Some dogs may seem like they never have an itch to scratch while others nibble and rub constantly. Whether it’s a skin condition, or they just like the way it feels can be hard to tell. However, when a dog goes a little crazy biting at their leg, the mystery is worth investigating. Is this normal behavior, or a problem? When should you worry? I went in search of all the facts and learned everything I could about this doggy phenomenon so I could share my findings with you.
Why does my dog bite his own leg? Having an occasional itch is common for dogs, but if your dog bites their leg constantly, there’s a problem. Fleas will make your dog miserable. Fortunately, flea collars and baths work wonders.
Reasons Why Dogs Bite Their Own Legs:
When your dog is chewing on one spot, or gnawing on their legs more than usual, you should always pay attention. They are trying to tell you there’s a problem, but lack the vocabulary necessary to say what’s wrong. Here are the most common reasons why a dog chews their legs.
- Fleas- These biting bugs feed on your poor pet’s skin and will make them very itchy.
- Ticks- A dog who notices a tick on their leg may bite at it to try and remove it.
- Skin Conditions- Several skin conditions can cause an itchy dog to bite its leg.
- Allergies- Too much pollen, poison ivy, or some other allergy could be to blame.
- OCD- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder isn’t a strictly human problem.
- Fungal Infection- Dogs, like their humans, can suffer from an overgrowth of fungus on the skin.
- Stepped In Something- Whether it’s trapped in the fur, or your pup stepped in something caustic, they might bite their legs to get rid of a surface substance.
- Anxiety- Picking at one area obsessively could be caused by loneliness or anxiety.
When to Worry About Leg Chewing Dogs
A little bit of leg biting is normal for your dog. They do it to scratch an itch most of the time. That’s nothing to be concerned about. However, if they won’t stop or your pet is bleeding, swollen, limping, or losing fur in the spot they are picking at, then you need to be concerned.
Look at the area carefully. If they refuse to allow it, then there’s a pain, and you should see a vet. It’s uncommon, but a dog may bite an area where there’s a broken bone or torn ligament because healing is itchy. More likely, the biting is caused by something else. As long as your dog trusts you, they should allow you to take a peek at the problem, especially if you praise them and give them a treat afterward.
If you see any of the warning signs, I just mentioned, like swelling, get your pooch to the vet. Self-diagnosing can lead to more problems unless you’re a certified specialist. Your pet care provider should be able to quickly discover the problem and help you and your pup out with a treatment plan. They can also prescribe something to ease pain, fight infection, or resolve concerns that you may not be able to treat at home.
Allergies that cause your dog to bite their leg can be broken into three categories. Regardless of the cause, allergies can make your dog as miserable as they make humans. There are few things worse than an itch you cannot scratch, no matter how hard you try.
While all fleas are itchy, some unlucky pups have a true allergy to them. That can cause a little itch to become a big problem. Luckily, genuine flea allergies aren’t prevalent. However, any fleas can cause itching, and you should get rid of them right away. Whether you go-pro and take them in for treatment or wash them at home, don’t put it off.
I suggest getting a good flea collar. Better yet, get one that’s recommended by vets like Seresto Flea and Tick Collar. One quick change every year and a half is super easy. It will keep the fleas off an allergic dog, plus they help prevent ticks as well. You can check prices and availability when you click here.
Environmental allergies, known as atopy, like fabric softeners, dust mites, and other things your dog lays in or inhales, could be the culprit. If your dog always bites their leg(s) after napping in a specific spot, it could be that they’re allergic to what they’re laying in. Similarly, when they itch after going outside during spring, it might be pollen. Of course, it’s not always that easy to spot an environmental allergy.
Once identified, the best thing about many environmental allergies is the ease with which you can fix some of them. Often it’s as simple as using non-wool bedding or a different floor cleaner. Getting your dog away from the problem may stop the leg biting. If not, look elsewhere and talk to a vet to see if there’s another issue.
Lastly, internal allergies, typically caused by food, may be causing your dog to bite their legs. Neither you nor your dog is likely to spot this problem easily. After all, most dogs eat similar diets without issue. It’s much less common for a dog to have skin issues as a result of a dietary allergy. Still, it can happen.
Some dogs’ bodies misidentify a particular protein as a threat. This hypersensitive reaction makes your pup’s immune system attack the ‘intruder.’ With your vet’s help, you can change their diet, and it should clear up the issue.
Anxiety, Boredom & Depression in Dogs
As odd as it may seem to some people, an anxious dog will sometimes chew their leg. This stressed-out pooch behavior is a sign that your best friend isn’t doing well mentally. It helps to identify the cause. When you have a new pet, baby, or roommate, it may just be the former-only-child jitters. In that case, make some extra time for them every day and make sure that your pooch knows you still have room for them in your life.
Dogs who get bored indoors also tend to gnaw as an outlet. It may seem less destructive than a pup who gets into the trash or eats your underwear, but it’s not. They’re hurting themselves.
A bored dog needs more to do. If toys, or even leaving the TV on don’t cut it, you should see about getting a good dog walker. The interaction each day will help keep your dog healthy and reduce the urge to chew.
