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Cricket’s Obsession with her Feet

 

Cricket is a clean freak, but only in one particular way. She could be covered in eye goop and mud and poop and feel light and easy, but if her feet are anything less than pristine she has to gnaw them clean. She can sit on her dog bed, or on the couch, or on my bed (damn it), chewing at her paws for what seems like hours. I worry that she will chew off one of her toes, but it hasn’t happened yet, thank God.

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“I have to chew my feet, because you won’t let me chew on your feet, Mommy.”

It’s possible that she is less a clean freak than a dirt aficionado, removing and examining the precious layers of dirt out of a gourmand’s obsession with each new flavor, or a scientist’s passion for discovery, or she could have obsessive compulsive disorder. Whatever her purpose, she takes her work very seriously, until her leg is almost shaking with the effort of holding it up to her teeth for inspection.

I have never seen Butterfly do this. She doesn’t chew her feet. She didn’t even try to chew on her surgical stitches, and she only scratches her ears on the floor because they itch, and not out of some desperate need to see what was hiding in there. Butterfly even tolerates it when I hold her paws in order to wash them in the sink. Cricket would bite my hand off if I tried to touch her toes. They are sacred.

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Butterfly even lets me clean her feet!

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Cricket, not so much.

I met a small white-haired dog recently who chews his paw (only one paw) so much that it has turned rust-colored from all of that saliva. So far, Cricket’s paws have remained white.

I decided to research the issue, in case I was neglecting an important health issue, and one site said that the chewing can be a sign of an unhealed puncture wound, or foreign bodies lodged between the toes, like burrs or grass, or it could be a sign of an allergic skin disease, or a tumor, or an autoimmune disease of the nail beds or paw pads. It could be itchy dry skin because of a diet low in fatty acids, or she could be anxious or depressed from separation anxiety or lack of exercise, she could have arthritis, or there could be a parasite in her feet and this is her brilliant idea for how to get rid of it.

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“Tumor?!”

I’m pretty sure the vet would have mentioned a tumor over the years, if Cricket had had one, and she would have screamed to high heaven if she’d punctured a body part. The foreign bodies lodged between her toes sound like a real option, though. Sometimes when her sister, Butterfly, is limping, it turns out that she has a piece of kibble between her paw pads and didn’t realize it, this would never happen to Cricket. Cricket would always notice. It’s possible that Cricket keeps a collection of the things she’s found between her toes, but I’m grateful that she hasn’t shared it with me.

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Moose is clearly helping Cricket guard her collection, safely hidden under the couch.

Finally, on the fourth or fifth web page of my research extravaganza, the experts said that moderate paw chewing is actually normal, so unless there are other signs of trouble, like hot spots, loss of fur, or bleeding, it’s probably nothing to worry about.

I wish they’d told me that from the beginning. But at least now I know about all of the horrible things that could happen to Cricket’s and Butterfly’s paws. I’m sure that will help me sleep better tonight.

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I will never sleep as well as Butterfly.

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

74 responses »

  1. Absolutely normal. If she starts to pull out fur or you see bald spots, then maybe take her to the vet, but otherwise don’t worry Mom.

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  2. Cricket is more than welcome to come to my house and watch my cat, Parker, clean all her, um, parts. Feet would be the last thing you worry about. 😀 Why does Google do that to us? Put all the horrid, scary stuff OUT THERE?

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  3. ramblingsofaperforatedmind

    Jinxx gnaws on her paw, but it’s usually one nail she’s after….

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  4. Our big Riley licks and cleans his paws all the time. He is obsessed with his delicate (?) paws and refuses to walk in the “nasty” dog lot or in the morning dew. It would take an army to cut his nails.

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  5. So cute.
    My Scout has a nightly ritual of chewing on his feet…at bedtime…on the bed. Ah, well. 🙂

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  6. I lick my back paws a lot, too. I do it because my mentor Quicksilver, an esteemed Meowie, taught me that paw hygiene is essential. Woofs and Wags, Cosmo

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  7. Cricket doesn’t do things halfway, does she

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  8. My dog, Archie is a dedicated chewer and has the rust colour fur to prove it. His obsession comes from his allergies, but he assures me his behaviour is pawfectly normal. (Sorry!)

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  9. Do you remember Paw Licker Annie?
    I rest my case.

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  10. Cricket is so adorable. Loved the pics!

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  11. Such a cutie! Dogs are very aware on concerned with their feet. They realize if something should go wrong there they wills be in a real jam. Tide spends a lot of time licking and tending his feet. My friends dig was chewing his and the vet told her it is a sign if anxiety. I guess it friends on whether they are harming their feet in the process of tending them. Sending hugs to this little ones. 🙂

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  12. Nope, some dogs are like that. Kaci and Kali got groomed last Tuesday. When it came to toenails, Kali freaked. She’s normally good but don’t mess with the feet. She struggled mightily, even when her favorite peep tried to restrain her. Don’t mess with Kali’s feet or you’ll have hell to pay from a heavyweight dog (11 pounds of fight).

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  13. Oh, thank you SO much for finding out about the normalcy of moderate paw-chewing! Now, if only we could define “moderate”! I’m always after Quintana & Quetzal to stop licking their paws … sometimes I can get Quetzie to stop with a look from me, other times I have to physically remove his paw from his mouth he’s so intent on what he’s doing. Quinnie is unfailingly oblivious to my voice – but then again, I know she’s got OCD tendencies about many things, added to her ADHD – I call her my alphabet girl! But at least now I will give them both a few more seconds before I go into my familiar refrain … they will undoubtedly appreciate that, and I can relax a bit knowing this is normal!

