Dogs scratch themselves and bite their skin all the time. It’s perfectly normal behavior; in most cases, it’s no cause for concern. But when a young puppy suddenly starts scratching and biting itself incessantly, it could mean trouble!
Canines use scratching and biting to address skin issues. It’s the same behavior as scratching a mosquito bite on your arm. The itchiness is irritating, and you want to get relief. Dogs do the same thing. However, they don’t have super-mobile arms, so they must use their teeth and claws to alleviate discomfort.
Occasional scratching and biting are normal, but it can become problematic if it goes on for too long. Dogs sometimes don’t know when to stop. As a result, they can easily develop serious rashes, hot spots, and cuts.
Those self-inflicted injuries increase the risk of infection. Furthermore, scratching and biting could point to unseen health issues you must address.
Are you scratching your head, trying to figure out why your dog won’t stop biting and scratching its skin? Keep reading to learn more about the most common causes and what you can do to provide your pup with some much-needed relief.
When Scratching and Biting Becomes an Issue
Before we get into the potential causes of this odd behavior, let’s talk about distinguishing normal scratching and biting from excessive scratching and biting. What’s the threshold to when you should be concerned?
Knowing the difference is important. You must learn to identify the signs of trouble to find a solution.
You know your dog better than anyone else. If you notice a sudden change in how frequently your dog scratches and bites itself, trust your gut! You’ll likely see the difference. When you do, give your dog a good look-over.
Depending on your dog’s fur and how severe the behavior is, you may or may not see physical issues immediately. Sometimes, hot spots and rashes are glaringly visible.
Hotspots are common when dogs focus their scratching and biting on one area. The fur often falls out, and the underlying skin becomes inflamed and discolored. They’re usually bright pink or red. In some cases, dogs start bleeding.
If you have a thick-coated pup, don’t hesitate to comb through its fur if you feel something isn’t right. Separate the hair to examine the area and closely analyze the skin. You’ll see if there’s a problem.
You must take action if your dog has substantial hot spots, rashes, scabs, or parasites. Infection is a genuine risk, and there could be an underlying health problem to blame.
Dog is Constantly Scratching and Biting Itself? Why?
There are many possible reasons for scratching and biting. Here are some of the most common culprits.
Fleas are one of the most common reasons puppies and dogs scratch themselves. These little pests are very common, and canines have dealt with them for ages.
In most cases, fleas aren’t a major issue. Infestations are pretty easy to treat. But don’t assume that the normality of fleas means you can ignore them.
Infestations are incredibly uncomfortable for dogs. If you ever dealt with lice as a kid, you know how frustrating it can be to manage that constant itch. Dogs will spend every waking moment scratching and gnawing at the skin until it’s raw!
Biting the skin is particularly dangerous. Many fleas carry tapeworms. When your dog bites their skin to alleviate itchiness, it can ingest those infected fleas and experience a pretty nasty tapeworm infection. Trust us: You don’t want to deal with that mess!
Fortunately, there’s a quick fix for this problem. Many over-the-counter flea products are available. You can get flea shampoos to kill existing pests. Even dish soap works well. For ongoing protection, there are collars and topical solutions.
The best thing you can do is speak with your vet about a flea preventative. These prescription products can provide several months of protection, making fleas a thing of the past. You can say goodbye to infestations and the risks that come with them.
Other Parasitic Infestations
It’s not just fleas that can cause problems. Many different parasitic insects can feed on your dog. Skin mites, for example, are a big issue for dogs.
These mites are tiny and can burrow into your dog’s skin. Some mites can cause problems like mange, causing your dog to lose its fur.
You might have difficulty viewing mites with the naked eye, but you’ll certainly see the mess they cause. In addition to constant scratching and biting, you’ll notice inflammation, hair loss, hotspots, and more.
Like flea problems, skin mites are easy to resolve with the right products. Don’t hesitate to contact your vet for recommendations on both prescription and over-the-counter options.
Ticks are another blood-sucking parasite that can cause major health problems for dogs. Ticks are common worldwide, but they tend to be a bigger issue in more rural areas. If you frequently bring your dog on hikes or nature excursions, the risk of ticks rises.
These insects start small. However, they latch onto your dog’s skin to slowly suck their blood. The issue with ticks is that they can carry dangerous diseases and toxins. For example, Lyme Disease can be detrimental to your pup’s health. It can cause lameness, organ damage, joint pain, and more.
Furthermore, those ticks your dog brings can affect your entire family! The diseases these pests carry can be just as dangerous to humans.
