Do you want to know the secret for getting your dog to stop licking and biting himself? Keep reading to discover the top common reasons, and what you can do for your dog by gaining an understanding of your dog's behavior.
Let me start by saying compulsive describes the repetitive, irresistible urge to perform a behavior. A dog that displays compulsive behavior repeatedly performs one or more behaviors, over and over, to the extent that it interferes with his normal life. This segment is not about compulsive behavior. Your dog's behavior of licking and biting may appear compulsive, because he won't stop, but the topic today is about the underlying medical reasons for this behavior.
Why do dogs lick and bite themselves?
All dogs lick and bite themselves from time to time as a way of coping with their itching problems. But, when licking and biting become excessive, then there is certainly something wrong with your dog, especially when the licking and biting causes hair loss or serious injury.
Anything that causes itchiness of the skin can lead to the development of hot spots on dogs. Common triggers that cause itching are allergies, parasites, and pain. A bacterial infection usually results because the dog cannot stop licking and biting the area.
Always rule out medical problems first. Medical conditions can affect your dog's behavior. If your dog constantly licks and bites a particular area of its body, then there is a good reason. A visit to your vet can help determine why your dog is displaying this potentially damaging dog behavior.
Here are the top common reasons dogs lick and bite themselves, and what you can do for your dog to help alleviate his suffering.
One - External Parasites
Fleas, ticks, and mites in particular cause excessive itchiness and discomfort. Check your dog for signs of infestation. Run a flea comb through the coat and inspect the teeth for insects. Also look for deposits of small, black specks on the skin. If you suspect your dog has an infestation, consult your vet about an appropriate treatment.
Two - Infection
Concurrent bacterial and yeast infections are common causes of itching in dogs. Infections are often accompanied by licking and biting of the skin, hair loss, scaling, odor, and fluid discharge. Excessive scratching of feet and face are common in dogs with concurrent yeast and bacterial infections. If the anal glands become overfilled and neglected, an infection can arise. This usually leads to biting of the rear end like the flank, hind legs, and tail base.
Whether it's a bacterial or yeast infection, your dog needs your help to solve the problem. If you suspect your dog has a bacterial and/or yeast infection, consult your vet immediately.
Three - Allergies
The most common causes of allergic itching are insect bites, food allergies, and a reaction to allergens in the environment. Allergies cause mild to severe itching. Contact dermatitis, a skin irritation, results from exposure to an environmental irritant. Plants in your yard, lawn chemicals, dust, pollen, mold, home cleaning products, and grooming products are a few possible irritants. Food allergies also cause itching. Your vet can determine if an allergy is causing your dog to lick and bite himself constantly.
Four - Pain
Something is making your dog physically uncomfortable. It could be a result of previous trauma or joint disease. Dogs with bone, ligament, or joint problems sometimes react to pain by licking and biting themselves. A small fracture or tear may be to blame, or your dog may have arthritis, hip dysplasia, or another degenerative condition. If you suspect your dog is in pain, get him to a vet immediately. Your vet can identify the reason for your dog's discomfort and pain.
Five - Dry skin
A variety of factors, including winter weather and fatty acid deficiencies, can cause dry skin in dogs. Your dog may respond to the discomfort by licking and biting. Thyroid dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies, and other health problems can cause dry, itchy skin. The addition of fatty acid supplements to your dog's regular food can help address dry skin issues and keep your dog's coat healthy. Your vet can help you determine why your dog has dry skin and treat his skin accordingly so the licking and biting stops.
Six - Hormonal Imbalance
If your dog's body is not producing enough thyroid hormone or putting out too much cortisol, superficial skin infections can occur. You may notice small, red spots and your dog may lick or bite as if bothered by allergies. Your vet can determine if your dog is suffering from an allergy or a hormonal imbalance.
Seven - Emotional Problems
Emotional problems can be a result of an underlying medical condition that causes depression and/or mood disorder. Dogs often lick and bite themselves out of boredom, anxiety, stress, depression or other emotional upset. Talk to your vet about any underlying medical issues that could be the cause for his emotional state, and reaction, by licking and biting.
Now let's recap.
Itching is a sign, not a diagnosis or specific disease. The most common causes of itching are parasites, infections, and allergies. There are many skin diseases that do not initially cause itching. Itching may develop because of secondary bacterial or yeast infections. It is possible that by the time itching develops the initial cause is long gone.
If the itching goes away, then the cause was a microbial infection. However, if the dog's itching is unchanged or only somewhat better, the most likely underlying cause may be an allergy. Dogs that have seasonal itching are likely reacting to seasonal allergens. Dogs with year-round allergic itching may have a food allergy.
Yeast overgrowth is tremendously itchy. If it is a problem with the paws, your dog won't be able to leave them alone. The same goes for the ears. A lot of butt scooting can also be a clue.
A hotspot is a condition which involves an area of skin that has become inflamed and infected. The affected skin often appears as a moist, oozing, reddened area that is painful and very itchy. Hair loss may also be seen. Continued licking and biting worsens the condition dramatically.
If your dog licks and bites its foot, it may be the result of an allergy. If he licks his foot pads, he may have a cut, thorn, or a reaction to lawn chemicals. If your dog is always licking his rear end, it may be the result of swollen anal glands that are plugged or infected.
Your vet can help you determine why your dog is licking and biting a particular area of its body and prescribe antibiotics, topical anti-itch products, or other medications and recommended treatments necessary to alleviate your dog's suffering.
Hope you enjoyed this segment on Dog Behavior, specifically on the topic of why dogs lick and bite themselves, and hope you walked away with something of value. This article is brought to you by Mr Woofles, a doggy daycare facility in Melbourne.