It’s perfectly natural and normal for dogs to occasionally chew on their legs, feet, ears, and tails. This behavior is no different than when you scratch an itch — it provides relief.
However, if you notice that your dog is constantly chewing herself, it may indicate a deeper problem — particularly if the chewed area has become sore, red, inflamed, or furless.
So what is going on? It may be because of one of the following problems:
Your dog may be biting himself in an attempt to relieve the itchiness of dry skin, which could be caused by a number of things, such as dry, cold weather or a lack of fatty acids. You may be able to spot flakes of dandruff and cracked, tough skin.
Fleas and other parasites
Fleas, mites, and ticks alike can cause a lot of discomfort to their canine host and are common culprits behind excessive chewing. Often, these pests can be revealed from a visual check or a good brushing.
Mold, pollen, bug bites, and other allergens can make your dog’s skin dry or greasy. Similarly, allergies to certain types of soaps and pesticides can irritate a dog’s skin and set off a scratch session. If the behavior just began, consider what environmental changes occurred recently.
Your dog’s skin can become infected because of imbalances in cortisol or thyroid hormones. You can often identify bacterial infections by tiny, red bumps on your dog’s skin. Fungal infections can result in oily, greasy skin. In both cases, your dog may also have a waxy ear discharge.
Aches, pain, and soreness
There’s always a possibility that your dog has stepped or brushed against something that resulted in pain or irritation, such as a burr, thorn, or sharp piece of glass. In addition, dogs sometimes react to arthritis and other orthopedic problems with chronic chewing, scratching, and licking.
As pack animals, dogs require constant companionship, attention, and stimulation. If your dog begins to frequently chew an area of her body, it may be because she is lonely, bored, or restless. Find ways to add more socialization and mental challenges into your dog’s life.
Many causes of leg chewing are fairly easy to identify and treat at home, but if your dog won’t stop biting her leg or any other area of the body, it’s a good idea to take her to the vet for examination. Your vet can determine the root of this behavior and make suggestions for treatment or dietary and lifestyle changes.
Do you wonder about the meaning of an odd behavior that dog displays? Tell us all about it in the comments.