Compulsive scratching, licking, and biting behaviours are the most common in dogs and have a range of causes. They can also be extremely harmful. One of the first symptoms that your dog has a problem might be the development of a “hot spot” — a red, wet, irritated area that arises from persistent chewing, licking, scratching or rubbing. Even though hot spots, or “acute moist dermatitis,” can happen anywhere on your dog’s body, they are most often found on the hips, chest, or head. Because of dogs usually incessantly scratch, lick or bite at an area once it becomes irritated, hot spots can become large and incredibly sore rather quickly.
Reasons Why Dogs Compulsively Scratch, Lick, or Bite
Dogs scratch, lick, or bite for a wide range of reasons, ranging from severe allergies to boredom to parasite infestation:
Anxiety or Boredom
Just as individuals with anxiety might bite their nails or twirl their hair, dogs can have physical responses to psychological upset, too. Some of the dogs change a condition akin to human obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can manifest itself in biting, scratching, and licking behaviours that can cause severe damage.
A variety of several different factors, including fatty acid deficiencies and winter weather, can cause dry skin in dogs. Your pet might respond to the discomfort by licking or scratching at her skin or fur.
If your dog’s body is not producing enough thyroid hormone or putting out too much of the hormone cortisol, superficial skin infections can happen. You might notice bald spots, and your dog might scratch or lick as if disturbed by allergies.
While endeavoring to determine why your dog is biting or licking excessively, be sure to think through the possibility that something is making him physically uncomfortable. For example, if you notice your dog biting his paw repeatedly, he could have a thorn, or sharp stone stuck in his foot pad. Compulsive biting or licking can also be a response to orthopedic difficulties, including arthritis and hip dysplasia.
Among the most common causes for compulsive dog licking, chewing, or scratching behaviours are fleas, ticks, and mites. Although ticks are often visible to the naked eye, fleas usually go unseen until there is a massive infestation, and bugs are microscopic. So don’t assume that your dog is not suffering from parasites just because you can’t see them.