Why is my dog eating itself? Expert Advice


Some dog breeds are more susceptible to allergens such as molds, pollens, soaps, and pesticides that can increase your dog’s desire to scratch or bite to relieve the itch. You’ll want to pay attention to your environment, or if your dog ate something different, that would cause an allergic reaction.

If your dog has a food allergy, you’ll need to determine which allergy through an elimination diet. Unfortunately, all you can do for environmental allergies is try to control the symptoms or avoid the allergen.

Fleas and Parasites

Fleas, mites, and ticks will bite and irritate your dog’s skin and carry diseases. They are generally the leading cause behind chewing and biting. And depending on where you live, fleas and other parasites can be a huge problem. To identify fleas, ticks, or mites, you’ll want to comb through their fur where your dog is biting.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends calling your veterinarian to determine the infestation and prescribe a flea or parasite treatment plan. This may include cleaning any areas of your house where your dog comes into frequent contact.

Why is my dog eating itself?

What to do if your Dog is Biting His Skin

Excessive biting, licking, or scratching of the skin should alert you to a potential health condition. Before making an appointment with your veterinarian, look for signs of a foreign object in your dogs paws or fur if the licking is localised. Many times a burr or thorn may be lodged in your dogs paw or stuck in his coat. Remove the object with care and inspect the area for any open wounds or reddening of your dogs skin. Open wounds should be examined and treated by your veterinarian to prevent bacterial infection.

A flea infestation is easy to spot in your dog, especially if he has a lighter coat because fleas are highly mobile parasites and that are dark in color. Fleas also leave behind “flea dirt”, which is reddish-brown fecal matter. A flea infestation on your dog can quickly become an infestation in your home, and immediate action is necessary to treat and prevent further instances. You will want to talk to your vet to determine the best course of action, which may include prescription flea medication, over-the-counter medications, shampoo, or a combination of treatments. Following your veterinarians strict instructions for flea control is important. Never use your dogs medications on your cats or other animals because your dogs flea medications can reach toxic levels in cats and other small animals. Be sure to alert your vet to the other animals in your home to get additional care and instruction for them. As up to 95% of the flea burden live off the dog and in your home, you must always treat the home adequately to prevent re-infestation.

If your dog is biting or scratching his skin due to allergies, your veterinarian will conduct a full physical examination to rule out other possible conditions before ordering allergy testing to determine potential allergens affecting your dog. The most common form of allergy testing is an intradermal test or a “patch” test where small needles will inject an allergen just under your dogs skin. This test is usually performed on the abdomen, which will need to be shaved. Your vet may also order a serum test to sample your dogs blood and determine the allergens affecting him. These tests arent always accurate however, and can be costly.

Treatment of allergies will depend on the allergen, and though there is no cure for allergies, you can help reduce your dogs reactions over time by removing the allergen from the environment. If your dogs reaction is food based, your veterinarian will suggest a new diet that will support your dogs health. Immunotherapy ( a series of injections) may be a possibility and can help reduce the severity of allergies.

Proper flea control can prevent excessive biting, scratching, and licking of the skin. If you live in more humid climates and your dog plays outside you will want a preventative flea control solution that stops the fleas before they can get out of hand. Your veterinarian can help you develop a flea control solution to prevent infestations.

Complicated health conditions, such as dermatitis and bacterial infections can be avoided by determining the cause of your dog’s itchy skin and treating it immediately. To prevent aches and pains resulting from foreign objects, always inspect the area your dog is biting. Burrs and thorns can be very uncomfortable when stepped on or caught in your dogs coat. Never attempt to remove objects such as glass or metal from your dogs body and seek immediate medical attention in these instances. Removing the object on your own can leave behind broken pieces and possibly lead to infection. If your dog has arthritis or other joint disease, ensure they pain is well managed with ongoing medication.

Providing your dog with a safe, clean environment is important in preventing many conditions that cause your dog to be itchy. Remove identified allergens from your home and prevent your dog from coming into contact with allergens he reacts to outside. You may not be able to remove 100% of the allergens affecting your dog so bathing him with hypoallergenic shampoo may bring him relief and prevent itchy skin. It can help to wipe paws and belly after a walk with wet wipes and to avoid grassy areas.

Treatment cost for your dog’s excessive biting, licking, and scratching of his skin will depend on the underlying cause. For example, the average cost for treating fleas and flea related conditions is around $350 whereas if your dog is experiencing allergy-related dermatitis, the average cost is around $1,200.

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