Why Does My Dog Keep Scratching and Biting Herself? 


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There are many reasons your dog might be scratching and biting itself. The most common ones are fleas and other pests, but other factors like allergies, dry skin, hormonal imbalance, pain, and anxiety can also cause your pup to scratch excessively.

 

In this article, I’ll try to answer the question that every dog owner has at least once in their lifetime — Why does my dog keep scratching and biting herself?

 

Much like humans, dogs have an urge to scratch their itch from time to time. And that’s nothing to be alarmed about. However, when this behavior keeps repeating and becomes more frequent, it’s time to react. 

 

Obviously, you should consult with a veterinarian before you start any treatment. But, for starters, it might be useful to know what could have caused all the scratching and biting.

 

Why Does My Dog Keep Scratching and Biting Herself

Why Does My Dog Keep Scratching and Biting Herself?

 

1. Pests

Fleas

When it comes to the question, Why does my dog keep scratching and biting herself? the answer is most commonly fleas. Fleas are small flightless insects that live like parasites, occupying a host and feeding on their blood. Your dog can easily get fleas from another animal, as they can jump far and multiply until there are hundreds of them on a single host. 

Ticks

Ticks belong to the family of arachnids, and they can cause much more damage than fleas. A tick latches on to your dog’s skin, sucking blood and releasing saliva. And the longer the tick stays on your doggo’s skin, the worse the inflammation gets. So it’s essential to act quickly.

Mites (a.k.a. Mange) 

Much like ticks, mites are arachnids that dig deep into the host’s skin and cause serious irritation. They eat through your dog’s skin, especially the parts where their hair is rare (armpits, groin, etc.). That causes what we know as mange — a skin condition characterized by severe redness and itching.

 

What You Can Do to Help 

 

If your dog has a problem with fleas, you might want to stay away from parks, kennels, and other places that could be packed with them. Also, make sure you consult with your veterinarian about preventative measures — collars, medication, etc. The same goes for mites and ticks. 

 

And if you come across a tick on your dog’s skin, you should react immediately and have it extracted as soon as possible. 

 

Why Does My Dog Keep Scratching and Biting Herself

2. Environmental Allergies 

 

Your dog might also be itching because of allergic dermatitis caused by seasonal allergies. Some of the biggest contributors to allergies include pollen and dander, as well as grass and other blooming flowers and trees. Naturally, seasonal allergies are at their worst during spring and summer. 

 

On the other hand, your dog may also be sensitive to other, non-seasonal allergens. Things like feathers and mold could also cause irritation.

 

What You Can Do to Help

 

Aside from maintaining a well-balanced dietary regime and making sure your pup is in good health, you should also pay extra attention to grooming. You should bathe and brush your dog regularly, especially after every trip outside. 

 

While you can’t prevent your dog from going outside and being exposed to seasonal allergens, you can clean it afterward to minimize its effects. There are also topicals, shampoos, and even wet-wipes that you can use to alleviate your dog’s symptoms. 

 

On the other hand, if your pup has sensitive skin, bathing it too often might cause dryness and irritation, and you’re back to square one. All in all, you should consult your vet first.

 

3. Nutritional Allergies

 

Although they’re less common, food allergies could also be the reason your dog is scratching. Some proteins (beef, chicken, soy, eggs, etc.) and cereals (corn, wheat, rice, etc.) tend to cause allergic reactions in dogs. 

 

What You Can Do to Help

 

As soon as you notice the first signs of allergy, you should talk to a vet. It’s quite challenging to determine what causes it sometimes. So your vet might conduct a series of tests to try and figure it out.

 

Aside from the standard Q&A with you, the owner, the vet will most likely do the skin scrape test and run blood tests. In addition, they might put your dog on a 12-week exclusion or elimination diet. By slowly including each potential allergen in the dog’s diet and monitoring the reaction closely, the vet can determine what the problematic food is.

 

After that, they will most likely make a dietary plan based on the results, which should avoid the allergens and propose equally nutritious alternatives to them.

