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Dogs and Compulsive Scratching, Licking, and Chewing

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Treatment for Your Dog’s Compulsive Scratching, Licking, and Chewing

Because there are so many reasons why dogs chew or scratch, be sure to check with your veterinarian as soon as you notice a problem. The veterinarian will help figure out the cause of the behavior and determine the best treatment plan. Depending on the cause of your dog’s compulsive behavior, this might include:

  • Eliminating parasites. There are a variety of flea and tick products that your veterinarian can recommend. Additionally, if your dog’s biting or chewing problems are caused by fleas, be sure to wash your dog’s bed and vacuum your carpeting and upholstered furniture on a regular basis to reduce the likelihood of reinfestation. You also need to treat any other animals in the household.
  • Changing foods. If food allergies are making your dog itch, eliminating potential trigger foods (such as beef or wheat) can make a huge difference. Your vet may recommend a special diet if this appears to be the case. The addition of fatty acid supplements to your pet’s regular food can also help address dry skin issues and keep your dog’s coat healthy.
  • Using medication. Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to treat underlying problems contributing to your dog’s persistent scratching. Additionally, your vet may recommend the use of topical or systemic antibiotics, steroids, or anti-itch products to treat existing hot spots or skin infections.
  • Preventing the behavior. Because compulsive behaviors can cause serious damage and affect your dog’s quality of life, it’s important to do your best to stop your dog from chewing, licking, or scratching too much. Some ideas include using bitter sprays to discourage licking, having your dog wear a special collar to prevent access to hot spots, or keeping your dog close by your side when you’re home.
  • Addressing anxiety or boredom. In some cases, compulsive biting, chewing, or licking develops in response to fear, stress, or inadequate stimulation. To reduce this likelihood, be sure your dog receives enough exercise, attention, and love. It can also be helpful to train your dog to chew on toys or bones to relieve stress as a replacement for inappropriate chewing or licking behaviors.

 

WebMD Veterinary Reference

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on May 12, 2014
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