No matter how adorable and endearing our pets are, they can have strange habits that leave us feeling a little bit puzzled from time to time. Dogs in particular have many peculiar quirks. You may have noticed your dog biting himself or constantly licking random parts of his body; it seems as though our furry friends love to nibble at their paws, arms, and tails. There are a few explanations for this. If dogs do this to themselves only once in a while, it could just be part of their regular cleaning routine, and therefore, no cause for concern. However, if your dog is constantly gnawing at himself and by doing so, causing problems to his skin and fur, then you may need to find out if there is a more serious problem at hand.
So why do dogs bite themselves? There are several explanations for this. For example, the biting could be caused by something simple and easy to solve, such as boredom. Alternatively, it could hint at a graver issue such as an infection or disease. Whatever the reason, there are many ways to help your dog stop their biting habit. The first thing to do is to find out why your pup is chewing on parts of his body. Once you understand why, then you can look for solutions in order to resolve the problem.
Fleas, Ticks or Mites
A scenario that all pet owners want to avoid, is finding little parasites such as fleas and mites, burrowing themselves into their beloved animal’s fur and skin. These nasty little pests can cause a lot of distress, and they are prone to living on cats and dogs. To avoid your furry friend experiencing a lot of discomfort, it’s important to figure out fairly quickly if your dog is biting himself due to termites. It can often be hard to diagnose your dog with having a flea or mite infestation as they aren’t always visible to the human eye. Luckily, there are a few things to look out for if you believe your dog has pesky little bugs living in his fur. Firstly, he will bite infested areas more frequently. Your pup may do this so much that the affected skin begins to go red or worse, get infected. Secondly, if your dog has something more severe causing him to gnaw parts of his body, like a tick, you’ll likely spot this extremely small, spider-like insect on his skin. You’ll be able to detect a tick by feeling a bump on your dog’s skin where the tick has attached itself.
If you find a tick on your dog, then you should remove the bug by using a pair of tweezers to twist it out of your pooch’s body. Never squeeze a tick, as this could cause blood to expel into your dog’s bloodstream and runs the risk of a serious infection occurring. Fleas and mites are easier to deal with, as there are many shampoos and tablets available that can get rid of them. Depending on the severity of your dog’s flea infestation, you may need a few treatments of either shampoo or tablets, or a combined treatment that involves both. Make sure that after you treat your dog, you clean any bedding he has used to avoid re-infestation.
So, how can you prevent your dog from getting infested with nasty little bugs in the first place? The most obvious way is to avoid woodland areas that have long grass as these are a haven for insects such as ticks. To prevent fleas and mites crawling on your pup, you can purchase flea collars that repel bugs from jumping on your dog’s fur. Another preventative measure is doing regular flea treatments for your dog, to ensure that any pesky creatures that have set up home in your hound’s coat, can be swiftly removed before causing him a lot of irritation. With all of these measures in place, your dog won’t bite at his skin anymore due to having creepy-crawlers living there!
Dry and Itchy Skin
Although you may not believe it, dogs suffer from dry skin just like us! Dry skin is an ailment that affects most people in their lifetime, and surprisingly it is a condition that a lot of animals can suffer from too. Dry skin can have an irritating effect on canines and if left untreated, it can become incredibly itchy, and lead to worse conditions such as dermatitis. Skin conditions like this will cause dogs to bite themselves so that they can relieve the uncomfortable and itchy sensation they’re experiencing. The best way to check if your dog is biting due to dry and itchy skin is to inspect the areas that he is chewing on the most. Is the skin in the bitten area cracked or is there any dandruff? If the answer to this question is yes, then your dog is probably trying to scratch an itch caused by dry skin.
There are some preventative measures you can take to avoid your dog’s skin getting coarse. Factors like cold weather and high winds can cause dry skin in hounds, as can diet. If dogs are not getting enough fat in their diet, this can lead them to have coarse skin. The best way to solve this problem is to ensure your dog is eating protein-rich dog food, filled with omega-3s, as this will nourish his skin and coat. If you notice that your dog’s biting increases during the cold winter months, then you might want to invest in a protective dog coat to shield your furry friend’s skin when out on walks. Alternatively, there are a variety of tablets for dogs that are specifically formulated to target dry skin. There is also the option of using moisturising creams and balms, which can be directly applied to the dry parts of your dog’s skin. If dry skin the reason for your dog’s biting, don’t worry! There are many easy ways to resolve this issue.