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  14. We all chew our feet from time to time – usually just cleaning the bits and bobs out! Not to worry! Pip

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  15. Maggie licks her feet raw sometimes and we have some antibiotic cream to treat it.
    The vet said it could be anxiety or boredom, but we have to be careful it’s not a grass seed or something else, so we inspect them often, licking or not. She’s never been a dirty dog, forever grooming herself, especially when she’s throwing her coat. We find great clumps of fur everywhere. Great to know it is normal behaviour though and that Cricket’s OK.

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  16. Our chocolate lab, Emma, also enjoys gnawing on her paws. Sometimes we think she does it when she’s bored.

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  17. My dog has these weird patches of areas on her front paws (mostly) with no fur that he licks all the time and appears to be swollen. I have gone to the vet twice about it. The first one blew it off, the second one ran some tests that weren’t very helpful (although it did rule out mange, which I suspected it was not). He gave me some pills for air borne allergies, which I suspect it isn’t. Seems more like some contact thing (like to something in the grass), or maybe some autoimmune thing or I don’t know what? I’m trying to use my paramedic skills here, but it’s not working well. I can’t keep going back to a vet who is just guessing and it’s costing me a fortune that I don’t have. It is strange….

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  18. good lesson
    in feet cleanliness 🙂

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  19. hairytoegardener

    My old vet (whom I used for for over 25 years) was an old school, no-nonsense, common sense guy. He told me that sometimes you can’t figure out why an animal does what it does. (And just to make you laugh–maybe–he also refused to give a gerbil a vasectomy. He said the owner wanted her gerbil to have a good sex life, but she didn’t want any more gerbils. He thought this was funny, and I did too.)

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  20. My Gizmo obsessively chews his feet, as well as his legs (front and back), and they are orange and frequently pink from irritation. Doctor says it’s allergies and I should wash his feet frequently. If only he would let me!! He’s much like Cricket in that regard. He’s also highly OCD (to the point where he even licks the AIR just to keep that tongue busy). I need to find some way to convince him that baths (or even just foot baths) will make him feel BETTER!

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  21. Thanks for doing the research. My Maltese, Baby Dawg also chews her tootsies. Good to know it is normal.

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  22. We just looked after Spotty. She was a paw nibbler. The noise was really alarming, like she was crunching through bone – eeuw!

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  23. ! (And just to make you laugh–maybe–he also refused to give a gerbil a vasectomy.

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  24. So much like my son, who always wanted his hands clean, but as for the rest of him, oh, well.

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  25. Our dog Sandy does that too but only his hind paws, he spends ages on them each day, no problems so far, thank goodness.

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  26. Our dog was constantly licking his paws for a long stretch of time and, after some research, learned that an overload of sugar or yeast can cause a mild allergic reaction. I also read that damp paws will cause them to lick obsessively. I cut out my then-latest phase of giving him homemade sweet potato treats and dry his paws off thoroughly after being outside when it’s damp and it’s gotten much better. Not in any way suggesting these are issues with little Cricket! I agree that if there’s no other symptoms or harm being done by the chewing, he’s just fine! 🙂 (and adorable!)

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  27. We knew someone who had a kitten that was weaned too young. He sucked his paws like a small child would suck their thumb, presumably because he was no longer able to nurse. He never grew out of it though, kept that up his whole life. A couple more weeks with mom probably would have prevented that lifelong habit.

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  28. Oh my…kibble stuck between the toes? I haven’t heard of that one before but that’s one way to stash a snack for later! BOL! I tend to lick my toes if I’m running at the beach for long periods of time because the sand agitates the skin in between.

    Oh by the way, I’ve nominated Cricket and Butterfly for the One Lovely Blog Award! If you have time, check out my post today for more details! 🙂

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  29. I enjoy licking my feet but I don’t like Mom drying them or washing them. My sister Molly has that Moose and she loves him to pieces! *ear licks* Noodle

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  30. Perhaps there should be a WebMD for dogs!

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  31. Maybe she’s the member of a cult which worships feet?

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  32. Tell sweet Cricket she is not alone….Chancy loves his feet too and gives them lots of attention. Love the photo of her with the sock in her mouth she is just so cute. Hugs and nose kisses

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  33. One of our dogs also chewed his feet- I always figured he was keeping them clean. Cocker Spaniels are known for not liking to have their feet touched- after a bath or coming in from the rain just trying to towel them off was impossible- either he would nip at us or just pull away!

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  34. Our dog, Max, is an avid paw licker. Our other dog, Sadie, just growls at hers. She is a strange little thing.

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  35. My husband works at an office that has dogs. There is one dog that chews her foot. She fights with it and chews it. It is the foot that accidentally was shut in a door a long time ago.

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  36. Our Chicki also pays a lot of attention to her feet.

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  37. Athena doesn’t like her tail touched. When she won’t get up off the couch to go outside I say “ok then I’m going to touch your tail” and she gets up. lol

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  38. There is one dog that chews her foot. Our dog, Max, is an avid paw licker.

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  39. Cricket loves those nose kisses! There is one dog that chews her foot.

    Reply

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