Dogs are entertaining companions that are always fun and amusing to watch and observe. However, sometimes dogs can do things that cause us owners concern. One of those things is a dog that regularly bites themselves, especially if the biting leads to hair loss or injury. But why do dogs do this, and what can you do about it? Let’s find out.
So, why does my dog keep biting himself? Dogs typically bite themselves in response to a stimulus such as itching, burning, or pain. Dogs are therefore likely to bite themselves due to the presence of parasites (such as fleas, mites, or ticks), seasonal allergies, food allergies, injury, or dry skin. However, they can also do this as a means of alleviating boredom.
As you can see, there’s not one sole reason.
This can make it a little tricky to identify the root cause at first.
So you will need to closely monitor your dog.
And watch out for other accompanying signs, behaviors, or symptoms.
Try to look out for when the biting occurs, for how long, and how committed they are to relieving themselves.
That’s always a good place to start.
But how you respond will vary by the underlying cause.
So, let us now explore each reason in greater detail so that we can understand and implement the appropriate response and course of action.
Why Do Dogs Bite Themselves?
Many dogs bite themselves to relieve a brief itch, just like a person will occasionally feel the need to scratch themselves. Sometimes biting can become a common or excessive action that causes concern.
There are several reasons that a dog may frequently bite themselves that deserve exploration.
Let’s look at the reasons your dog may be biting itself.
Fleas, Mites, or Ticks
Dogs are warm and have furry bodies that make perfect nesting grounds for parasites such as fleas, mites, and ticks.
These small insects enjoy the warmth and protection provided by your pet’s fur while also sucking blood for food.
The bite of blood-sucking pests is irritating to a dog’s skin.
This irritation causes the dog to chew and scratch in an attempt to find relief. However, itching and scratching do not get rid of most biting insects.
This means your dog will continue chewing as new bites occur.
Dogs who are experiencing irritation from fleas, mites, or ticks often chew along their stomachs, underarms, and the base of their tail where pests like to set up their homes.
Just like people, dogs can suffer from allergies as seasons change and pollen counts fluctuate.
Dogs can be allergic to the pollen of flowers and trees, as well as grass.
A dog that is experiencing allergies will have increased itching after being outside.
This may lead the dog to bite areas that come in contact with allergy-inducing plants.
If your dog is frequently biting at the pads of their paws or their bellies after time outside, seasonal allergies may be to blame.
Dogs can develop allergies to certain common food ingredients such as corn, wheat, soy, and even chicken and beef.
A dog that is experiencing a food allergy may experience the reaction through the presence of itchy and irritated skin across its body.
These dogs will frequently chew at their skin – especially their feet and tail areas – without any noticeable rhyme or reason and are likely to act restless or have trouble getting comfortable while sitting or lying down.
A dog that itches will chew on itself, but so will a dog experiencing localized pain or discomfort.
If your dog steps on a sharp object such as a thorn, the thorn can get stuck in the skin, and your dog will likely chew the spot in an attempt to remove the irritating object.
A dog may also chew at itself following a medical procedure, especially those that require stitches such as a spay or neuter procedure.
The chewing is an attempt to soothe the irritation in the area but often has a reverse effect. Chewing an injury can also lead to infection.
Chewing that is occurring in only one repeated spot and has a sudden onset may be the result of a splinter, cut, or another injury.
Skin is a sensitive thing – even for dogs! If your dog is chewing on themselves and has been checked for parasites and injury and isn’t in contact with any allergens, dry skin may be to blame.
Any human who has had dry skin can tell you how much it itches. Your dog is likely to chew to try and relieve the itchiness of its skin.
The fur may have skin flakes known as dandruff or have red, irritated spots from a mixture of dryness and chewing.
Anxiousness or Boredom
Not all chewing is a result of a medical condition.
A dog that is anxious lacks appropriate chew toy options or is extremely bored may chew on themselves for comfort.
If your dog is otherwise healthy and is chewing on themselves, they may need changes to their daily routine to help eliminate self-chewing.
What To Do When Your Dog Bites Themselves
There are several steps you should take when your dog is biting itself. Most of these steps have to do with determining the reason for the biting and seeking treatment for the root cause.
Note The Area Where Your Dog Is Biting
Is your dog biting the same spot constantly? Is it biting without any apparent direction or purpose?
Paying attention to where your dog is biting can tell you a lot about the potential causes.
A dog that bites its feet and belly may be experiencing allergies, a dog biting its underarms and tail base could have a parasite infection, a dog that seems to be chewing without any rhyme or reason may have dry skin over its body.
Check For Injury
Inspect the area where your dog is chewing – especially if it is the pads of their feet or their legs. Is there a scrape or cut?
Look for splinters or other foreign objects poking into your dog’s skin.
Sometimes relieving chewing is as simple as helping to heal a wound or pulling out a splinter and keeping the area clean.
If you notice an injury that looks red, irritated, or swollen from chewing, consult your veterinarian right away.
Treat Your Dog For Fleas, Mites and Ticks
Fleas, mites, and ticks are the number one reason that dogs bite themselves. These pests are annoying and irritating to both owners and dogs.
The good news is that there are a variety of medications at various price points that can be used to treat a dog with an infestation.
Make sure to follow any and all directions on the flea treatment package, know your dog’s current weight, and consult with your veterinarian if you are unsure about what type of treatment is best for your pet.
Take Your Dog To The Veterinarian
If you have been preventing and eliminating pests and your dog is regularly chewing on themselves, a trip to the veterinarian is wise.
Your veterinarian can find out about your dog’s daily habits and nutrition, do a double-check for fleas, and even locate injuries we may not be able to see on our own.
Your veterinarian will also be able to give guidance on changes you can make to your dog’s daily care that may help with chewing, such as a change of food types, skin treatments, or allergy medicine.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Biting Himself?
The action to take when your dog is biting themselves will depend on the cause of the biting. A visit to your veterinarian can help determine the cause and develop a treatment plan for your dog.
One tip to stop a dog from biting themselves includes providing your dog a distraction or a better chewing alternative such as a special treat or toy designed for chewing.
If your dog is chewing on themselves and causing irritation or harm, your veterinarian may suggest having your dog wear a plastic cone or other wide object around their neck for a period of time. This cone creates a barrier between your dog and its chewing.
The goal is to get the dog to stop chewing an area long enough for irritation to lessen and for treatment of the cause of chewing to take effect.
When your dog’s skin is less irritated, you should be able to remove the cone or barrier.
A dog chewing on themselves can be both annoying and concerning for owners who hate seeing their dog be uncomfortable.
It can also be a health concern if excessive biting leads to hair loss or irritation of an injury or stitches after a medical procedure.
By taking steps to lessen your dog’s skin irritation or anxiety, you can end self-biting at its roots.
When working with a veterinarian, most owners are able to successfully address a dog that bites itself with successful results.
Dogs like to chew things, including themselves.
It’s just the way they are and what they do.
Besides, with paws instead of hands, dogs are largely reliant on their mouths to navigate the world and overcome challenges they face.
When it comes to biting themselves – one thing to remember and to takeaway is that they are doing it for a reason.
It’s not something that happens by chance or by accident.
While those underlying reasons and causes can vary – it’s important you take a proactive approach to supporting your dog.
They could be a lot of pain or discomfort, and you owe it to them to help resolve the problem sooner rather than later.
Have you noticed some other unexplainable behaviors in your dog? The following guides may help to explain them!
- Why Does My Dog Lick My Wounds?
- Why Does My Dog Sit On Me?
- Why Does My Dog Stretch On Me?
- Why Does My Dog Bury His Head In Me?
- Why Does My Dog Look Away From Me?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.