As we’ve seen above, dogs are not so different from humans in terms of suffering from dry skin conditions, and the same can be said for skin allergies. Just as a human’s skin can react to certain soaps, perfumes, and natural allergens like the grass and the sun, so can a dog’s. Your dog may be biting at his paws or legs because he is suffering from an allergic reaction, that will cause his skin to itch intensely. The places that are most frequently irritated in this way are the feet, groin, and armpits.
What can you do then, if you see your dog biting himself in these areas? It is worth checking if you are using any strong detergents on blankets or bedding that your dog may be sleeping on. Another thing you can do when washing your dog, is make sure to use a hypoallergenic soap that’s formulated specifically for canines. These special soaps aren’t irritating or harmful to a pup’s skin. If you believe that your dog’s irritation comes from naturally derived allergens such as grass, it could be worth keeping him away from areas filled with trees and plants for a few days to see if the symptoms improve. Instead, take your furry friend on walks in residential areas, as these aren’t usually as green as the rural countryside, which is full of potential itch-causing allergens.
Boredom or Anxiety
Do you ever find yourself fidgeting when you feel bored? Perhaps you pick at your fingernails, twirl your hair, or scratch non-existent itches. As humans, we have little habits that we do to distract ourselves when experiencing boredom, and it is the same for animals. It is noticeable in household pets such as dogs, who can experience more periods of dullness than other animals. Have you ever noticed that your dog often bites himself when he hasn’t been mentally or physically stimulated much during the day? This could be because your pooch is looking for a way to amuse himself and pass the time. If you feel as though your dog is behaving in this way due to a lack of entertainment, you should provide him with activities that will stop him from nibbling at his skin. Buy an interactive toy, such as a jumping ball, or an electronic dog bone. Alternatively, take your dog on a long walk that will be both enjoyable and tiring. When your pup returns home, he’ll want to take a long nap instead of bite at his paws!
Anxiety is also a cause of dogs biting themselves. Just like people nibble at their fingernails during periods of extreme stress, so do dogs. Perhaps you’ve left your dog to go to work, and you return home to find he has pierced skin caused by stress biting. If you believe that your dog’s biting is anxiety-induced, then there are things that you can do to treat this issue. You can leave a clothing item near your dog that smells like you when you go out. If you are leaving the house for a short time only, try to avoid making a big issue of departing, and also returning home. The more these activities can be seen as regular and undramatic for your dog, the less stressful they’ll be when they happen. It’s also a good idea to start using a simple word when you leave the house, that indicates to your dog that you’ll be back soon. Just like “walkies!” tells your dog it is time for a walk, you can introduce a code word that reassures your pooch that you’re going out for a little while, and will be coming home as soon as possible. This will result in a happier dog who doesn’t resort to biting himself due to stress!
Serious Medical Issues
As with any abnormal habit, a dog biting himself can illustrate medical conditions. Firstly, a dog chewing on his limbs could hint at a skin infection. Perhaps your canine friend cut himself on an object outside, and the wound has become irritated. If you’re aware that your dog has recently injured himself, it is important to keep an eye on the situation. If your dog begins to bite himself often in the injured area, it could mean the wound is infected and needs to be seen by a vet.
Constant biting at a certain part of a dog’s body could also indicate more serious medical conditions, like arthritis. In this case, your dog would bite at any painful areas that are being affected by this disease. Another condition that causes dogs to bite themselves a lot, is a thyroid hormone imbalance. If you notice your dog is doing this, and also has thinning fur in the area where he is biting, it could signify a low thyroid hormone.
In both of these cases, there is not a lot that a pet owner can do at home to treat these conditions. You should get your dog seen by a vet as soon as possible so that they can confirm whether the biting is a result of a more serious medical issue or not.
How to Stop Your Dog Biting Himself
There are many reasons why dogs bite themselves, including psychological, social, and medical problems. It’s important to remember that to successfully stop your dog from biting himself, you must first find the cause of the problem before trying to find a solution. For example, you may believe that your dog is chewing on his legs or paws due to fleas. However, if the biting persists after mite treatment then it’s worth checking that there aren’t other reasons behind this habit. Hopefully, with some treatment, training, or a visit to the vet, your dog will stop this nasty biting habit, and can return to simply nibbling at toys and dog bones!