Self-harming behavior may seem like a human thing, but dogs, birds, and other animals do it as well. If your dog is depressed, you may not realize it at first. Depression isn’t always characterized by moping around. Even when it is, it can be tough to spot if your favorite fido is a couch potato anyhow. Talk to your vet about doggy depression. I know that sounds like a TV commercial. However, it’s a potentially severe and treatable mental health issue.
Doggy Parasites & Insect Bites
Fleas and ticks aren’t the only biting critters that might be causing your dog to leg-chew. Sadly, while some bugs and bites are easy to spot, others can be too small. Swelling, rashes, redness, and raised skin could be either parasite or insect-related.
When in doubt, always go to a professional groomer or vet. A mosquito bite or two will go away in a few hours. Alternately, some spiders can cause severe, lasting effects or even death.
Fungal & Bacterial Infections in Dogs
Does your dog have feet that smell like corn chips? If they’re nibbling the toes as well as their leg, then it might be an overgrowth of bacteria. However, the corn chip smell isn’t always there because there’s more than one kind of fungal or bacterial infection.
Ringworm, for example, is itchy or painful. Worms do not cause ringworm, but it does spread out in a ring shape and come from a fungus. Dogs may get ringworm from the soil on their feet and legs. Plus, fur can get in the way of noticing the distinctive pattern. However, especially if you or someone in your house has ringworm, check to make sure that’s not the problem.
Every fungal and bacterial problem is serious in its way, though some more so than others. While it won’t prevent everything, switching to an excellent antifungal dog shampoo can help minimize risks.
Skip the prescription-strength shampoos made for vets unless your pet care professional tells you otherwise. However, using a natural, safer shampoo like Alpha Dog Series Premium Choice can help avoid issues like bacterial overgrowth. I use the whitening variety on my pup. You can find more details by clicking here.
Compulsive Disorder: Dog Chewing On Leg
I’m glad to report that doggy compulsive disorders aren’t the most common concern when dogs chew on their legs. Yet, it can be the cause. If you’ve eliminated other options, then you may want to ask your vet about compulsive behavior. Some of the signs, if the compulsion is leg chewing, are: a dog who chews their own leg until it’s damaged, refuses to stop for any reason, and avoids other activities to chew alone.
Compulsion is challenging to treat in animals. However, there’s hope. You can work with them to reduce the urges. Sadly, you can’t ‘take away’ the object of their temptation in this case. Nevertheless, there are ways to help with veterinary assistance, time, love, and lots of patience.
Canine Skin Conditions
Does your dog chew on their legs more in winter? If your answer is yes, then the good news is that it might be a simple case of dry skin. Naturally, dryness can happen in other seasons, but it’s widespread in wintertime. You may notice flaky, dry-looking skin, but it doesn’t always show so quickly at first.
As long as your beloved best friend is only dealing with dry skin, I suggest an easy fix. Zesty Paws makes a fantastic Pure Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil Supplement. Mix a few pumps in with their meals, and the oils will help your pup’s skin and coat regulate itself. You can pick up a bottle or a subscription delivery by clicking here.
Dog’s Other Itchy Skin Conditions
Biting at itchy skin on a leg might be typical for your dog, but pruritis or chronic itchy skin is not. If treating dry skin at home doesn’t work, or is not the cause, then your vet will have better solutions and answers for you. Keep an eye out for secondary issues. A dog who chews too much can bruise themselves, break the skin causing open wounds, or do other damage.
Don’t wait and guess if your dog is hurting themself. Always head in to see the vet for a better idea of what’s happening. Skin conditions that aren’t simple, like seasonal dryness, are harder to identify and treat appropriately.
It’s never worth letting your pet suffer while you guess. Whether it’s a thyroid issue or Demodex mites, you won’t know for sure without professional assistance that only a doggy doctor can give.
When a Dog Steps In Something Itchy
Perhaps the luckiest of all the possible causes, stepping in something might be the root of your dog’s leg chewing issue. When you notice this after splashing through mud, or mysterious puddles, the answer is easy. Wash their feet and legs.
Especially if the dog in question is chewing more than one leg, the chances that they stepped in something itchy is higher. I suggest every dog owner get a Booster Bath from Amazon. Mine comes in handy every week. Getting your pup up off the ground and out of the bathtub is a great way to have fun and get clean at the same time. You can check them out by clicking here.
Hopefully, your dog isn’t the type to run through dead stuff. With luck, they’ll never step in anything hazardous. However, it doesn’t matter what they tromped through to cause the problem as long as you wash it off thoroughly. Don’t be afraid to rinse and repeat as many times as necessary.
With so many possible causes for leg chewing, it can be incredibly worrisome behavior. Not knowing is frustrating for you and your dog. Always check out the spot they’re chewing carefully. There may be clues to help you resolve the itch.
Take preventative measures. Washing with antibacterial shampoo every week or two is a good start. Additionally, try to steer clear of anything they could step in and make sure they have the right diet. Give your pooch extra Omega 3 and 6, especially in winter.
Always talk to your vet about unusual leg chewing. Even when you can’t see the problem, it can still be dangerous.