Why Does My Dog Lick All The Time?

January 18, 2021

Slobbery, slimy and slurpy – dog tongues can tell you a lot about your furry loved one.

Licking can be an expression of many things. Licking can be a way to communicate, show friendship and affection, demonstrate hunger and thirst, and be a way of providing comfort or cleaning. Licking is as routine as barking or a happy, waggy tail.

All dogs like to lick in some capacity – but licking can sometimes signify a larger issue.  To help narrow down the likely cause and situation, you need to be aware of:

          When the licking started

          When the licking happens

          How long the licking goes for

          Is it something you can stop them from doing easily, with distraction or motivation?

Here are five ways excessive licking can indicate a problem with your dog.

Anxiety

Our pets can experience mental health conditions for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they struggle with grief, abrupt changes in routine, separation from their loved ones and instances of stress.

Anxiety can trigger licking as a coping mechanism, but when it becomes obsessive it can become a difficult habit to break.  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in dogs is typically caused by stress, so it’s important to monitor and investigate your pet’s life to see what types of environmental stressors are causing a change in behaviour.

It’s important to keep your dog’s home and environment as low-stress as possible. Having somewhere safe for them to retreat to when they need some solitary time is helpful, as well as quiet, low-light conditions. Your vet will be able to guide you on the best way to look after your furry loved one’s mental health.

Pain

Have you found your dog constantly licking the same spot on their body? This may be a sign that they’re in pain. It could be a wide variety of issues, such as arthritis, a cut or wound, lesions or even a foreign body (including parasites like ticks). Be sure to inspect the spot that they’re licking, as the area may indicate the exact problem they’re dealing with.  If you’re ever concerned that your pet is feeling discomfort or pain, book an appointment to see your vet pronto.

Allergies or skin infections

Allergies are the primary cause of excessive licking in dogs. They can be caused by many things, including plants, food, or even the shampoo you wash your dog with. If your dog is having an allergic reaction to something, they may develop itchy skin or dermatitis. Check your pup’s skin for signs of an allergic reaction, like a rash, change in colour or skin texture.

If it’s an environmental allergen causing your pet to lick excessively, you may find signs of irritation in your pup’s feet. Check their paw pads and toes for irritants, including things like grass seeds or burrs.

Small cuts and wounds can cause your pet to excessively lick, trying to keep the sore area clean. This doesn’t always work though, and dogs can develop an infection in cuts and nicks on their body. Keep an eye out for this, as it doesn’t take much for a wound to become a nasty infection.

Always wash your pet with a gentle shampoo designed for sensitive skin, and patch-test if you’re not sure whether they are allergic to certain ingredients. You can wipe their paws with a warm washcloth after going outside if you’re concerned their irritation is from an environmental allergen.

Medication can be of great relief for your dog if they’re experiencing allergies. This can include topical creams or tablets, depending on the nature of the allergen. Have your vet examine your pet as soon as possible if you suspect they may have an allergy or infection.

Diet

Speaking of allergies, your pet may develop (or have) an intolerance to certain types of food or food additives. This can include proteins (like chicken and beef), grains (wheat, corn and rice) or preservatives and food colouring.  Signs of dietary problems can include irritation to pup’s skin and/or rear-end, as well as  

If you suspect your dog’s excessive licking is because of a dietary issue, your vet can provide advice on types of food to try, or even prescribe going on an elimination diet to determine the root cause of your companion’s problem. If you are thinking of changing their diet be sure to do so gradually and adjust the ratio of old food to new food slowly. This gives your dog’s digestive system the necessary time to adjust to the new food they’ll be eating.

Habit

We all develop bad habits over time. If your vet has investigated your dog’s licking and can’t find an underlying medical cause, it may be a habit they’ve developed. Licking is a feel-good activity for your dog, releasing endorphins. If it’s becoming a problem for your pup, you may need to try and divert their attention elsewhere and reward when they’re doing the preferred activity.

Not sure why your dog may be licking? Get in touch with our friendly team today for an appointment and we’ll investigate the cause of your pup’s discomfort.

Got a question?

We’re here to help you with any urgent enquiries or assistance you might need. Need a little extra help, or not sure if you should bring your pet in for a check-up? Give our team a call and we’ll happily answer your questions.