Shih Tzus are a great breed, very popular due to their size and temperament. But one of the most common issues they have is the tendency to chew or lick their body parts. This can be in various areas but usually, it’s around their paws. Most owners will wonder why their shih tzus lick their paws.

Shih Tzus love to lick in order to clean themselves: the areas that they usually do this are the belly, the side of the legs, and their paws. While licking and cleaning is a normal part of a dog’s hygiene and grooming, these behaviors can sometimes be bad for them.

Do you often see your Shih Tzu chewing and licking their paws? It can be frustrating for any owner to see this. This type of behavior is common but can be self-destructive and cause trauma if not treated early. 

The licking can become more of fixation and this can lead to your Tzu biting. When they chew or bite their paws in a repetitive and obsessive manner, then it can cause issues and concerns for your Shih Tzu as this can cause torn tissues and leave painful, open wounds.

When the licking and paw chewing is already causing problematic issues and pain,  this is the time that you have to intervene. Start by identifying what makes your Shih Tzu lick and chew their paws. After that, you can look at treating and eradicating it, as well as preventing the behavior from becoming chronic and dangerous, bringing peace back to your  Shih Tzu and into their daily habits. 

WHY DO SHIH TZUS LICK AND CHEW THEIR PAWS?

Shih Tzu Time - Shih Tzu being Cuddled

You’ve probably witnessed your Shih Tzu chewing or licking their paws many times, and this is not surprising, because licking or gently biting them is a common behavior for dogs. However, if you noticed that during the same day, your Shih Tzu licks their paws and does it persistently as if he wanted to eat them, it is a sign that you need to take a closer look at your Shih Tzu. 

Continuous chewing of the paws in Shih Tzus is a sign that something is wrong. The reasons may be related to health or behavior, and it is important to seek veterinary guidance.

There are several reasons why Shih Tzus may lick or chew their paws. Some of them include the following:

Allergies

Allergies are one of the most common causes on why Shih Tzus lick or chew their paws. Allergies may be seasonal or food-related so we recommend checking the cause with your vet if you’re not sure. 

Seasonal allergies can be recognized by the fact that they manifest themselves at a certain time of the year – often in summer and autumn (sometimes also in spring) and they are the result of contact with an external allergen. Allergies in Shih Tzus occur in the form of skin irritation or inflammation. For this reason, you need to make sure to wipe your Shih Tzu’s feet whenever you come back from a walk. The cause of allergies can be, for example, salt, which in winter is used to cover the streets – if we do not wash their paws, your Shih Tzu will constantly lick it, trying to free it from itching.

Food allergies, on the other hand, are associated with food eaten by your Shih Tzu and the symptoms can persist regardless of the season.

A pathogen can also come into contact with your Shih Tzu, both through the skin and through the respiratory tract: dust, mold, and pollen are things that cause itching. Because of this, your Shih Tzu might scratch and frantically lick their paws to eliminate the sensation of itching, causing abrasions and infections.


Wound Infections

Bacteria can accumulate on even the cleanest dog. One of the spots that bacteria live in is the hair in the interdigital spaces of a Shih Tzu’s paws. Due to poor ventilation, it is a place where bacteria can grow because it’s very warm and maybe even a little moist. Unfortunately, it’s just a short way to different infections that may cause itchiness and discomfort which leads to chewing and licking.

Therefore, if the excessive licking or chewing behavior of your Shih Tzu persists, thoroughly check and see if anything is visible or if there is an unpleasant smell around their body and if so, that’s a sure sign of infection.

Parasites

The bite of a mosquito or any insects such as mites, ticks, and fleas can cause itching and discomfort, forcing your Shih Tzu to bite and chew their paws persistently. The skin is often the place where parasites can cause infections, dermatitis, and redness.

Boredom

Your Shih Tzu might be licking or chewing their paws for care and cleaning. However, if they start to do it obsessively, it could be because they are bored.

Boredom and anxiety are two things that can make your Shih Tzu grow compulsive and obsessive. A bored Shih Tzu that does not have anything to do and is often left alone without any type of exercise might get very uneasy and start chewing their paws. In other words, boredom is one of the reason why Shih Tzus lick and bite their paws.

