Why does my dog lick everything | Ask Our Behavorist

May 15,2021

Since dog owners really love their fluffy friends they try to provide constant care, in order to make their living conditions as perfect as possible. Besides the things that dog owners need to do regularly like providing food supplies, vet visiting, walking, exercising, grooming, they also have to pay attention to the behavior of their beloved friends. Behavior deviations could be harmless but also could be the signs of illnesses or anxiety that their dog is experiencing.

Licking is a common part of a dogs’ behavior and usually, it is not caused by medical reasons. However, excessive licking could be a sign of infections, illnesses, allergies, or pain. In order to help you understand better the behavior of your dog partner and what does he/she want to express when licking, we will list some medical and non-medical reasons that may cause licking.

Non-Medical Reasons

In most cases, you do not have to worry when your doggy starts licking, since licking is usually behavior-related. This could be a habit or your canine may like the taste of the objects that he/she licks.

Another reason could be that your dog partner is bored. If this is the case you could figure out some interesting tasks or exercises so that he/she can find a proper way to use his/her energy. You can teach your canine certain tasks like “stay”, “sit”, “fetch”, depending on what you think would be most beneficial for both of you. You can use certain toys with hidden treats inside or you can hide toys in different places in your house. Finding the hidden treats will be the reward itself.

Since dogs are very attached to their owners, licking (when related to a human) may be caused by the dog’s desire to express affection and strong emotions towards that person. You need to remember that when your pup tries licking your face this could be related to something you ate. Since their smell sense is really strong, they are able to smell food particles in your mouth.

Your pup may miss your attention and he/she may express this need through licking. Of course, dogs need attention and physical contact in order to stay happy and emotionally stable. However, if you encourage licking as an attention-seeking behavior too much, it may exceed normal limits and become unhealthy. When your dog is seeking too much attention and starts behaving disruptive, you may want to interrupt this behavior by just ignoring him/her and keeping distance for some time.

You always need to ensure that there are food and water supplies, as licking may be a sign that your canine is hungry or thirsty.

Dogs tend to lick their paws during or after walks as something may be stuck in them. You need to check the paws of your furry friend if you notice, that he/she is licking them too excessively. Small breeds have more fragile bodies and even smaller particles may cause discomfort and lead to immense licking.

An interesting fact that you may want to know is that licking may be caused by a condition known as “Pica”. Pica can be described as the ingestion of non-food items like plants, rocks, feces...etc. This condition may be caused by a lack of certain substances in the dog’s food like nutrients. That is why you need to pay attention to the quality of the food (and of its quantity of course) in order to ensure the good physical state of your friend. Eating grass is considered normal for dogs, as they are cleaning their bodies from intestinal parasites that way.

Excessive licking may be a sign of stress or anxiety. In such cases you can try calming your doggy yourself using different techniques like gently wrapping him/her in a warm cloth or blanket, massaging him/her, using essential oils, playing classical music (it is considered beneficial for the emotional state of both humans and dogs). If the anxiety is caused by a certain object or place, you can just avoid them in order to remove the stress/anxiety triggers.

If the condition is more serious you may want to call a veterinarian who can prescribe proper medications.

When licking is too excessive this may be a sign for medical conditions that require proper treatment. You may want to know more about some medical conditions that may be related to excessive licking.

Medical Reasons That May Cause Excessive Licking

Your canine may have a skin problem that he/she tries to resolve when licking a particular part of the body. These problems could be wounds due to injuries, allergies, as well as infections from bacteria or parasites that cause itchiness.

Gastrointestinal problems are other possible reasons why your doggy is licking immensely. If this is the case your canine is likely to lick other surfaces, but not his/her own body.

If you notice that the fur is missing from certain body areas and there are red raw spots, you need to call your veterinarian immediately.

Neurological issues are also medical conditions that may cause this type of behavior in your dog. A syndrome known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) could be related to excessive licking. However, there are additional symptoms, that need to appear like disorientation in a well-known and familiar environment, indifference towards their owner (dogs do not want to be petted any longer, do not want to play with a ball), sleeping disorder...etc. This syndrome and the behavior related changes are similar to syndromes like dementia or Alzheimer in humans.

These conditions can be relieved with proper treatment like changing the diet, medications, or therapy. You can also take actions in order to make your canine feel more comfortable and safe like regular exercises that will keep your dog physically and mentally fit, keeping to the routine and not making changes in the places or activities your dog is already familiar with; avoiding stress triggers and new people visiting your home with other dogs.

You need to supervise the behavior of your dog regularly in order to be able to notice any changes. If his/her behavior starts to seem abnormal, we would recommend that you contact a veterinarian.