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Why Does My Dog Eat Hair? Understanding Your Pet’s Unusual Habit

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

why does my dog eat hair

If you’ve noticed your dog eating hair, you might be understandably curious or even concerned. It’s not uncommon for dogs to develop odd habits, including eating things they shouldn’t. While it may seem unusual, this behavior may often be linked to a condition called pica, which is an appetite for non-food items. Dogs may chew and ingest anything from hair to fabric to paper. You might wonder, is it normal for dogs to eat hair, and is it okay for them?

The drive behind your dog’s obsession with your hair could stem from various factors, ranging from boredom to nutritional deficiencies or even digestion issues. Sometimes, dogs may simply find the texture or scent of hair appealing, or they may be seeking attention. However, ingesting hair regularly can lead to health problems, such as intestinal blockages. To get a clear understanding of why your dog could be munching on hair, we’ll refer to the findings by Dr. Rakshith Kumar, a veterinarian who has researched trichophagia, or hair eating, in dogs.

While a stray hair here and there may not pose a significant issue, consistent hair consumption deserves attention. It’s essential to observe your dog’s behavior and consider potential underlying reasons. Curbing this behavior may involve strategies ranging from providing more interactive toys to addressing potential dietary imbalances or seeking the advice of a vet. If your dog seems fixated on hair, it’s worth taking steps to understand and address the issue for their health and wellbeing.

You might find your dog munching on hair and wonder why this peculiar snack is so appealing to them. Trichophagia, or the eating of hair, is a form of pica — when animals eat items with no nutritional value. This condition is seen in various animals, including your canine friend.

It’s not just a quirky habit; it could be a sign of nutritional deficiencies. Iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamins like thiamine and niacin are all essential for your dog’s health. If they’re not getting enough of these from their diet, they might turn to eating hair. The act of chewing or licking can also stem from stress or boredom, so it’s not always about hunger.

Puppies often explore the world with their mouths, but this behavior can lead to dangerous obstructions. For the safety of your pet, it’s important to discourage eating inappropriate items and offer suitable alternativ-e-archives. You can also see this article on how to stop dogs eating everything.

Here are some tips to prevent this behavior:

  • Evaluate their diet to ensure it’s balanced;
  • Provide plenty of toys and exercise to keep them occupied; and
  • Train commands like “leave it” to control what they pick up.

If your dog continues to eat hair despite these efforts, it’s a good idea to consult a vet. They could have an underlying condition that needs to be addressed — don’t wait for a serious health scare to take action. Remember, by keeping an eye on their behavior and maintaining their health, you’re ensuring a happier life for your pup.

Understanding Pica in Dogs

When your dog consumes non-food items such as hair, it’s crucial to understand it might be indicative of pica, a condition that can have various underlying causes and potential health risks.

Defining Pica and Its Causes

Pica is characterized by the ingestion of items that are not typically considered food and don’t contain significant nutritional value. This behavior may stem from nutritional deficiencies, where your dog seeks out minerals or fibers missing from their diet. Boredom or anxiety can also trigger pica as dogs look for ways to occupy themselves or relieve stress. It’s a complex condition that potentially threatens a dog’s health, sometimes resulting in gastrointestinal emergencies. Effective management often requires a multifaceted approach including environmental enrichment and dietary adjustments.

Identifying Pica in Your Dog

To identify pica in your dog, watch for consistent chewing or ingestion of non-food materials. This might include a range of objects from hair to more dangerous items like plastic or fabric. If your dog is frequently vomiting or showing signs of distress, it could indicate a more severe issue linked to their pica behavior. An understanding of the potential relationship between pica and conditions such as gastrointestinal disease is important. Initiatives to prevent access to inedible items and offering alternativ-e-archives such as dog toys can mitigate the risk. Consultation with your veterinarian should be a priority if you observe pica behavior in your dog, and discussions can lead to preventative strategies tailored to your pet’s needs.

Reasons Dogs Eat Hair

photo of a dog eating hair from a shower drain

When your dog consumes hair, it’s usually due to a few natural behaviors or psychological triggers. Understanding why can help you address this behavior if necessary.

Natural Grooming Habits

Dogs have a grooming instinct that often involves licking their coat to clean themselves, and during this process, they may inevitably ingest hair. Much like cats, dogs might develop hairballs if they ingest a significant amount of hair. It’s a normal behavior unless it leads to gastrointestinal issues and compulsive behavior disorders.

Curiosity and Playfulness

Curiosity can lead a puppy or adult dog to explore their environment with their mouth. This behavior may include chewing on or eating various objects, such as hair found on the ground or on furniture.

