I know a girl who spends a lot of her day pulling out tiny hair from the backs of her fingers and scratching her pimples till they bleed and scar. Some humans mutilate themselves by inflicting cuts on their bodies. Not to kill themselves but to cause pain that makes them feel better. Some people chew nails right down to the cuticle and seem to enjoy the ache. Others go and get regular tattoos that hurt a lot. What makes people do this? They give all sorts of fancy names – borderline personality disorder, for instance. The fact is that no one knows what the trigger is.
Do animals do the same? I have adopted a very strange dog who was thrown out of his house because all he did was bite his own body till he got smelly sores. While he has stopped most of it, he does it again when his hair gets long. He pulls the hair out, making whimpering noises of pain- usually when I have visitors. Some years ago, we had a dog who licked and licked his front foot till he had a large wound. Any dressing was quickly bitten off. We had to put an Elizabethan collar round him till the wound healed. Dogs that are tied up in the same place all day are likely to start hurting themselves.
Some owners complain that their cats lick themselves so hard that they get red oozing sores. They do not do it in front of humans, being secret lickers.
Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Alsatians, Great Danes, Dobermans are some of the dogs that also suffer from this: they lick themselves obsessively till they develop sores. Most abused parts of the body are the base and tips of the tail and the legs. This has nothing to do with fungus, fleas or infection. It has no reason. Watch an animal do this and you will see the dazed hypnotized look on its face. Vets have named it Canine Compulsive Disorder.