 

Why Does My Dog Keep Scratching and Biting Herself

4. Dry Skin

 

If it’s not parasites or an allergy, and you still keep asking yourself, Why does my dog keep scratching and biting herself? check its skin. It should be white or pink, supple, and smooth. If it’s rough, flaky, and you can see dandruff in the hair, then your dog probably has a skin problem. 

 

The irritation is most likely caused by an internal influence such as food or water, or an external one, such as dirt, shampoo, or even vegetation like ivy. If the dog’s skin is dry all around, then it’s probably internal. On the other hand, external sources usually result in a localized rash.

 

What You Can Do to Help

 

For starters, I suggest you try to find the cause of the irritation. Then, you can gradually make changes to the dog’s diet, hair products, and even the spot it sleeps in accordingly. 

 

Of course, before making any drastic changes, you should take your dog to the vet and hear their opinion. In addition, they’ll probably prescribe something to manage the itching and keep the dog’s skin nice and smooth.

 

Why Does My Dog Keep Scratching and Biting Herself

 

5. Hormonal Imbalance

 

In some rare cases, the answer to the question, Why does my dog keep scratching and biting herself? lies in the thyroid gland. If your dog is female and spayed, hormones should be the first thing you rule out. That’s why I advise you to act quickly if you suspect that your dog’s scratching has something to do with the thyroid.

However, hormone-induced skin irritation in dogs could also point to other, equally severe illnesses that could be causing the imbalance.

 

Whatever the case may be, if you can’t find any external causes for your dog’s scratching, I recommend you check its hormone levels. If it turns out to be hormone-induced, time may be of the essence. Hormone imbalances can have horrible consequences if left untreated for too long.

 

What You Can Do to Help

 

Unfortunately, in most cases, the only thing you can do is take your dog to the vet as soon as possible. I can’t stress enough how vital it is to catch a hormone imbalance early on. In my opinion, a false alarm is always preferable to discovering an illness when it’s too late. 

 

Besides, spayed female dogs have a higher risk of hormone imbalance than others. So I think it’s best to stay on the safe side.  

 

6. Pain

 

Unfortunately, pain could also be the answer to your question of Why does my dog keep scratching and biting herself? 

 

If you see your dog scratching or biting one of its paws, that might be because something is stuck in it, like a thorn. On the other hand, it could be some other type of injury, such as a wound or scratch. Even if you don’t see any marks, I recommend you inspect the spot that’s bothering it, as it could also be an internal injury.

 

What You Can Do to Help

 

Depending on the type of injury, you might be able to help. Still, I don’t recommend you doing too much on your own. If it’s something simple like pulling out a small thorn, then it’s okay. Just clean the spot afterward, and it should heal up soon. 

 

However, if it’s a big wound or a bite from another animal, go to the vet as soon as possible. The wound could be more serious than it seems, and your dog might need vaccinations.

 

7. Anxiety or Boredom

 

If you’ve looked into all the other options and your dog still keeps biting and scratching herself, maybe the problem isn’t physical. I’ve seen quite a few bored dogs develop a habit of overgrooming themselves to the point of causing bald spots and even hurting themselves. 

Similarly to us humans biting our nails when we’re bored or nervous, our dogs can develop nasty habits as well. In most cases, they tend to bite the joints in the hind legs or scratch the part behind their ears.

 

What You Can Do to Help

 

Try to distract your dog whenever it starts scratching itself. Play fetch, take it for a walk — offer it a healthier alternative. 

 

Moreover, your first instinct shouldn’t be to scold or punish your dog whenever it starts scratching or biting itself. If the problem turns out to be stress-induced, your scolding is only going to make it worse. Instead, try to get the dog’s mind off the itching, and, sooner or later, it’ll forget all about it.

 

Why Does My Dog Keep Scratching and Biting Herself — Conclusion

 

There are many reasons a dog would scratch excessively — pests, allergens, pain, discomfort, even boredom! Make sure you ask yourself the question, Why does my dog keep scratching and biting herself? and be observant of its behavior. Also, don’t forget to consult with a veterinarian before making any decisions about your dog’s health. 

 

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