Just like their favorite humans, dogs have itchy spells where they seem to scratch incessantly. But unlike their favorite humans, sometimes the itching can go to the extreme of biting off and chewing, or even eating, his fur. When your dog has bald spots that are the result of his fur biting, it is definitely time to worry and make an appointment with your veterinarian.
Why does my dog bite off his fur?
The most common reasons why your dog may be biting off his fur include allergies, skin disorders, infections, bites, and stress, anxiety or boredom.
The most common cause of fur biting is the itching associated with allergies. Dogs suffer from seasonal and food allergies, as well as allergic reactions triggered by any number of things such as mold or contact with soaps or other cleaning supplies. Determining what your dog is allergic to takes time and is often a matter of trial and error.
An underlying skin condition can make your dog go crazy with itching. Impetigo and ringworm are two examples. One example is seborrheic dermatitis, a disorder of the dog’s sebaceous glands that causes extreme itchiness, that results in scratching and fur biting.
Some examples of skin infections that plague dogs are yeast infections and infections that occur as a result from an injury or laceration. Left untreated such an infection can become a more widespread yeast or bacterial infection that makes the dog very uncomfortable. Impetigo is an infection that manifests on the dog’s belly as small pustules. Ringworm, another infection, is caused by fungus and shows up as circular areas of baldness.
If your dog has fleas, he will be incessantly itching and constantly scratch and bite at himself. Mosquitos, flies and bee stings are also possible culprits. The dog will focus the biting and scratching on the spot where he was bitten which then causes red lesions. These lesions become host to bacteria which further compounds the discomfort for the dog.
Stress, Anxiety and Boredom
A stressed or anxious dog is not a pretty sight. Whether from separation anxiety or the result of a change in his life, a dog can work on gnawing away at his body as an outlet for his stress. The biting may be accompanied by barking and overall destructive behaviors.
Why is my dog biting off his fur suddenly?
A normally healthy, well-adjusted dog who suddenly starts biting his fur is most likely suffering from an acute issue. Some of the most likely reasons for this sudden behavior include:
Food allergy: Even if you have not recently changed your dog’s food, allergies can arise seemingly out of the blue.
Seasonal allergy: Certain pollens may trigger allergies and result in fur biting behavior in dogs.
Insect bites: Insect bites can be agonizing for dogs and perhaps be the most likely reason your dog suddenly starts madly biting his fur.
Stress: Fur biting from stress is most likely the result of a major change in the dog’s life such as moving to a new home or the loss of a favorite person. On the other hand, some dogs are just prone to being stressed.
Why is my dog chewing his fur?
It is an alarming thing to see when your dog chews on and eats his own fur, and it is clearly not healthy for him. Causes? The number one reasons dogs chew on their fur are anxiety and boredom. After they’ve already chewed their way through a host of things in your home, the fur is the next candidate. Extremely anxious dogs will eat their way to significant fur loss. Besides losing fur, these spots develop infections that are difficult to heal.
Believe it or not, lack of exercise may be another reason your dog bites and chews his fur. Just like with us humans, exercise helps channel and direct nervous energy in healthful ways.
How to stop my dog from biting off his fur?
No doubt you want your dog to have a healthy, full coat of hair as opposed to a splotchy, half-bare one. In addition, this hair-chewing and eating behavior is just plain unhealthy as well as sorely uncomfortable! So, what can you do?
Although it can be challenging to find the exact cause, start first by looking at a potential allergy. Your veterinarian can also help determine if your dog’s behavior is due to allergy by examining him, so make an appointment as soon as possible.
Also, think about any of the following possible allergy indications:
Any diet changes?
Exposure to cleaning supplies? Mold?
Itching potentially associated with seasonal changes?
Any new medications?
To determine what the allergy is, you’ll need to slowly change just one thing at a time and then carefully watch for the results. For example, if you think food is the issue, you can introduce a new food and see if the fur biting and chewing stops or lessens. One thing you don’t want to do, however, is stop any medications prescribed by your veterinarian without their express approval.
Consider any events or changes that have occurred in your dog’s life lately. Dog fur biting behaviors caused by things such as loss of a loved one, addition of a new pet or baby, or change of home, can be helped by giving the dog more attention and exercise. Also, consider adding some chew toys to his cache of playthings.
When all other avenues have been exhausted, the unfortunate possibility exists that your dog’s behavior is a symptom of an obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is very difficult to treat. Work with your veterinarian to see if they can prescribe a medication that can help calm the behavior. Ask around to find a trainer who specializes in problem dog behaviors. But most of all, love your dog, give him lots of attention, and help him be the happiest and healthiest dog he can possibly be.