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What is Chewing Off His Fur?

Occasional chewing on the fur on the lower back or rapidly scratching the back of his ear with his hind paw is normal for your dog.  He, just like people, gets itchy from time to time.  However, when itch relief or chewing behaviors lead to removing fur, you have cause for concern.  There are a few reasons why your dog may be chewing off his fur, including:

  • Allergies
  • Skin disorders
  • Infections
  • Insect or parasite bites
  • Stress and anxiety

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Why Chewing Off His Fur Occurs in Dogs

If your dog’s fur chewing is the result of itchy skin, there are several possible reasons.  

Allergies

Allergies in dogs are common and usually manifest within the first six months of age to three years old and can affect any breed or sex of the dog.  However, atopic dermatitis, which is an allergic reaction affecting the skin is more common in Chinese Shar-Peis, Wirehaired Fox Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Dalmatians, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Lhasa Apsos, Scottish Terriers, Shih Tzus, and West Highland White Terriers.  Atopic dermatitis may lead your dog to chew off his fur to satisfy an itch that won’t go away.

Skin Disorders

Your dog’s sebaceous glands, which are just below the surface of the skin may overproduce sebum, an oily or waxy substance that is used to waterproof and protect the skin. When this occurs, your dog’s skin will flake off in scales or possibly look red and inflamed.  Seborrheic dermatitis will also cause your dog’s skin to become itchy, and he will scratch and chew at his fur to relieve himself.  Usually, a foul odor is also associated with this type of skin disorder.

Infections

An open wound or scratch, if left untreated, can quickly develop into an infection.  Additionally, untreated allergies or skin disorders can cause your dog to scratch and chew his fur off, which may then lead to a secondary infection.  Yeast or bacteria can cause secondary infections.  Malassezia overgrowth is a common yeast infection that affects dogs that chronically chew at their fur.  Your dog’s mouth and the environment may also trigger a bacterial infection, especially if your dog has self-mutilated his skin through chewing off his fur.

Insect and Parasite Bites

Insect bites from fleas, ticks, flies, or mosquitos can cause your dog to chew at his fur at the site of the bite leading to an inflamed area known as a “hot spot.”  Hot spots are acute moist dermatitis and can become large red lesions very quickly.  Hot spots develop by disturbing the natural bacteria on your dog’s skin and causing it to overgrow through scratching or chewing on the skin at the site of the insect bite.  Bacterial overgrowth will further exacerbate the area, and your dog will chew harder trying to satisfy his itch.  

Stress and Anxiety

Stress from change or separation anxiety can adversely affect your dog and he may self-mutilate by chewing his fur off.  Dogs require companionship and stimulation.  If your dog is starting to chew on his fur and no underlying medical condition is apparent, he may be lonely.  Other destructive behaviors will also accompany separation anxiety or stress, such as incessant barking, destroying furniture, or scratching at doors and walls.

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What to do if your Dog is Chewing Off His Fur

You should take your dog to the veterinarian if you believe your dog’s fur chewing is medically related.  To give your dog immediate relief, you should clip the hair in the area where your dog is chewing and clean the area with a non-irritating shampoo.  Gently pat dry the area and make sure you dog does not lick or chew the area.  When you bring your dog to the veterinarian, your vet will perform a full physical examination.  Your veterinarian will ask you for your dog’s medical history including possible allergen exposures.

If your vet suspects your dog is suffering from acute moist dermatitis, your dog will be prescribed an oral antibiotic to treat the bacterial overgrowth.  You veterinarian may also prescribe a pain medication as well as an anti-inflammatory.  It is critical to use only the prescribed dosages of all medications, especially anti-inflammatory drugs as overuse can lead to other medical conditions.  

If your dog is suffering from seborrheic dermatitis, your veterinarian will help you develop a plan to manage sebum production.  Many times, managing sebum production involves administering Omega-3 fatty acids, using anti-seborrheic shampoos, or possibly administering retinoids, which are a class of chemicals that regulate epithelial cell growth.

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Prevention of Chewing Off His Fur

You can take preventative measures, such as flea control and proper bathing and grooming to prevent many skin afflictions that may cause you dog to chew off his fur.  Unfortunately, you cannot always prevent your dog from bites from other insects.  However, by being aware of your dog’s comfort levels and catching an itch before he can chew it raw may prevent his from developing lesions or loss of hair.  

Elizabethan collars can also be used to prevent your dog from further irritating his skin once a bite or condition is discovered and treatment plans are underway.  If your dog’s fur chewing is related to an environmental or food allergy, you can prevent reactions by avoiding the allergen.  This is not always easily done, especially with over-abundant allergens, such as grass.  However, bathing your dog with hypo-allergenic shampoos can significantly reduce the discomfort he feels from coming into contact with daily allergens.  

Dogs are pack animals and require stimulation and companionship.  Routine walks, exercise, and socialization will help keep your dog stimulated.  Additionally, your dog should always have access to fresh water and regular opportunities to eliminate waste.  Meeting these basic needs and giving your dog your love and compassion will help keep him from developing separation anxiety and other psychological issues that may lead to chewing his fur off.

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Cost of Chewing Off His Fur

The cost of treating your dog for chewing off his fur will depend on the underlying causes of his condition.  For example, it can cost around $300 to treat hot spots if your dog is suffering from acute moist dermatitis.  Treating atopic dermatitis and allergy related conditions can cost around $1,200.

