Health Topics  >  Skin and Coat  > Itching and Scratching

What is compulsive itching, scratching and chewing in dogs?

Itching, scratching, chewing and licking (there’s usually a combination of all the above) can be normal behaviors for a dog, but there’s a point when it can become compulsive. No matter how frequent or severe the itching and scratching is, it’s a sign of discomfort in your dog.

Other signs of being itchy and uncomfortable are not eating as much, whimpering or panting excessively, and even hiding.

Signs that it’s becoming compulsive or obsessive are when it’s occurring more frequently than usual (more than what you’ve observed in the past) or when your dog is wounding themselves – especially if there’s any hair loss, scabs, raw or bleeding skin or “hot spots” (red, wet inflamed sores that’s caused by from persistent chewing, licking, scratching or rubbing) caused from the self-trauma.

Other signs of excessive itching (pruritus) are:

  • Licking the paws frequently
  • Chewing skin or fur on any body part
  • Rubbing their face with paws
  • Rubbing their back on the ground, rolling on the ground or rubbing against surfaces, such as trees or furniture
  • Scooting, or dragging their bum on the ground
  • “Scratch reflex”, where the skin crawls/itches in response to being scratched (often known as getting “the spot” and may result in excited leg thumping) 
  • Other signs of discomfort, such as wincing, whimpering, or protecting certain parts of the body
Itching becomes an issue when the scratching occurs more frequently or is causing trauma.