My dog keeps biting himself

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It is quite natural for dogs to lick, chew or bite themselves. Seldom does it indicate anything other than the fact that they are probably doing it because they are bored.

But repetitive biting or chewing on a dog’s skin is not something you should dismiss so easily. There can be a plethora of reasons why your dog keeps biting himself.

This article will help you to identify them and also suggest ways to get your dog out of this habit.


How Much Scratching is Normal for A Dog


You know that feeling when you have an itch and finally reach it? Can you describe the satisfaction you get? It is something very difficult to put into words. Similarly, often, dogs bite themselves or chew on their skin to get rid of an itch.

But how does one determine how much of that is normal, and when should you intervene? That is what we are here to help you with!


An occasional bite or scratch is nothing out of the ordinary. Dogs can scratch and bite themselves every day, for that matter, and at spaced intervals.

However, get a professional opinion if you notice any incessant itching or biting or changes in the coat around that area.

Nevertheless, any weird skin formations or conditions, biting that results in bruises and scars must be taken seriously. A veterinary practitioner is the best person to consult on constant biting that seems to stem from infections. 


Reasons for Dog Biting Its Skin 


If you are wondering “why my dog is itching all of a sudden,” we have the answer for you. Here are a few common reasons why this may be happening.


Dry Skin


Just as with humans, dry skin causes itchiness in dogs, and they scratch or chew on themselves to relieve the feeling. There are many reasons for dry skin in dogs. Primary among them is inadequate bathing. 


Though the frequency of bathing a dog differs on different breeds, one that stays indoors most of the time should be washed once every 4 weeks.

On the other hand, an active dog that regularly goes outdoors can be washed once a week or every 2 weeks. 



Regular bathing helps keep the dog’s coat clean, shiny, and well maintained, ensuring a spread of natural oils that avoid dryness and resultant itchiness.

Dry skin can also be caused by environmental factors and nutritional deficiencies. Thus, if your dog is bathed regularly but still has itchy dry skin, you should check for any environmental triggers or offer omega fatty acid-rich food to your canine companion.

 

Allergies


Allergies can be caused by multiple reasons ranging from environmental triggers like pollen or mold and food reactions. Contact dermatitis is a skin irritation that dogs may develop due to the use of certain soaps or by coming in contact with pesticides


Bug bites may also make your canine buddy’s skin itchy and dry. If you see sudden scratching or biting behavior, you must consider any new changes in the dog’s diet or products used either on your dog or around the house.

 

Fleas/ Parasites


When owners say, “my dog is constantly scratching and biting himself,” it is generally assumed that they have fleas or other parasites like mites, ticks, etc., that bite on their bodies and cause persistent itchiness.

Therefore, dogs bite themselves in an attempt to get rid of these pests causing them discomfort.


Infections


Hormonal imbalances may also cause dogs to start biting themselves all of a sudden. It may be a thyroid imbalance or a change in cortisol levels that causes bacterial infections in dogs. 

This usually presents as small, red bumps on the dog’s skin. Fungal infections may also occur that cause greasy, oily skin and waxy discharge from their ears.  


Boredom or Restlessness


More often than not, constant itchiness may be a result of loneliness or boredom. Dogs seek attention and companionship from their parents and will chew or bite themselves to gain attention.

Restlessness is also a known cause of this behavior.


Pain


Sometimes, excessive chewing or licking points toward an underlying problem that the dog may be trying to communicate with you. It can indicate that there may be something wrong with them. 

In such a situation, pay attention to the area that they seem to be licking or biting. For example, there may be a thorn lodged there. Compulsive chewing or licking is also connected to orthopedic issues like hip dysplasia or arthritis.


 

How to Stop Dogs from Biting Themselves


The best way to stop this is to identify which of the above-mentioned underlying problems are causing the scratching and chewing.

Once you do that, you may use one or more of these measures to help them get out of this condition.


Pay Close Attention


Supervise the particular area that your dog seems to constantly bite and check for any infections (both bacterial and fungal), and remove lodged foreign objects like thorns or stingers. 

If the fur seems to be peeling off, get medical attention immediately.

On inspection, if you find flea dirt (black specks/ flea droppings), nits, external parasites, etc., using a flea comb through their coat would help.


Change Diet/ Environmental Factors


If it is the addition of a new meal item or snack that seems to be causing the problem, switch to another brand. Similarly, eliminate any environmental factors like allergens, mold, or pollen that may be causing the reaction.


Bandage 


Use a bandage or wrap up the area that seems to be most affected. This will stop your dog from further alleviating the infection by constantly biting into that area.

Severe itching and excessive scratching due to food allergies and flea bites may require a vet visit.


Use A Buster Collar


A dog bites himself to relieve itchiness but may also end up scarring the area. Using a buster collar is not an easy fix as it is quite emotionally difficult for a pet parent to put the ‘cone of shame’ onto their beloved furry friend.

But, in extreme cases, this is the only thing that will stop them from biting themselves.


Bathing Regularly 


Giving your dog a regular bath often fights many conditions that lead to persistent biting like dry skin, infections, and parasitic infestations.

Using shampoos aimed at resolving particular problems are also a great way of making your dog’s coat become cleaner and healthier.


Conclusion


Dogs give us incomparable love and loyalty, and it is our duty to help them overcome any issues that may ail them. Though we agree that the constant scratching and biting may become annoying at times, it is only with patience and love that it can be cured.


The main reason for a dog constantly scratching himself is usually itchy skin, flea allergy dermatitis, food allergy, or anal gland issues.

Dogs develop healthy coats and skin with an appropriate intake of fatty acids. To calm bites from parasite fleas, making your dog wear socks and booties helps stop them from scratching.




about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.


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