Help! My Dog Won’t Stop Eating Hair – Reasons and Solutions

Have you ever wondered why dogs eat hair? Simply put, there are behavioral reasons like boredom or anxiety, or underlying medical conditions such as parasites, nutritional deficiencies, or skin problems. Let’s dive deeper into the causes and how to help your furry friend.

Is it Just Grooming, or Something More?

All dogs groom to some extent, and ingesting a bit of hair during the process is normal. However, if you see your dog fixating on licking, chewing, and actively eating hair to an unusual degree, it’s time to look deeper into the issue.

Behavioral Reasons

Anxiety and Stress: Anxious dogs may resort to compulsive behaviors like hair eating as a coping mechanism. Look for other signs of distress like pacing or hiding.

Boredom and Lack of Stimulation: If your dog’s life lacks physical and mental enrichment, they might turn to hair eating out of frustration.

Attention-Seeking: If you react strongly each time your dog eats hair, they might continue the behavior because they’ve learned it gets your attention.

Medical Reasons

Parasites: Fleas, mites, or intestinal worms can cause intense itchiness, leading a dog to groom excessively and ingest hair.

Pica: This disorder causes dogs to crave and eat non-food items, including hair, due to nutritional deficiencies, metabolic problems, or neurological conditions.

Gastrointestinal Issues: Dogs suffering from conditions like inflammatory bowel disease may eat hair in a misguided attempt to ease discomfort.

Skin Diseases: Allergies or other skin problems can cause itching and excessive grooming, resulting in hair ingestion.

Instinctual and Breed-Specific Reasons

  • Grooming: Dogs naturally groom themselves and each other. Some dogs may take this a step further by ingesting the hair.
  • Breed Predispositions: Certain breeds like retrievers, herding dogs, and those with long coats may be more likely to eat hair due to ingrained grooming instincts or boredom.
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Types of Hair Consumption: A Closer Look

Dog Won't Stop Eating Hair
Image Credit: smrm1977/istockphoto
  • Own Hair: Often an anxiety or boredom issue.
  • Other Dogs’ Hair: This could be normal social grooming or an indicator of stress.
  • Human Hair: This may be due to curiosity, textures, or seeking attention.
  • Non-Animal Hair: Sometimes a sign of pica or boredom.

What Can I Do to Help?

Rule Out Medical Concerns: Your first step should be a visit to your veterinarian to eliminate any underlying health issues.

Increase Enrichment: Providing ample exercise, interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and regular playtime can reduce boredom and anxiety.

Manage Stress: Create a safe and calming environment for your dog. If needed, consult a dog behaviorist for anxiety-reducing strategies.

Dietary Changes: If nutritional deficiencies are suspected, your vet might recommend a diet adjustment or supplements.

Positive Reinforcement: Redirect your dog’s attention to appropriate chew toys or activities when they start fixating on hair. Avoid scolding, as this can increase anxiety.

Real-Life Case Studies

Max, a Golden Retriever: Max’s excessive hair chewing began after his family adopted a new cat. This sudden change triggered anxiety in Max, leading him to compulsively groom and ingest his own fur.

Luna, a Miniature Schnauzer: Luna developed a hot spot on her leg, causing her to lick and chew at it excessively. This resulted in her ingesting a significant amount of hair, requiring veterinary intervention to remove a hairball.

Charlie, a Poodle Mix: Charlie, despite a healthy diet, began eating random socks and hair around the house. His veterinarian diagnosed pica, potentially linked to an underlying mineral deficiency. A change in diet and behavioral modification techniques helped address the issue.

Hairball Prevention

why do dogs eat hair
Image Credit: Yi-Fan Chang/istockphoto

While hair eating might seem harmless in small amounts, it can lead to hairballs. These are clumps of hair that can’t pass through the digestive system and cause vomiting, constipation, and lethargy. Here are some tips to prevent hairballs:

  • Regular Brushing: Brushing your dog regularly removes loose hair, reducing the amount they ingest during grooming.
  • Dietary Fiber: A diet rich in fiber can help hair move smoothly through the digestive tract. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations on fiber-rich dog food.
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Breed-Specific Considerations

Certain breeds might be more likely to exhibit hair-eating behaviors due to these reasons:

Heavy Shedders: Dogs with thick double coats, like Huskies and Chow Chows, have more loose hair to potentially ingest while grooming. Regular brushing minimizes this risk.

Anxiety-Prone Breeds: Breeds like Border Collies and German Shepherds are sensitive and sometimes experience separation anxiety. Providing plenty of mental exercises and addressing anxiety triggers can help minimize compulsive behaviors like hair eating.

Hairless Breeds: Breeds like the Chinese Crested might focus their grooming on themselves more intensely, and potentially ingest hair from other dogs or humans in the home due to their exposure.


Hair eating in dogs can be a complex issue stemming from various causes. By understanding the potential triggers and working with your veterinarian, you can find effective ways to manage this behavior and promote your dog’s well-being.

The photo featured below the post headline is Credit: smrm1977/istockphoto

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Frequently Asked Question

Is it harmful for my dog to eat hair?
In small amounts, hair usually passes through the digestive system. However, excessive hair consumption can create hairballs, which can lead to intestinal blockages, a potentially serious condition.

My dog is only eating my hair. Why is that?
Your dog may be attracted to the smell of your hair products or enjoy the attention or reaction they get from you.

What does it mean when a dog bites your hair?
Hair biting can be a sign of affection, playfulness, a desire for attention, or even a compulsive behavior related to anxiety. Understanding your dog’s specific context and body language can help determine the reason.

Why is my dog eating lint?
Eating lint might be a sign of pica, stemming from nutritional deficiencies or boredom. It could also be related to anxiety-driven behaviors.

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Can human hair cause blockage in a dog?
Yes, consuming large amounts of human hair can form hairballs in a dog’s digestive system. These can cause blockages, which can become a serious medical problem requiring veterinary attention.

Exploring Nighttime Hair Eating
There are several reasons why your dog might eat hair off the floor at night:
Boredom or Anxiety: When the household is quiet, your dog might resort to hair eating out of boredom or as an outlet for increasing anxiety.
Seeking Stimulation: If your dog’s evening needs aren’t met, they might engage in scavenging behaviors like floor-hair eating to entertain themselves.

What Happens When Dogs Ingest Human Hair
Small amounts of human hair will usually pass through a dog without harm. However, larger amounts can lead to hairballs causing vomiting, constipation, or even dangerous blockages.

My dog only eats hair from the carpet. What should I do?
This might indicate boredom, stress, or a dietary issue. Increase enrichment activities, consult your vet to rule out medical causes, and consider switching to a diet higher in fiber.

My puppy eats its own hair excessively. Is this normal?
Puppies explore through mouthing, so some hair ingestion is expected. However, excessive focus on eating hair could be teething-related, a compulsion, or a sign of a medical issue, so consult your veterinarian.

Is there a difference between a dog eating its own hair and other dogs’ hair?
Eating their own hair is often related to anxiety or a medical condition within that dog. Eating other dogs’ hair can be related to those factors and/or an attempt at social interaction or scavenging when resources are scarce.

Can hair eating in dogs be treated?
Yes! Depending on the underlying cause, treatment might involve behavioral modification, addressing medical problems, dietary changes, and in some cases, anti-anxiety medication prescribed by your veterinarian.