Our furry friends have a limited means to communicate with us. Some dogs whine during a storm, some bark loudly at strangers who approach the front door, and some happily wag their tails when they see us.
All dogs lick. It’s not unusual but some do it in excess, and some don’t. Excessive licking can be caused because of behavioral and medical reasons.
Sometimes dogs keep digging at their feet, chewing on their legs, stretching & biting endlessly. Behavioral reasons for excessive licking are often more common than medical reasons. This manifests in them licking themselves, the furniture around them or other things and even people. Often dogs enjoy the salty taste of their owner’s skin, they may do this because they’re bored, by habit, or just because they like you. Licking oneself can have a calming effect on dogs.
However, when excessive licking results in hot spots, loss of hair, skin irritation, it can be a problem.
If you notice your dog engages in behavior-driven excessive licking, avoid punishing them. You should introduce new activities that will keep them occupied and distract their mind. Treat them with a reward every time they perform a desirable behavior. This is positive reinforcement training, reward your furry friend with a treat every time they stop licking when you tell them not to.
There may be an underlying medical condition that can be the reason for your pet’s excessive licking. The signs of excessive licking are similar to those caused by behavioral reasons like hair loss, skin irritation, hotspots, etc.
Allergies can be a potential underlying reason as they cause the skin to itch a lot. Parasite infections, bacteria, or fungus can also cause itchiness and irritation. Underlying pain in dogs due to some injury in the past or arthritis can also make them behave in such a manner. When dogs lick themselves, this action releases endorphins which serve as natural pain killers for the body. This alleviates pain which is a soothing experience for the pup. Gastrointestinal issues can also be a cause for licking. The discomfort due to these stomach issues makes them perform this action because licking objects
Similar to human beings, when our stomach is not okay we tend to get a bad taste in our mouth. This can happen due to the excess secretion of saliva by our mouth which may make us lick our lips often. This is the same for dogs, nausea due to any underlying disorder can cause them to lick themselves as a lot.
One of the reasons why your dog is excessively licking themself is hunger. If they have a dry mouth due to dehydration or hunger, it can cause increased licking. Dogs have a sensitive stomach and digestive system, licking may indicate some sort of gastrointestinal discomfort. Grains, starches, and soy can often cause discomfort to dogs.
Dogs relieve stress by licking. However, if done in excess, it can turn into an obsessive habit which may make them compulsively lick more. There are some behaviors that happen as a way to relieve stress. Excessive licking of carpets and blankets could be an indicator of this. It’s important to figure out the stressors that cause OCD in pets. Thus, even if your dog doesn’t look stressed, excessive licking requires intervention. You can use distraction as a way to keep your dog away from excessive licking. Dogs cannot multitask and thus giving them something else to do will break their chain of thought for a moment. When your dog begins to lick again, command them, “no lick” and reward them with treats. As they repeat this behavior, you’re conditioning them to not engage in the behavior by luring them with a prize. However, if you feel there might be an emotional link to why your dog is licking too much, it’s always beneficial to consult a doctor.
Once you’ve figured out the underlying cause behind your dog’s behavior, you can begin with the treatment. There are some natural and traditional treatments that can help in breaking your dog’s habit and get them to feel better. You can opt for some traditional over-the-counter medicines if the cause is due to allergies, parasites, or fungi. Ointments can be placed in ears or on the skin as well.
There are some non-medicinal treatments that can help your pet find relief without the use of medicines. These methods are often used when the cause of licking is due to behavioral issues like boredom and anxiety.
No-lick strips are gaining popularity slowly. These strips help them avoid licking a particular part of a body. When a dog places their tongue on it, the strip delivers a static charge. This is done without causing any harm to your pup. Dog boots are becoming popular as they help stop licking feet by preventing access to it. There are numerous sprays in the market which can help in lowering stress and other obsessive tendencies. Some sprays help in dissuading them from licking objects by making them taste bad.
Excessive licking can be a major source of stress for both you and your pup. This stress can be reduced once you know the possible causes and the ways to treat these issues. You’ll be able to make many happy stress-free memories once your dog no longer feels uncomfortable in their own skin.