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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.

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.

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.

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.

Chewing Off His Fur Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Sprinkles
Shiba Inu
1 Year
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Itchy skin, missing fur,

I have a Shiba Inu and she has chewed off all the fur around
her back legs and her butt. The vet said she has allergies but nothing seems to work. It's red and seems to be getting bald. I don't know what to do about it please help.

Michele King
Dr. Michele King, DVM
293 Recommendations
Thank you for your question. Without seeing her, I can't diagnose her with anything, but a very common reason for dogs to chew at their back end is fleas, or allergies to fleas. If she isn't on any flea control, she should be, and she should probably be examined by her veterinarian to make sure that the area isn't infected and needing medication to help clear it up. I hope that she is okay.

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Astra
American Eskimo
2 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Chewing

My dog is destroying her skin with biting.her tail and her legs bleed from biting. Her back is flakey. I give her flax seed which used to help a lot now I think it might be something else because it's no longer working. I'm worried she's going to lose all her hair at this rate. I love her so much I hate to see her suffer like this. Please help.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations
If Astra is chewing herself to this extent, it may be worth placing a cone on her to stop the biting whilst an underlying cause is determined; allergies, infections, parasites, hormonal conditions, autoimmune disease, behavioural issues among other conditions may cause these symptoms. A thorough examination by your Veterinarian is required, skin scrapings and a biopsy may be taken to look for any parasites or other anomalies; these problems can be difficult to diagnose, allergy testing would be valuable. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Kush
American bully
5 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Losing fur on tail. Dry nose. Chewi

My dogs nose is extremely dry. He is also chewing his tail. Seems sickly. Look like he's losing weight. Definitely not as playful. Don't have vet money right away, need something over the counter.

Callum Turner
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1823 Recommendations
There isn’t an over the counter solution to everything and there are many different causes for these symptoms including allergies, fleas, other irritation, autoimmune disease, infections among other causes; I would suggest to try something like Benadryl in case there are allergies and to apply a flea & tick spot on treatment as well to cover those basis. Without an examination I cannot tell you much more and we are limited with over the counter medications. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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