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Chewing Off His Fur Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Australian shepherd and border collie

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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5 found helpful

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Chewing At His Fur

He is chewing fur off on his side and has never been allergic to anything of my knowledge but just recently had a tussle with the neighbors dog over a female dog.

Aug. 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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5 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry your dog is having troubles. If this is a recent development, it may be that there is a bacterial infection that is causing this, if he did have a recent bite wound. Without seeing him, unfortunately, I don't have any way to see what might be going on, but having him seen by a veterinarian would probably be a good idea if it is not getting better. They will be able to see if it is an infection, a parasite, or an allergy. They will be able to get treatment for him so that he feels better soon. I hope that all goes well.

Aug. 23, 2020

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Carolina Dog

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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5 found helpful

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Redness Scratching

My dog has chewed her fur off and you can see red irritated skin. what do i do?

Aug. 22, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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5 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Dogs can have bacterial infections, fungal infections, parasites, or allergies. Since there are so many possibilities, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. They can examine her and see what might be going on. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 23, 2020

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Goldendoodle

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Three Years

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3 found helpful

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Irritated Area On Legs

I’m not sure if I can put anything on it. It’s super irritated from chewing at it. It looks like a bite

Aug. 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Hello, This looks like a possible hot spot. You can clean this area and apply triple antibiotic or cortisone cream. Try to keep her from licking this are too. If this does not get better it would be best for your vet to look at this area and make sure that she doesn't need oral antibiotics too.

Aug. 12, 2020

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Boxer beagle

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<1

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4 found helpful

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Chewing Skin, Hot Spots

My dog has been itching and chewing up a storm. He’s recently chewed part of his tail raw and hairless. I’m thinking it could be bug bites (we live by the water), or something more serious like dermatitis. Wondering if visually there’s any way to tell what kind of irritation it is

Aug. 6, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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4 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm sorry that your dog is having problems. The most common cause for chewing around the back of the tail is fleas or flea allergies. If he is not on flea control, that would be the first thing to do. If you do not see fleas or he is on prescription flea control regularly, then it may be a bacterial or allergic problem, and it would be best to see a veterinarian to figure out what is going on. They would be able to look at your dog, look at his skin, and see what the cause might be so that they can get medication for him. I hope that all goes well for him and he feels better soon.

Aug. 6, 2020

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Pit Bull

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One and a half

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Chewing Excessively

How to get my dog to stop chewing his fur off

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello I'm sorry to see that your pet is chewing is fur off. He may have itchiness due to allergies, fleas or some type of skin infection. I recommend that you take him to a veterinarian for an exam. They will take a look at his skin and make recommendations for treatment. Good luck.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Kiera

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Doberman Pinscher

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4 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

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Licking Butt
Eating Fur
Scratching Until Bleeding
Licking At Butt

My doberman does the same thing every winter, chewing herself (mostly back and butt area) until she bleeds. We have tried fish oils, changing her diet, coconut oils, creams, and we have even went to the vet. They said it was anxiety but I have no idea what to do to help her or make her skin hurt less. It's spreading down her hind legs and up her back and she sometimes scratches a 2 in x 2 in spot on her side. I need remedies to clear this up or help the pain, or advice if your dog has done any of the same things or has anxiety. Thanks!

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Licky

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German Shepherd

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Fleas

My German shepherd has bitten off his fur on his lower back by the hips. I’m sure he got fleas. During the summer our yard gets infested by fleas. We bathed him with flea shampoo and put a flea collar on him. Not sure what else to do. We can not bring him inside. What can I put on his wound to help it heal? I’m worried it will get an infection.

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Zsa Zsa

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Mutt

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3 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

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Eating Her Skin

My parents are loosing there minds because there dog is literally eating himself so bad to the point of serious bleeding and constantly. There are so many open wounds and its only getting worse. They have tried everything, dermatologist for dogs which prescribed a steroid it helped while she was on it, but they can only prescribe so much at a time, they had tried the bodysuit but she still eats herself and blood just seeps through the suit, bacteria dog body wash they use twice a week, lives in a cone basically but its horrible because I know having the cone on is toucher because she still itches so bad but can't get to the spots that she wants too. It to a point now where my parents are fighting and the poor Zsa Zsa is extremely uncomfortable and thats not a way a happy dog should live. Is there something out there we haven't tried that we can do? Please help!

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Jasmine

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Chiweenie

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss
Itching
Sores
Chewing

She has always had dry skin but never until last year or maybe 2 years ago she chewed a bald spot on her back end and she's not had flees since she was 1 or 2 and it wasn't even a lasting thing (took to grandparents they have flees but not since then since we don't go there anymore) besides that she just had dandruff and not much else but she scratches sores on her ears (no ear mites) and has a bald spot and a bad sore from chewing. Sadly where we live is not great at paying but vets are extremely expensive and she doesn't have any recent shots past the pup and a rabies shot once. Other then the price of just a physical they'd want shots and all and it'd be thousands of dollars... I'm hoping like last time she'll stop but I am thinking maybe a cone would help though she's not gonna like it.

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Charlie

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Shihpoo

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Bleeding
Scratching
Chewing
Bitting

My pup bites and chews his fur off from his hind legs so when I pet him his hind legs are scratchy and the rest of his fur is soft. This started a week ago and I’m not sure what to do. A few times he bleed. He had a few fleas before but we quickly repaired it and we aren’t sure what is causing him to do this. He can be a little anxious around other dogs but not at home. When he starts bitting, scratching and chewing we try to stop him but when we leave he continues. We are sure he doesn’t have allergies. We plan to take him to a vet to try to solve this problem.

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