Stress and Anxiety-Related Behaviors

In some cases, consuming hair may be a sign of stress or anxiety. Repetitive behaviors such as this one can be a coping mechanism for some dogs and can lead to a kind of OCD or compulsive disorder. If your dog is eating hair compulsively, it may indicate an underlying emotional issue that should be addressed with the assistance of a professional.

Dogs Eating Their Own Hair vs. Eating Human Hair: Understanding the Differences

When dogs eat their own hair, it’s often a result of grooming themselves excessively. This behavior can be triggered by skin irritation, anxiety, or boredom. As they lick and groom, they may accidentally ingest their fur, which can lead to hairballs (trichobezoar) and digestive issues if it becomes a frequent habit. In extreme cases, it can be a form of self harm where dogs are biting themselves, which is a severe behavioral issue.

Eating human hair, on the other hand, usually happens by accident. Dogs might swallow human hair when it’s mixed with their food or found on the ground. However, if a dog specifically seeks out and eats human hair, it might indicate pica, the condition where dogs (and humans) eat non-food items. This could stem from nutritional deficiencies, curiosity, or the same psychological factors that lead to excessive grooming.

Remember, dogs also love to eat stinky things and things that smell like you. One reason they love chewing on your shoes because anything that smells a lot like you can spike their interest. Your hair definitely smells like you and if your dog is trying to eat your hair from your brush or from the shower drain, your scent may have something to do with it. 

Another reason a dog may try to eat your hair is if you have long hair, loose hair waving around. Puppies and young dogs love to chase anything that moves (called their prey drive), so they may just find your flowing locks irresistible!

Both behaviors may require attention. Eating their own hair might indicate a need for medical, behavioral, or environmental changes, while eating human hair, especially if deliberate, suggests a broader concern with pica that could require dietary adjustments or even intervention from a veterinarian or animal behaviorist. In all cases, it’s crucial to monitor these habits and consult with a professional if they persist, ensuring the health and well-being of your pup.

What Happens When My Dog Eats Hair?

Puppy chewing on their own hair

When your dog consumes hair, it might seem harmless, but it can lead to serious gastrointestinal issues including intestinal blockage.

Gastrointestinal Issues and Risks

Hair ingestion in your dog can cause an accumulation of undigested hair in the stomach or intestines, leading to gastrointestinal blockages. Over time, hair can form a dense mass, known as a hairball or trichobezoar, which the body cannot easily pass. This can impede the normal flow of food and waste, leading to digestive issues. In some instances, these hairballs can cause an obstruction severe enough to require surgical intervention to clear the intestinal blockage.

Recognizing Symptoms of an Obstruction

If hair ingested by your dog has caused a blockage, you might notice symptoms like vomit containing hair, abdominal pain when touched, lethargy, loss of appetite, and changes in bowel movements. Your dog may show signs of discomfort or whine, indicating they’re in distress. If these symptoms are present, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian, as they could signify a serious health issue related to the gastrointestinal blockage.

Hairball Complications

Although less common than in cats, dogs can also experience complications from hairballs. These masses of hair, if not vomited, can grow and lead to chronic gastrointestinal issues or acute emergencies like an intestinal blockage. In serious cases, hairballs might lead to a partial obstruction of the small intestine, which is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Monitoring your dog’s grooming habits, especially if they self-groom excessively or chew on objects that contain fibers, is vital to prevent these complications.

How Do I Stop My Dog Eating Hair?

Providing Adequate Exercise and Stimulation

Your dog’s hair-eating habit could stem from a lack of physical exercise or mental stimulation. Dogs need regular physical activity not only to keep fit but also to burn off energy that might otherwise be directed towards unwanted behaviors. Aim for at least 30 minutes to an hour of exercise daily, depending on your dog’s breed, age, and health. Additionally, mental stimulation is just as important. Activities like hide-and-seek with treats, food puzzle toys, or training sessions challenge their brain and keep them engaged.

Implementing a Consistent Feeding Schedule

Hunger or irregular feeding times can lead to hair eating as a form of scavenging. To prevent this, establish a consistent feeding schedule. Offer meals at the same times each day to create a routine your dog can depend on. Ensure the diet is nutritionally complete which can reduce the urge to consume non-food items. Dog-safe toys and treats can also be incorporated into meal times to keep your dog occupied and satisfy their need to chew.

Regular Grooming and Cleanliness

Hair on the floor or furniture from humans or other pets can tempt your dog. Maintaining regular grooming practices for all pets in the home minimizes loose hair. Brush your dog frequently to remove excess fur. A clean environment reduces the chances of your dog encountering loose hair strands to eat. Also, consider providing chew toys as a safe alternativ-e-archive to keep your dog’s mouth busy.

Remember, if your dog’s hair-eating behavior persists or you notice any health changes, it’s essential to consult your veterinarian.

