog stepped into something caustic or irritating when he was out for a walk. It could also be bacterial pyoderma, also known as impedigo, which is a bacterial skin inefection common in puppies and dogs. Whatever the cause, if the area is sore and irritated, take your dog to the vet for an examination and treatment. The treatment will depend on the diagnosed cause of the problem.
Psychological or behavioral causes
Dogs are pack animals by nature; this means that they need companionship and don't like being left alone for long periods. Often, if pets are left alone too long, they will lick and chew an area of their body until it gets raw and sore. This is most common in pets with high energy levels that are bored, or that aren't getting enough exercise or attention. If this is your situation, perhaps you could ask a friend to walk or play with your dog in the middle of the day.
Hiring a dog walker is also a great idea—and you can also check to see if there's a doggie daycare in your area. Be sure to provide your dog with stimulating toys that will help keep him occupied when you're not around to play with him. Another tip that could work for your dog is to keep the television or the radio on. Sometimes this provides some distraction and "companionship" for your dog when you're away from home.
As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.
When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.
Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food
If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.
As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.
However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.
Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.
It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.
Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.
While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!
Whether you choose dry food, soft food or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.