Why Do Dogs Eat Hair and How Can I Stop It?
We all expect our dogs to chew on things, especially when they’re puppies. From shoes to electrical cords, we know how important it is to puppy proof our homes to keep our fur babies safe. But, when your dog eats hair, whether it’s yours or theirs, it can be kind of puzzling.
Maybe you noticed your dog licking or chewing and pulling out his own hair to eat it. Or, maybe he eats human hair off the floor. It’s even quite common for dogs to chew on and eat hair that’s still attached to their human’s head!
So, why do dogs eat hair, should you be concerned, what can you do to stop it?
Why do dogs eat hair?
Your dog’s mysterious hair eating habit could be caused by a variety of things, from behavior issues to a health condition called pica. It could even stem from normal puppy curiosity. Before you can begin to address the issue, you will need to discover why your dog is eating hair in the first place.
Here are the seven most common reasons dogs eat hair.
1. Normal Puppy Development and Exploration
Puppies are a lot like human babies when it comes to putting things in their mouths. It’s their way of exploring new things and getting acquainted with things they’re not familiar with, and hair is no different.
And, hair is especially tempting to a curious puppy because it moves around enticingly, and it smells like their favorite human. So, if your puppy is eating human hair he finds around the house, it’s probably a part of normal puppy development and exploration.
Pica is a somewhat rare underlying health condition that affects humans and animals. The condition is characterized by an irresistible urge to eat things that aren’t food, which may include your hair, their own hair, or the hair of your other pets.
No one knows for sure what causes pica, but it is most likely a compulsive behavior that began due to stress, anxiety, or trauma. It’s not uncommon for this condition to affect rescue dogs who have a troubled history.
3. Environmental or Food Allergies
If your dog is dealing with allergies to something in his environment or food, you may notice him chewing, licking, and eating his hair due to itching. Much like our first reaction to a skin allergy is to scratch it, it’s the same thing for your dog. Here’s how to recognize allergies in your dog and what to do about them.
4. Fleas, Ticks, and Other Parasites
If your dog is obsessively chewing to the point where he’s chewing off his fur and inadvertently swallowing it, and it’s accompanied by compulsive scratching, parasites may be the cause. You will likely notice hair loss, redness, and even scabs or sores in the area where he’s chewing. Here’s how to tell if your dog has fleas, ticks, or some other parasite and what you can do to prevent and treat them.
Sometimes your dog might be eating hair simply because he’s bored. It’s not unusual for a dog to pick up unfavorable habits to pass the time when he’s home alone a lot or doesn’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation. In this case, he might pull out and eat his own hair or find human hair on the floor and eat it.
6. Seeking Attention
In the case of a dog that’s eating your hair when it’s attached to your head, it’s quite likely that he’s simply looking for attention. When you react to his behavior, whether it’s positive or negative, he learns that it will get him some attention, so he continues to do it.
7. Stress or Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can cause a dog to eat his own hair or even human hair, as well as a host of other troublesome behaviors.
How to Stop Your Dog from Eating Hair
The first step to stopping your dog from eating his own hair is to rule out allergies, fleas, ticks, and other parasites. You should also consult with your vet, just in case there’s an underlying health issue.
Of course, if your dog is eating human hair, you must be diligent about keeping hair cleaned up around your home. You should also keep your dog clean and well-groomed to discourage him from eating his own hair.
If your dog’s hair eating habit is caused by a behavior issue such as anxiety, boredom, seeking attention, or simply curiosity, you’ll need to take steps to address those issues. Toys that provide mental stimulation, such as treat puzzles, can be especially helpful.
Distraction and positive reinforcement can be extremely helpful for correcting undesirable dog behaviors. Anytime you catch your dog eating hair (whether it’s yours, his, or another pet’s) ignore the behavior and distract him with an appropriate chew toy instead.
When he turns his attention to the toy, provide lots of praise to reinforce the behavior you want him to learn. With time and repetition, he will learn that the positive behavior gets him what he wants, while the negative behavior provides no reaction at all.
If your dog continues to eat hair compulsively, despite your best efforts, consult with your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist for advice.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Hair
In most cases, both human hair and dog hair will pass through your dog’s digestive system without any complications. As long as your dog doesn’t eat a lot of hair at once or make a regular habit of it, you probably won’t need to do anything at all.
In some cases, dogs with a hair eating habit may become constipated or develop a small hairball. Psyllium, or Metamucil, is a common home ready for mild constipation in dogs.
Sometimes, you may notice a human hair coming out of your dog’s rear end when he’s trying to poop. It’s best to let the hair pass on its own. If you pull it out, you could cause internal damage if the hair becomes entangled in your dog’s intestine.
When It’s Time to See the Vet
If your dog becomes constipated from eating hair and doesn’t have a bowel movement for more than 48 hours, it’s time to see the vet.
Dogs who eat a lot of hair may develop a large hairball that causes a life-threatening blockage in their intestinal tract. If your dog can’t poop, is vomiting, and seems to be in severe abdominal pain, he should see the emergency vet immediately for treatment.
Your dog could also develop a toxicity issue if he eats hair that’s coated in hair care products or topical treatments for fleas and ticks. If your dog becomes ill and you suspect that this is the issue, seek your vet’s assistance right away.
FAQs About Dogs Who Eat Hair
· Is it bad for dogs to eat human hair?
If your dog eats a small amount of hair and doesn’t make a regular habit of it, it shouldn’t be an issue. However, if eats a lot of hair at once or eats hair often, he could become constipated or even develop a life-threatening intestinal blockage.
· What happens if my dog eats human hair?
If your dog eats a small amount of human hair, it should pass through his digestive system without any further intervention. Unfortunately, if your dog eats a lot of hair at one time or eats hair regularly, he could develop health issues, such as constipation or a life-threatening blockage of the intestine.
· Why is my dog obsessed with my hair?
Your dog may be obsessed with your hair for a number of reasons, including curiosity, boredom, or a need for attention. In rare cases, your dog may be obsessed with your hair due to a condition called pica.
· Why do dogs eat human hair off the floor?
A dog may eat human hair off the floor for a variety of reasons, including curiosity, boredom, stress, or anxiety. In rare cases, your dog may also eat human hair due to a rare condition called pica.
· Why does my dog eat my other dog’s hair?
It is not unusual for one dog to eat another dog’s hair when he’s grooming his buddy. He may also do it to comfort himself when he’s bored or stressed. If the hair eating becomes an issue, you may have to separate your dogs when you’re not available to supervise them. You may be able to correct the issue over time with distraction and positive reinforcement as outlined above.
The Bottom Line
Your dog may be eating hair for a variety of reasons. If he eats a lot of hair at once, or eats hair often, he could develop health issues like constipation or even a life-threatening blockage in the digestive tract. It’s important to understand what may be causing your dog’s obsession with eating hair so that you can put a stop to it and prevent these issues from developing.