Dealing with Behavioral Issues

When your dog starts eating hair, it may signal a behavioral issue that needs attention. Understanding the habit and how to tackle it can lead to better health and happiness for your pup.

Understanding Compulsive Chewing

Compulsive chewing, including the ingestion of hair, often stems from anxiety or boredom. Dogs may develop a habit of chewing on hair as a way to cope with these feelings. Identifying triggers is a crucial step – it might be a change in routine or environment causing stress to your dog.

Positive Reinforcement Training

Using positive reinforcement is an effective way to modify unwanted behaviors. This means rewarding your dog when they choose toys or chew treats instead of hair. Rewards can be tasty treats, verbal praise, or a favorite game. It’s all about making the right actions worth their while.

When to Consult a Professional

If you’ve made efforts and your dog’s habit persists, it’s important to consult a veterinarian or an animal behaviorist. They can offer professional advice and may determine if there’s an underlying issue contributing to your dog’s behavior. Getting help can put your dog on the right track to overcoming their compulsion.

Monitoring and Intervention

When your dog starts eating hair, it’s time for insight and action. Monitoring your dog’s behavior is crucial, and prompt intervention is necessary to prevent any health risks.

Keeping an Eye on Your Dog’s Habits

You need to monitor your dog regularly to understand why it may be eating hair. Watch its daily licking and chewing habits to figure out if it’s attention-seeking or if there is another issue at play. You might notice your dog is eating its own hair, your hair, or even hair from carpets or furniture. Suppose it’s your dog’s hair; shedding season could mean more hair lying around, and your dog could ingest it while licking to groom itself.

Checklist for Monitoring Your Dog’s Hair Eating Habits:

  • Observe and note when and where the hair eating occurs.
  • Check for patterns in behavior that lead up to the hair eating.
  • Pay special attention after grooming sessions.

Immediate Actions for Sudden Changes

If you notice a sudden change in your dog’s hair eating habits, take immediate action to clean up any loose hair around your home. Hair consumption can lead to gastrointestinal blockages, which are serious health risks.

Immediate Actions to Prevent Hair Ingestion:

  • Clean Up: Regularly vacuum and sweep to remove loose hair.
  • Attention: Distract your dog with toys or play when it starts to lick or chew hair.
  • Chewing Alternatives: Provide chew toys to keep your dog occupied.

Remember, if this behavior starts suddenly or escalates quickly, seek advice from a veterinarian, as it could indicate an underlying health issue.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section, you’ll find straightforward answers to common questions about your dog’s puzzling habit of eating hair.

How can I get my dog to stop eating his fur after grooming?

After grooming, your dog might eat his fur due to stress or boredom. Distract your dog with toys or a play session post-grooming. Consistent engagement can redirect the behavior away from fur consumption.

What should I do if my dog is consuming hair from the floor during the night?

If you catch your dog eating hair from the floor, ensure that your home is kept clean from hair buildup. Additionally, providing a designated chew toy for nighttime can help curb this habit.

Is it harmful for my dog to eat hair and then vomit?

Eating hair and then vomiting can be harmful as it may cause digestive blockages or upset. If this occurs frequently, it’s best to consult your veterinarian for advice specific to your dog’s health.

Can anything bad happen if a dog swallows human hair?

Swallowing human hair can lead to the formation of hairballs that might obstruct the digestive tract. It’s important to keep human hair away from your dog’s reach and monitor their environment.

What actions can I take if my dog consistently eats his own shed fur?

If your dog frequently eats its shed fur, increase regular grooming to reduce the amount of loose fur. This, along with engaging in more play, can help manage the behavior.

Why do dogs seem to have a habit of eating both hair and grass?

Dogs may eat hair and grass due to nausea or to induce vomiting to relieve discomfort. However, if it’s a regular occurrence, this might point to dietary deficiencies or behavioral issues that should be addressed.

Final Thoughts

When your pup starts munching on hair, it can be quite puzzling. Hair ingestion in dogs may occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they’re just grooming themselves and accidentally swallow some fluff. But if it becomes a habit, it might be a sign that your dog is bored or anxious.

  • Grooming: Your dog might lick themselves and pick up loose hair.
  • Boredom: Dogs sometimes eat odd things when they have nothing better to do.
  • Anxiety: Nervous dogs might lick or chew as a way to calm down.

If your dog’s eating hair more often, you might want to think about:

  • More playtime;
  • Different toys; and
  • A check-up with the vet, especially if they seem uncomfortable or there’s a sudden change in behavior.

Remember, if you suspect something’s not right, always ask a vet. They can give advice that’s tailored just for your dog. Remember that this guide to the thoughts, emotions, and inner lives of our canine companions might shed some light on your dog’s behavior. In the meantime, keep those floors clean and consider brushing your dog regularly to minimize the chances of them finding loose hair to snack on!


Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.