Licking, chewing, scratching…it’s what dogs do. But when yours is doing it continuously, concentrating on one area and leaving it inflamed and furless, this is a problem. The cause could be one of many reasons. Let’s look at each of them:
• Your dog could have developed a patch of dry skin that is driving him crazy. Dry skin can happen because of a lack of fatty acids in the diet, or even just cold, arid weather. Look at the skin he has exposed and look for flaky residue and dandruff in the hair. Feel the spot with your fingers to see if the skin feels scaly and hard.
FLEAS, MITES AND TICKS
• Could it be a parasite infestation? If so, your vet can easily cure the problem with medication. Be sure to vacuum and disinfect the dog’s bed, carpet, upholstery and anything else in the house that can give fleas, ticks and mites a temporary home before they climb back onto your pet again.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND FOOD ALLERGIES
• Allergy is another common culprit that brings on compulsive chewing, scratching and licking. Dogs are as susceptible to molds, pollen and other seasonal allergens as humans. The allergy trigger could also be in the food (like in beef and wheat). If you suspect an allergic reaction, consult your vet for diet recommendations and medications to stave off the skin symptoms.
BACTERIAL AND FUNGAL INFECTIONS
• Imbalances in cortisol or thyroid hormones can be acting as a trigger. Look for the presence of tiny, red bumps on your dog’s skin, which suggests bacterial infection. Fungal infections can result in oily, greasy skin. In both cases, your dog may also have a waxy ear discharge.
ACHES AND PAINS
• Arthritis and other orthopedic problems can set off a sudden bout of chronic chewing, scratching, and licking. Accidental hurts also do this, because the only way dogs know how to soothe pain is by using their mouth.
BOREDOM, SADNESS, RESTLESSNESS
• Have you been leaving the dog alone at home for longer spells than usual? Or has he got reason to be bored, restless or psychologically disturbed? Emotional issues can bring on compulsive behaviors like constant licking and scratching, so observe the animal’s general mood and state of mind.