If you see a tick, bring your dog to a vet. You could remove the tick yourself, but that comes with risks. Squeezing the tick’s body could cause blood to go back into your dog’s system, increasing the chances of disease.
The same goes for accidentally ripping off the body without removing the head. A vet can remove the tick more efficiently to avoid those pitfalls.
After you remove the tick, talk to your vet about prevention. Many flea preventatives also work to keep ticks at bay, so a prescription is always the best option.
Dry skin can affect dogs of all ages and breeds. There are many possible causes of dry skin. It could be a product of the cold weather, using shampoo with an incorrect pH balance, health problems like Cushing’s Disease, and more.
This problem is complex, so we always recommend visiting a vet if it becomes a chronic issue.
Typically, dry skin causes itchiness, inflammation, rashes, and dandruff. You may notice small flecks of skin getting caused in your dog’s fur. In some cases, the skin gets so dry that it becomes tough. It may even crack, causing bleeding and infection!
Work with your vet to determine the cause of dry skin. You can use hydrating shampoos or prescription products to alleviate the issue. You can also try a homemade anti itch spray for dogs.
Allergic reactions are a potential cause of dry skin. However, dogs can suffer from a wide range of allergies that are difficult to pinpoint alone.
Exposure to certain external irritants could be the problem. For example, some dogs are allergic to common ingredients in shampoos. Mold, pollen, and pesticides can cause trouble, too.
If it’s not an external irritant, it could be something your dog eats! Believe it or not, some dogs develop allergies to common ingredients in high-quality dog food. For instance, some dogs become allergic to chicken!
First, you should perform an allergy test with your vet. They can help you pinpoint the allergens causing problems for your dog. From there, it’s about avoiding the allergen at all costs.
The former contains fewer ingredients to minimize allergen exposure. Meanwhile, the latter contains novel ingredients to fulfill your pup’s dietary needs without introducing allergens.
Bacterial and fungal infections can cause tons of discomfort for your dog.
Bacterial infections usually appear as tiny bumps on the skin. They can come from many different bacteria species. Fungal infections typically cause yeast to develop, creating an oily or greasy coat.
The treatment your dog needs will depend on bacteria or fungus causing trouble. Once again, a trip to the vet is necessary!
They may provide a topical ointment or oral antibiotic to address bacterial infections. For fungal issues, anti-fungal creams and shampoos will do the trick.
Sometimes, the scratching and biting are an attempt to relieve an injury you can’t see.
Dogs are curious creatures with a knack for getting into trouble. They explore the world and often encounter minor injuries that cause discomfort, even in your backyard!
For example, your pup may step on a thorn or get a wood splinter. Or they could mess with a bee and get a nasty sting!
These minor injuries are easy to treat. You can remove thorns or sand spurs with a pair of tweezers. Apply some antibacterial ointment to prevent infection, and your dog should heal quickly.
Pay attention to the injury. If it gets worse or continues to cause discomfort, go to the vet.
Here’s an issue that you can’t cure with a simple treatment.
Arthritis and joint pain often cause dogs to scratch, bite, and lick themselves. If you notice that your dog is paying attention to their paw or leg, that may be the issue. You may also see other symptoms, such as limping or small yelps of pain.
There is no quick fix for joint issues. Work with your vet to determine the right approach. You can introduce joint supplements into your dog’s diet. Products with glucosamine and chondroitin can do wonders to provide relief.
Depending on the severity of arthritis, your vet may also recommend prescription medications like Galliprant or osteoarthritis injections like Adequan.
These solutions don’t cure arthritis and joint pain. But they can slow down damage and provide much-needed pain relief.
Finally, dogs can scratch and chew as a response to anxiety. This behavior is common in dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. Many dogs will also develop this habit as they age.
It’s a coping mechanism that helps your pup manage their emotions. While many people view dogs as happy-go-lucky creatures, they can suffer from mental issues, too.
The best thing you can do is work with a trainer or canine behavioralist. Making changes around the house can make your dog feel more comfortable. For example, you can invest in dog boarding instead of leaving them alone at home all day. Alternatively, you can try slow feeders and mental stimulation toys.
Many calming aides are available, too. These simple chews or sprays can calm your dog’s emotions and help them find healthier coping methods.
All dogs are different, and there are several reasons why your puppy scratches and bites itself. Pay attention to your canine companion! When you notice a behavior change, see what’s going on.
Please take a look at their coat and skin. Pay attention to the problem. Even if the issue is benign and easy to solve, you don’t want your dog to suffer in silence.
Don’t hesitate to visit your vet if you have trouble pinpointing the cause of this behavior. Work with them to find the right solution for your furry friend.