Dogs bite and scratch at their fur because it itches or as a compulsive behavior. The problem with incessant chewing is that, while it may provide temporary relief for your dog, it will further irritate his skin. This creates a vicious cycle where he scratches and digs to relieve the irritation that he created, and damages the skin even further. Get to the root of the behavior to stop the chewing and digging.
Why is My Dog Biting and Scratching Himself?
Fleas are probably the most common reason your dog will compulsively bite and chew at his coat. Fleas create extreme itchiness in your pet, and he will scratch obsessively for relief. To ease discomfort from fleas, talk to your veterinarian about oral or topical treatments that will not only kill the fleas on your dog, but interrupt their breeding cycle. Wash his bedding once a week, and vacuum carpeted areas frequently. You can also talk to your vet about flea sprays for your lawn, to keep your pup from picking fleas up outside and bringing them into the house.
Look carefully at your dog's skin. Make a part in the coat to determine if his skin is dry. Dry skin may have little patches of loose skin, resembling dandruff, on it, or it may look tough and calloused, with the skin cracked in spots. If your dog has dry skin, talk to your vet about his diet. She may recommend adding fish oil, flax seeds or other forms of oil to your dog's diet to help add moisture to his skin. Weekly baths using an oatmeal-based shampoo and following up with a conditioner to add moisture to the coat can also minimize digging and chewing due to dry skin.
A dog who suffers from allergies will often dig, scratch and chew at his coat and paws, seeking relief from skin irritation. Veterinarians are seeing more cases of allergies in dogs, whether it is a food allergy or a reaction to molds, pollen or other environmental allergens, according to "The Bark" magazine. Frequent baths will remove allergens from the coat and ease your dog's itch. You can also wipe him down with a damp cloth each time he comes inside if you suspect he is allergic to pollen, grass seed or other outside allergens. For food allergies, talk to your vet about trying different foods. There are many commercial foods available for dogs with allergies, but you may have to try a few to find the right one for your dog.
If your dog compulsively digs and chews at his coat only at certain times, like when he is alone, and couples that behavior with whining, barking or howling, chewing baseboards and door frames near the exits, having accidents in the house and being overly enthusiastic when you return home, he may suffer from separation anxiety.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, make sure he is crated or in another small, safe area when you leave, try to minimize the length of time you are gone, and talk to your vet about medications that can ease the symptoms of separation anxiety.
About the Author
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.