There’s something about the noise of your dog chewing on himself that goes right through you, isn’t there? And for some reason, they only like to do it in the evenings, when all is quiet- usually just as I’m dropping off to sleep, in my case!
You’ll be relieved to hear that there are some easy ways to stop your dog in his tracks – read on for our top tips!
Why Is My Dog Licking/Chewing Himself?
Dogs can lick or chew themselves for a number of reasons. One of the most common is because they’re itchy. Fleas and other parasites are ubiquitous and can cause severe itching, especially in dogs that are allergic to their bites. Dogs that are allergic to other things – pollen, weeds, mites or even carpet shampoo – can also be found chewing on themselves because they’re so itchy. Skin infections, common in young dogs or old dogs with immunological problems, are also itchy and can be treated easily.
Is My Dog in Pain?
Another common reason for dogs to lick and chew themselves is pain. Some arthritic dogs will lick repetitively at a joint as if to soothe it. Dogs with cuts, abrasions and foreign bodies such as grass seeds stuck under the skin will also lick or chew repetitively. Usually, injuries are quite easy to find, and if your dog is only chewing the same place over and over it’s a good idea to look more closely or to visit the veterinarian.
Is My Dog Bored or Anxious?
The last main reason is boredom and anxiety. Some dogs will learn to lick or chew as a distraction if they’re bored. Others will chew as a distraction from anxiety. These can be difficult to diagnose, as everything else needs to be ruled out first- after all, we can’t ask the dog if they feel anxious or bored! Sometimes, though, a simple change in routine is all that’s needed to make your dog feel better.
9 Ways to Stop your Dog from Chewing Himself
1. Buster Collar
We may not like the implications, but the truth is that a plastic ‘Buster Collar’, ‘E-Collar’ or ‘Cone of Shame’ is one of the best ways to stop your dog from licking or chewing himself. There’s a reason most vets keep them in stock! It’s a good idea to keep a buster collar around the house in case of emergencies. Simply put it together, then slip your dog’s normal collar through the loops and put it back onto your dog. Many dogs will be confused for the first few minutes and walk into things with the edge of the collar until they get used to their new extension. Obviously, this isn’t a permanent fix, but it’s an excellent way to stop your dog from doing themselves any damage whilst you arrange a vet visit.
2. Blow-up Comfy Collar
This doesn’t work for every dog or every location, but blow-up ‘doughnut’ type collars are much more comfortable for your dog and won’t obscure their eyesight at all. Do remember, though, that they don’t always work for long-bodied dogs, especially flexible dogs, or itchy back paws- they can often reach around the collar. They’re great to keep on hand along with the usual buster collar though, and if you see your dog getting around it you can always switch it out for the less comfortable one!
3. Sock or Boot
If it’s your dog’s foot that they’re paying particular attention to, applying a sock can sometimes help. Some dogs will find a way around this, but one tip is to use stretchy bandage tape to stick the sock to your dog’s fur so that it’s harder to remove. A sock is not recommended for those dogs that are already prone to chewing on clothing, or those that seem likely to eat a sock so temptingly put within their reach- a blocked intestine is far more worrying than a bit of chewing! Velcro-on boots can be bought especially for dogs and, along with the collars above, can make a useful addition to the first-aid armoury. A determined dog will still get them off, but for most the neoprene provides some protection from their chewing and licking.
4. Bodysuit/ T-shirt
For itches and injuries on the body, a medical bodysuit, doggy jumper or adapted child’s t-shirt can sometimes provide a barrier to your dog licking and chewing. This won’t work for problems on the legs or feet, but may prevent a dog from biting at his back.
5. Basket Muzzle
Not suitable for long-term use, but in an emergency a muzzle can prevent your dog from doing himself any damage whilst you are on your way to the vets. This is especially useful for sudden foreign body injuries, where the dog’s instinct is to lick and chew at the wound, but the ideal situation is to keep it clean. Never leave your dog unattended whilst wearing a muzzle, and remember that only the basket-type muzzles (Baskerville muzzles) are suitable for wearing for more than a minute or two.
6. Bitter Spray
7. Shampoo your Dog
If your dog has suddenly started chewing, it’s a good idea to give your dog a bath using some dog-safe shampoo. This should remove any irritants such as pollen, burrs, or road grit from your dog’s skin. A skin-soothing shampoo may also help to soothe out any irritations.
8. Provide Distractions
If your dog is chewing because of boredom or anxiety, providing a distraction might be an important part of treatment. Try providing a stuffed Kong toy or a lick mat to give them something else to think about.
9. Get Medications
Of course, all of the other suggestions here are fairly temporary, and are unlikely to permanently solve the problem unless you get to the bottom of your dog’s reasons for doing it. If it’s not boredom or anxiety, the chances are a medication may help. Check your pet’s flea medications are up to date. If your dog is older and it is one of the joints that they’re licking, a pain relief medication may be of help. If your veterinarian suspects allergies, they can suggest some anti-itch medication that may help your dog to feel better.
Featured Image: ikayama, Flickr