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Self mutilation in dogs occurs when a dog has an irritation at some spot on its body. Whether it is caused by itching or pain, the dog will lick and chew excessively at the area trying to get some relief. This excessive licking and chewing invariably leads to tissue breakdown.

Generally speaking, self-harm includes anything that involves actively removing fluffing or plumage through licking, biting, breaking, or plucking. These behaviors might stem from pain, allergies, skin problems, or other issues in the area, as well as stress — in which case, it would make sense if you’ve noticed your pet engaging in them lately.

Self-mutilation can cause severe injuries to your dog’s skin and even deeper tissues. It should not be taken lightly because when your dog tries to harm itself, there must be some psychological aspects that may disrupt your dog’s peace and overt bodily responses. You should see a vet as soon as possible.

Signs of Self Mutilation in Dogs

You need to be alarmed if your dog obsessively licks its tail and genitals if there are an excessive hair loss and any sorts of sores or rashes.

Some behaviors such as tail-biting, flank-sucking, and acral lick are considered as compulsions and obsessions. In medical terms, these are known as obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD).

Causes of Self Mutilation in Dogs


An easily treatable condition that often presents with varying degrees of self mutilation, allergies cause extreme itching. This itching causes the dog to lick and chew. You will most often see this behavior concentrated at your dog’s feet and rectum.

Dog Breed

Certain dogs are more likely to self-harm than others. We have some behaviors that we know are genetic and limited to specific breeds. Doberman Pinschers, for example, are known for repetitively sucking their flanks, which scientists have traced to certain chromosome sites.


Where psychogenic factors are involved, self-mutilation will continue long after direct medical causes of previous trauma or joint disease have resolved. It is as if the medical problem starts a behavioral issue.

Other causes of Self Mutilation in dogs may be as a result of Anxiety or stress caused by long periods of confinement, infected or irritated anal glands, social isolation, harassment from another pet, repeated exposure to frightening stimuli, such as loud noises will promote and exacerbate obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Treatment for Dogs that Self-mutilate

After the medical causes of self-mutilation have been ruled out or treated, the compulsion must be addressed. The following therapies are recommended:

  • Take any and all measures appropriate to reduce stress in the dog’s life including environmental enrichment and avoidance of precipitating events.
  • Increase your dog’s social interactions and exercise. Employ longer or more frequent play sessions and minimize the time your dog spends alone.
  • Physical restraints, such as bandages or Elizabethan collars may be necessary in the short term but are frustrating for the pet and are better avoided, if possible.
  • Anti-obessional medication. 


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