Why does my dog constantly scratch, lick, and chew?

Have you ever been lying in bed fast asleep only to be awaken by the sound of your dog franticly scratching, licking or chewing at themselves? Well believe it or not you are not alone. Many of us dog owners suffer through this day in night after night, including myself. Veterinarian's have determined it could be a variety of reasons ranging from parasites to


Reasons for scratching, licking and chewing:

  • Parasites - Fleas, ticks, and mites fall into this category. Although ticks are often visible to the naked eye, fleas often go unseen until there is a large infestation, and mites are microscopic. So don’t assume that your dog isn’t suffering from parasites just because you can’t see them.

  • Pain - Sometimes something is making our loved physically uncomfortable or actually in pain. For example, your dog continuously licking or chewing at their paws, may have a pebble or thorn stuck in their foot pad. Uncontrollable chewing or licking can also be a response to orthopedic issues, including arthritis and hip dysplasia.

  • Hormonal imbalances - If your dog’s body is not producing enough thyroid hormone or putting out too much of the hormone cortisol, superficial skin infections can occur. You may notice bald spots, and your dog may scratch or lick as if bothered by allergies.

  • Dry skin - A variety of factors, including the dry winter weather and fatty acid deficiencies, can cause dry skin in dogs. Your pet may respond to the discomfort by scratching or licking at their skin or fur.

  • Boredom or anxiety - Just as people with anxiety might bite their nails or twirl their hair, dogs can have physical responses to anxiety causing stress, too. In fact, some dogs develop a condition similar to human obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can manifest itself into scratching, licking, or chewing behaviors that can cause severe damage.

  • Allergies - Allergies can be from food, the environment, such as mold and pollen. Or they can have contact dermatitis, from products dogs may encounter, including pesticides or soaps.

So how do we treat the above stated reasons for scratching, licking, and chewing?

  • Eliminating parasites - There are a variety of flea and tick products that your veterinarian can recommend. Additionally, if your dog’s biting or chewing problems are caused by fleas, be sure to wash your dog’s bed and vacuum your carpeting and upholstered furniture on a regular basis to reduce the likelihood of reinfestation. You also need to treat any other animals in the household.

  • Using medication - Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to treat underlying problems contributing to your dog’s persistent scratching. Additionally, your vet may recommend the use of topical or systemic antibiotics, steroids, or anti-itch products to treat existing hot spots or skin infections.

  • Preventing the behavior - Because compulsive behaviors can cause serious damage and affect your dog’s quality of life, it’s important to do your best to stop your dog from chewing, licking, or scratching too much. Some ideas include using bitter sprays to discourage licking, having your dog wear a special collar to prevent access to hot spots, or keeping your dog close by your side when you’re home.

  • Addressing anxiety or boredom - In some cases, compulsive biting, chewing, or licking develops in response to fear, stress, or inadequate stimulation. To reduce this likelihood, be sure your dog receives enough exercise, attention, and love. Another factor to look at is the home environment. Is the home stressful, ie. are you anxious? Perhaps your anxiety is making your loved one also stressed. Sometimes it takes looking in the mirror to realize that maybe it's time to change how your'e doing things and how it's effecting others.

  • Changing foods - If food allergies are making your dog itch, eliminating potential trigger foods can make a huge difference. Again, if you read the last blog or so, I talked about the Top 7 Dog Food Allergies - Beef, Dairy, Wheat, Eggs, Chicken, Lamb, Soy. Food allergy symptoms include: itchy skin, sneezing, itchy paws, hot spots (skin infections resulting from excessive scratching), skin rashes, scaly and/or oily skin, leathery skin texture, eye discharge, red eyes, vomiting and diarrhea, hair loss, ear infections, secondary yeast or bacterial infections of the skin or ears.

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