Although it is easy for you to interfere with this behavior when you are around, boredom happens whenever your Tzu does not have enough stimuli so it is important to make sure your Shih Tzu has enough toys to entertain them when they’re left alone. 

New Places and People

We must always remember that every change such as moving homes and having a new household member in our lives also affects our Shih Tzu. If there is a new household member, this can upset your Tzu because it’s a change. As much as possible, create a positive association between the new family member and your Shih Tzu. This can be a key step for your Shih Tzu to stop being anxious and start associating the new household member with good things, such as rewards, care, and attention.

Illness and Accident

An accidental fall or an illness can affect your Shih Tzu’s health and their well-being prompting them to lick the swelling or painful area furiously and bite it. Even serious illness or a neurological pathology can negatively impact the health of your Shih Tzu prompting them to nervously nibble their paw to try to extinguish the pain.

PAW LICKING & CHEWING – FINDING THE SOURCE

Shih Tzu Time - why do shih tzus lick their paws

Although licking and chewing can be common for dogs, any obsessive behavior usually indicates a medical or behavioral problem. Sometimes, it’s just a case of distracting your Shih Tzu and engaging with them in ways like playing, walking, chasing a ball or just spending some time on your lap. It’s about making time for them and their needs, they are a family member after all. 

Deal with the real needs of your Shih Tzu and not just caresses and cuddles. A visit to the vet can help determine the cause of the paw chewing and licking in your Shih Tzu. It can be physiological or physical or emotional or even a combination of them. 

If you think that it is a behavioral problem, then you should try to check if it is a substitute activity (for example, your Shih Tzu licks and chews their paws because this helps them feel more peaceful and relaxed) or a stereotyped repeated behavior that does not seem to be caused by anything precise and does not produce any good results. The stereotyped behavior needs an intervention for it to be stopped. Otherwise,  it will become a never-ending cycle.

WHAT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO?

The first time you see your Shih Tzu licking and chewing their paws, do not quickly jump into conclusion that something is wrong with them; instead, wait a few hours. If it stopped, then it means that they have solved the problem on their own. But if it doesn’t stop and continuously happens, take them to the vet and have them examined.

The positive results will be any of the following: 

  1. Your Shih Tzu gets to have a professional diagnosis and treatment suggested by the vet which is more accurate than your own remedies given at home.
  2. Your Shih Tzu will associate the visit to their vet to their behavior. They’ll think it’s bad to lick and chew their paws persistently because instead of getting some attention from you, they will end up going to the vet which is surely not fun for them.

This will serve as a lesson to your Shih Tzu. And for sure, they will be more careful with their actions in the future and avoid doing it again because in their mind, If they lick and chew their paws, they will not like what is going to happen next.

The negative side, on the other hand is that you will have to pay for the visit. Sometimes it becomes really a drain!

CONCLUSION

Shih Tzu Time - Shih Tzu Running on Pavement

A veterinarian’s diagnosis will help prevent your Shih Tzu’s paw licking and chewing behavior. Once the vet pinpoints the source of the problem, appropriate measures can be taken to prevent this type of behavior. Your veterinarian may prescribe some ointments to be applied on their paws that usually have a bad odor or taste that will your make your Shih Tzu not want to bite that area again. If the cause is behavioral, your dog may need a professional training

You can also help by ensuring that they have enough fun activities to do, such as exercises and games. If you ever see your Shih Tzu lick or chew their paws, try to distract them, e.g. give them their favorite toy to play with. Do this whenever your Shih Tzu wants to bite or chew their paws.

If the biting and chewing is severe, your veterinarian may recommend using a restrictive collar so that your Shih Tzu would not be able to reach their paws which can cure the infection.

Regardless of the reasons for a Shih Tzu to lick or chew their paws, if you notice other symptoms, do not disregard it and consult a veterinarian and an animal behaviorist. After all, the health and well-being of our Shih Tzus are the most important thing!