I am not sure if I should be concerned or not, but my dog has been acting strange lately. She is usually very playful and energetic, but recently she has been sleeping for a lot of the day, and when she does play around, it seems like something is biting her.
Why does my dog act like something is biting her? It could be a psychological or medical reason. But, generally speaking, it can be caused by allergies, bugs and insect bites, or skin disorders like dry skin.
Let’s look more at each of these reasons and see if there is an easy solution.
Why Does My Dog Act Like Something is Biting Her?
Skin allergies can cause your dog to itch like crazy. The itchiness can be so severe that she will chew and scratch at their skin or even bite the affected area to alleviate the itchiness.
Based on the causes, allergic dermatitis in dogs can be divided into three types:
- Flea allergy dermatitis
- Food allergies
- Environmental skin allergies
What is flea allergy dermatitis?
Flea allergies are the most common skin disorder in dogs. It is caused by a reaction to flea saliva, which your dog’s body perceives as harmful and produces antibodies to fight off the “invader.” This means that when she bites or scratches himself due to her physical discomfort, it will make whatever part of her hurt more because of all the scratching.
Itchiness usually starts on the tail head area and then progresses towards the back end, tummy, hind legs, and feet. The itchiness can also spread from one spot (where they have been biting themselves) across their entire body.
Furthermore, this flea saliva may induce an allergic reaction for dogs with sensitive skin, leading to hot spots and infections.
What is food allergy dermatitis?
A food allergy dermatitis is when your dog’s body reacts to the protein in her diet. This can happen because of a reaction from one specific ingredient in their foods like chicken, corn, wheat, etc.
The only treatment is avoidance. Some dogs will require medication, but for most dogs, a hypoallergenic diet is sufficient to treat this type of allergy.
What is environmental skin allergy?
Environmental allergens such as pollen, dust mites, pollen, or mold can cause an allergic reaction in dogs (known as atopic dermatitis). When the allergic reaction is occurring, your dog can experience itchiness and severe inflammation that can be severe and persistent.
In most cases, atopic dermatitis is seasonal, so you may only notice it during certain times of the year. As with food allergies, the most common affected areas are the skin and ears, but it can also affect your dog’s paws, tail, and groin.
Diagnosing Allergies in Dogs
Flea allergy is the easiest allergy to identify as they are usually visible on the dog’s body. You can use a flea comb to comb through your dog’s fur to check if fleas are present there.
To properly diagnose food allergies, your vet may choose to do an elimination diet. It is a type of diet that consists of feeding your dog food that does not contain any of the possible allergens (novel foods) and then reintroducing other foods one at a time while monitoring for allergic reactions.
As for atopic dermatitis, your vet may propose allergy testing to determine the allergens that trigger your dog’s allergic reactions.
Some dogs are allergic to flea or tick saliva. Parasitic dermatitis caused by fleas, ticks, and mites makes the affected area and skin very itchy, which will compel them to chew, bite and scratch themselves until they are bleeding.
You will notice their skin may become red, inflamed, and scabbed. In most cases, you might see signs of fleas, like flea dirt, and you might also see the fleas themselves.
If your dog has an irritating flea or tick bites, the first thing you should do is to give him/her a cool bath with a mild, fragrance-free dog shampoo. This will help soothe and decrease inflammation.
The next thing to do is ask your veterinarian for prescription skin and coat care shampoos. Keep in mind that the shampoos must contain phytosphingosine, chlorhexidine, and climbazole, which are beneficial ingredients to treat flea bites.
If the itching is concentrated on one affected area, I recommend asking your vet about topical prescription medication. For the more severe inflammation case, corticosteroids injection may be needed. Unfortunately, this injection possesses many potentially life-threatening risks, so it should always be done under a doctor’s supervision.
3. Dry Skin
The dryness causes the dog’s skin to itch, and they start scratching, which can lead to even more dry skin.
This skin condition can be caused by many things, from dry air to fleas. Some dogs are just more prone than others because of their hair type and coat thickness.
The dryness usually shows up around the neck, elbows, ears, nose area, and armpits when it’s hot outside.
There are many ways you can help your dog with dry skin – try giving her added moisture or adding occasional baths that include oatmeal as an ingredient (oatmeal helps soothe itchy dry skin).
It might also be time for some new shampoo or condition that is mild and hypoallergenic. It’s also recommended to brush your dog regularly. And last but not least, don’t forget to keep your dog on a flea and tick preventive.
4. Insect Bites
Stinging insects like mosquitoes, ants, bees, wasp, and flies can spell some serious trouble for your dog. Let’s talk a bit about each of these insect bites.
Mosquito bites on dogs are similar to mosquito bites on people. Once bitten, your dog will start to feel the itch immediately, followed by sudden licking, chewing, biting, and scratching at the affected area. All of your dog’s body surfaces can be prone to mosquito bites, but their most favorite spots are large surface areas like the back and flanks.
Ant bites are relatively mild and do not cause significant whole-body effects. The bites themselves are itching and red and cause lameness. They generally occur on parts of the body having contact with the ground.
Bee, hornet, or wasp stings can occur anywhere on the dog’s body and are more severe than other insects as they have a greater chance of causing a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction.
Unlike mosquito bites and bee stings that tend to be localized, fly bites can occur anywhere on a dog’s body and can cause pain, itching, and swelling. One of the nasty things about these insect bites is that the flies may lay eggs on your dog’s skin, especially in open sores. Within days, the eggs hatch into larvae and crawl on the skin or burrow deep into the skin, causing swelling and secondary infections (like bacteria).
5. Anal Gland
If your dog acted as though something bit her rear end, and afterward, she scot across the room on her bottom, there’s a great chance that your dog has anal gland problems.
The anal glands are located on the inside of each dog’s rectum and produce a fluid that is excreted during bowel movements to help with digestion. These glands become swollen when a lot of fluid accumulates in them (which can happen for various reasons).
The problem happens when your dog is unable to express her anal gland, making the skin over the glands becomes swollen, irritated, and itchy.
6. Psychological Disorders
Psychological issues like boredom, anxiety, phobias, or stress manifest themselves in ways that seem to mimic physical pain or illness. If you notice your dog’s behavior starts to change, or they start exhibiting new behaviors that are out of character for them, it could be a sign that there is something psychological going on.
You should bring your dog to the vet immediately at the first sign of a psychological issue. Don’t wait too long; otherwise, the problem will start to manifest itself in ways that are more difficult to treat.
Here are some of the most common psychological disorders in dogs:
- Separation anxiety
- Social anxiety
- Noise anxiety
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
What To Do About It?
First of all, stay calm and don’t panic! This will only make the situation worse. The best thing you can do is to keep an eye on your dog for any signs and symptoms of psychological and health issues.
Once you have a hunch about what might be happening, it is time to bring your dog to the vet for further examination and diagnosis. If the cause is mental or emotional, the vet may recommend therapies. If it is physical, then there are various treatments that will address that as well.