If your dog gets fleas, you will often see them bite at themselves in an attempt to relieve the itching and irritation from the flea bites. It’s a normal response, just as we are inclined to want to scratch at itchy insect bites on our bodies. However, what if your dog is “flea biting” you?
We look at what flea biting is, why dogs do it, why dogs flea bite you, and ways to try to stop it.
What is “Flea Biting”?
Flea biting is when your dog nibbles at its skin with its teeth. While it’s actually a relatively gentle nibble and doesn’t puncture the skin, their frustration can lead them to go at their skin pretty aggressively. It can be very difficult to watch your dog in obvious discomfort as they go after the irritation caused by flea bites.
But dogs don’t just flea bite when they have a flea infestation. They may also flea bite out of boredom, curiosity, or as a sign of affection. And they don’t just flea bite themselves. They may flea bite people or objects as well.
A flea issue is a primary cause of flea biting, but other factors play a role as well.
Why Is Your Dog Flea Biting You?
One of the primary reasons why your dog is flea biting you or themselves is because they are having flea problems. However, other reasons might cause the behavior as well.
Your Dog May Have Fleas
Yes, it’s the obvious answer. When dogs have fleas, the fleas bite their skin. The bites themselves aren’t what cause the dog discomfort; rather it is the severe allergic reaction that the dog’s body has to the flea bites. This is called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).
They nibble at their skin to scratch the itchiness. You may have to inspect their fur for irritated skin or rashes. You can minimize flea bite itchiness by bathing your dog and various other management approaches, but in order to end your dog’s discomfort, you need to eliminate root cause — the flea infestation. This is usually done through a combination of flea medication and environmental maintenance such as constant vacuuming of carpets and laundering of bedding.
Your Dog Is Curious or Affectionate
Your dog may be overly affectionate and curious, especially if they are a new addition. They want to explore their surroundings and interact with new people, and flea biting is one way they may try to do this.
This usually occurs when a dog has developed flea biting as a behavioral habit. Most of the time, objects are the target, but people can be, too. As a result, your dog may bite, scratch, or nibble on those around them.
Your Dog Is Bored
Sometimes if a dog is not engaging in frequent mental activity or exercise, they will start to flea bite purely out of boredom. And in the absence of chew toys, they may begin to bite loose objects around the house or people.
Your Dog Is Teething
When dogs start teething, due to their early development, their gums become sore, causing them to nip and bite on whatever they can find. This only applies to dogs between seven to twelve weeks old.
Puppies are also notorious for biting (also called mouthing) as they develop and learn bite inhibition. This should not be confused with flea biting.
Your Dog Might Think You Need Grooming
Since it’s common for dogs to have flea issues, sometimes they think that if you’re scratching yourself, you might have fleas too. In this case, your dog might start to groom you, which consists of flea biting to ensure that you are devoid of fleas or other pesky pests. Just as animals groom each other, your dog may try to groom you.
What Happens if Your Dog Flea Bites You?
In most cases, if your dog flea bites you, the effects are usually harmless. However, it’s important to monitor where they flea bite you and disinfect those areas to avoid rashes and skin infections, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Is Your Dog Flea Biting You Dangerous?
If your dog is flea biting you, the dangers are rare as the only physical side effect to this is mild skin irritation. However, if your dog has fleas and they’re biting themselves, it’s highly advised to go to a veterinarian as having fleas can lead to the following:
- Tapeworms: This is one of the leading effects of flea infestation. Sometimes when your dog is flea biting, they might swallow the fleas, and those will attach to their intestinal lining and start to multiply.
- Blood Loss: If your dog begins to start flea biting excessively, this can eventually cause blood loss, making them anemic. If they become anemic can lead to a loss of energy, lethargy, rapid breathing, and other physical ailments.
- Bartonellosis: Your dog having flea bites can lead to this disease, which is the result of Bartonella bacteria growth.Several symptoms of this disease would be an irregular heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Hot Spots: Repeated biting and scratching on one concentrated spot on the dog can create a hot spot — characterized by redness, swelling and hair loss. These troubled areas can easily become infected, creating further problems.
How Can I Stop My Dog From Flea Biting Me?
There are multiple ways of stopping your dog from flea biting you. Of course, if you suspect that your dog might have fleas, we recommend taking them to see a veterinarian for more of an official diagnosis.
Get Flea Treatment for Your Dog
This is one of the primary solutions if your dog is flea biting themselves or you. Ensure that your dog doesn’t have fleas by carefully inspecting its fur. If so, you may have to go to a veterinarian to get them treatment for this issue.
Train Your Dog in a Positive Way
One of the reasons why your dog might be flea biting you is due to affection or curiosity. With this in mind, you can take a positive reinforcement approach to redirecting your dog’s desire to flea bite you to something more acceptable, like a chew toy.
Have Fun With Your Dog
Another reason why your dog may be flea biting is that they’re bored. Try to do activities with them such as taking them for a walk, going to the park, playing fetch, etc. This will help to increase active engagement with them. A tired dog is far less likely to want to flea bite you.
Aside from the health issue of a flea infestation on your dog, flea biting is a relatively harmless behavior that is more annoying than dangerous. In the absence of fleas, it is a habitual behavior that can usually be managed.