Dogs eat their own hair because of anxiety, boredom, or sickness. Of the three, anxiety is the most common. Just as humans have odd quirks when we get anxious (such as biting our nails), dogs do the same. Eating their own hair is a way some dogs handle anxiety.
Are you wondering why your dog eats its own fur? Although this seems like strange behavior, they definitely aren’t alone in this habit.
The best way to prevent your dog from eating their own fur is to figure out why they’re doing it in the first place.
There are a few root causes that can lead your dog to eat its own fur. Whether it’s a brand newer habit or your dog has been doing it since they were a puppy, we are here to help you get to the bottom of it.
Anxiety, Boredom, and Sickness – The Leading Causes
The three things mentioned above (anxiety, boredom, and sickness) are three three main reasons dogs eat their fur.
As their owner, it’s vital that you know if they are experiencing any of these things. This behavior itself may seem odd, but it may be pointing you towards the possibility that your pup may be ill or going through anxiety.
Once you get to the root cause, it’s much easier to treat both the fur eating habit and the anxiety, boredom, or sickness.
What Does Anxiety Look Like in Dogs?
Humans have a medical diagnosis for pulling out their own hair as a stress response, it’s called Trichotillomania. This diagnosis is not uncommon, and it can typically be treated by understanding what is causing the anxiety in the first place.
Canine anxiety can have a number of causes. Moving houses, driving in a car, or loud noises such as the Fourth of July fireworks are very common stressors for our loving but anxious furry friends.
You are usually able to notice when your dog is having a moment of anxiety. They may have a tail between their legs, hide underneath a table, or whimper. It’s also possible that eating their fur is just another symptom of stress and anxiety.
The best way to determine if this is the case is to pay close attention to when your dog is chewing his fur.
Does the habit line up with a recurring behavior or event? Does your dog only do it when they’ve been left alone for a long time or hear a loud noise in the distance? If so, your dog is likely eating its hair because of anxiety. If you treat the anxiety, your dog will stop eating its hair.
How to Treat Anxiety in Dogs
In order to treat dog anxiety, the first thing you need to do is figure out what’s causing anxiety in the first place. Treating dog anxiety isn’t always easy, but it’s nearly impossible if you don’t have any idea what the cause is.
Once you can identify what the cause of anxiety is – you can work toward stopping this hair eating behavior.
Some dog’s anxiety stems from underlying issues, such as hormonal imbalances or issues with their adrenal gland. Only a doctor can diagnose these problems, so it’s vital to discuss anxiety with your vet the next time you go in for an appointment.
In the meantime, try to remove anything you believe may be a stressor. If that’s not possible, try removing your dog from a stressful situation.
This might mean taking your dog on fewer car rides if they are visibly anxious in the car. Another big stress point for dogs is leaving them alone for hours at a time. If possible, it’s best not to leave them for long periods, only brief intervals. This can also help prevent the fur eating habit because your dog will be less inclined to eat their hair while you are sitting in the room and can correct the behavior.
You could also introduce medicine such as CBD, which has been proven to relax overly anxious dogs. The most important thing you can do for your dog is to remain calm and level-headed when they’re stressed. You serve as a point of support and a safe space. If they see you’re calm, they’re more likely to calm down.
Allergies, Bug Bites, and Hot Spots
There are a few medical conditions that could cause your dog to eat its own fur. Let’s start with allergies. Allergies often affect our furry friend’s skin, and without meaning to, your dog might ease the itch by biting at its own fur.
To solve this problem, you could apply a topical solution to your dog’s coat that not only relieves the irritation but also makes it less appealing for them to bite/chew that area.
Your vet should be able to help ease the allergies by identifying the cause. Once the cause has been identified, you can remove the allergen from your dog’s diet or lifestyle. Your doctor may also recommend Benadryl to ease the itching.
If it’s not allergies, there could be a bug bite or wound right where your dog is licking and biting. Be sure to look at the area to see if you notice any unusual marks.
If your dog is focusing on one spot instead of their whole body, there’s a good chance that something at that specific spot is bothering them.
If your dog spends a lot of time focusing on one area, a hot spot can form. Once a hot spot forms, it can spread and cause more of a problem for your dog by becoming inflamed and irritated.
They can also be painful for your dog. A hotspot typically requires medical intervention and a cone to keep your pup from messing with the sore area.
Should You See a Vet?
Yes. A vet will intervene before a simple habit turns into a hot spot or irritation. They may suggest you invest in a cone, which will stop your dog from reaching and biting the bothersome area.
Your vet will also make sure there are no underlying issues or illness at hand, which will provide you with peace of mind.
Boredom Can Cause Dogs to Eat Their Own Hair
Boredom is another major cause for dogs eating their own fur. If your dog isn’t focusing on one area and they don’t seem irritated, they may be just doing it because they have nothing better to do.
Boredom can be easily fixed with some added activity and exercise. You should consider setting aside additional time each day to bring your dog outside or play a game with them inside.
You could also consider hiring a dog walker to add more frequent walks into your dog’s schedule.
After a few weeks of increased activity, their fur eating habit should dwindle. If it does, you likely hit the nail on the head, and your poor pup was just trying to tell you they were bored.
Your dog could also be licking himself because he’s lonely. If there were another dog at home, it’s possible he would groom him/her instead.
If this is the case, visit your local dog park or set up a dog play date to fix this urge and get your dog some much-needed time with other dogs.
It may be alarming when you see your dog eating its own fur/hair, but in most cases, you can fix this habit with simple changes.
The tips mentioned above will lead you in the right direction to identify what’s going on in your fluffy pup’s head. If you’re able to understand if your dog is anxious, bored, or sick, you should be able to not only work toward alleviating that problem, but could eliminate their habit of eating their fur altogether.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.