Reasons for Dogs Eating & Digging at Their Fur

by Amy Hunter
Weekly baths can ease itching in many dogs.

Weekly baths can ease itching in many dogs.

Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Dogs chew and dig at their fur because it itches or as a compulsive behavior. The problem with incessant chewing and digging is that, while it may provide temporary relief for your dog, it will further irritate his skin. This creates a vicious cycle where he scratches and digs to relieve the irritation that he created, and damages the skin even further. Get to the root of the behavior to stop the chewing and digging.

Fleas

Fleas are probably the most common reason your dog will compulsively dig and chew at his coat. Fleas create extreme itchiness in your pet, and he will scratch obsessively for relief. To ease discomfort from fleas, talk to your veterinarian about oral or topical treatments that will not only kill the fleas on your dog, but interrupt their breeding cycle. Wash his bedding once a week, and vacuum carpeted areas frequently. You can also talk to your vet about flea sprays for your lawn, to keep your pup from picking fleas up outside and bringing them into the house.

Dry Skin

Look carefully at your dog's skin. Make a part in the coat to determine if his skin is dry. Dry skin may have little patches of loose skin, resembling dandruff, on it, or it may look tough and calloused, with the skin cracked in spots. If your dog has dry skin, talk to your vet about his diet. She may recommend adding fish oil, flax seeds or other forms of oil to your dog's diet to help add moisture to his skin. Weekly baths using an oatmeal-based shampoo and following up with a conditioner to add moisture to the coat can also minimize digging and chewing due to dry skin.

Allergies

A dog who suffers from allergies will often dig, scratch and chew at his coat and paws, seeking relief from skin irritation. Veterinarians are seeing more cases of allergies in dogs, whether it is a food allergy or a reaction to molds, pollen or other environmental allergens, according to "The Bark" magazine. Frequent baths will remove allergens from the coat and ease your dog's itch. You can also wipe him down with a damp cloth each time he comes inside if you suspect he is allergic to pollen, grass seed or other outside allergens. For food allergies, talk to your vet about trying different foods. There are many commercial foods available for dogs with allergies, but you may have to try a few to find the right one for your dog.

Separation Anxiety

If your dog compulsively digs and chews at his coat only at certain times, like when he is alone, and couples that behavior with whining, barking or howling, chewing baseboards and door frames near the exits, having accidents in the house and being overly enthusiastic when you return home, he may suffer from separation anxiety.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, make sure he is crated or in another small, safe area when you leave, try to minimize the length of time you are gone, and talk to your vet about medications that can ease the symptoms of separation anxiety.

Photo Credits

  • Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

About the Author

Amy Hunter has been a writer since 1998. She writes about health and lifestyle issues and enjoys writing about hiking, camping, trail running and other outdoor activities. Her work has appeared in "Sacramento Parent," ASPCA's "Animal Watch" and other print and online publications. She is the author of "The History of Mexico" and "Tony Gonzalez: Superstar of Pro Football," aimed at young-adult readers.

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