Dog Licking Common Reasons and Cures

Dog licking comes from a variety of different issues and in most cases is minor. If your dog is licking itself (excessively), your dog’s repeated licking behavior is telling you that there is a problem that needs attention as soon as possible. No one wants to see a dog suffer in any way with any ailment and excessive dog licking, chewing, and grooming can lead to a variety of problems for your dog. Excessive dog licking can, in most cases, be treated successfully without taking your dog to a vet, however, it is always wise to consult a vet when you have questions and for quick remedies when you are unsure of the diagnosis and how to treat your dog’s illness.

Three Most Common Reasons for Dog Licking:

1. Your Dog Needs a Bath:

  • If your dog spends a good deal of time outdoors or is an outdoor dog, then dirt, grass, and dry leaves may cause skin irritations or sometimes can embed or become tangled in your dog’s coat. Removing those irritants can relieve the need to groom.
  • Your dog may have allergies and as a result, itch or lick. Good dog shampoo will help to relieve the itch associated with skin allergies.
  • In addition, some dogs are naturally allergic to flea bites and their droppings. Add mites (which cause mange), or ticks, to the equation and your dog could be licking just to try and rid himself of the parasites. If you can see fleas in your dog’s coat, you already may have a parasite infestation that needs to be addressed and quickly. Good flea shampoo can quickly get rid of your flea problem and is what shelters most commonly use.
  • Even if your dog is an inside dog, a regular bath is essential. Bathing with the correct shampoo can replenish essential oils in your dog’s skin, which when depleted can cause scaly, flaky skin or cause your dog to itch.
  • Give your dog good grooming before you give him a bath. Good grooming will loosen or remove dirt, grass, leaves, tangles (as well as fleas) from your dog’s coat. Giving your dog a bath without grooming may only cause additional problems which are that the source of the irritants may remain. The end result may be a bathed dog with irritated skin and a tangled coat.

2. Skin Related Issues (the most common skin-related issues in dog licking include):

  • Acute moist dermatitis (hot spots) is a bacterial infection, created by constant licking, chewing, and grooming. It is generally a spot or an area on your dog that is wet, hot to the touch, and irritated. These areas are generally confined to the head, chest, or hips of a dog. These kinds of spots can become sore and increase in size rather quickly.
  • Skin allergies and dry skin: Contact dermatitis can be an allergy to soaps or pesticides such as the ones that are in flea collars. If you notice your dog excessively licking or chewing after a bath or when a flea collar is put on, try changing dog shampoos, flea collars, and grooming products. A gentle formula dog shampoo works wonders for dogs that itch due to dry skin or try a natural alternative for fleas. Note: DO NOT use garlic products as garlic is poisonous to dogs (some dogs are very sensitive to small doses as well).  Also, try changing your dog’s food. Dog food plays a huge part in dog allergies.

Related: Best Dog Shampoo. Recommended Dog Shampoo for Puppies and Dogs that have normal and shedding coats or, for puppies or dogs that have fleas, ticks, mites, lice, mange, hotspots, pyoderma, hair loss, or allergies.

  • Hair loss and bald patches: When dealing with dog licking, hair loss, and bald patches it may be a result of excessive fleas, mites, mange, or ringworm (scaly patches that are contagious to humans) that only generally respond (quickly) to vet prescribed medicine. While there are a lot of ringworm cures, It is best to take your dog to a vet if you suspect the above because the last thing you may want is members of your household to be exposed to ringworm, especially if they are children. And you want to make sure that the ringworm is completely gone.

3. Dog Licking When Bored or Anxiety-Related Issues:

If you have bathed your dog and know that there are no skin-related issues and If your dog is anxious or bored, and constantly and obsessively licking, biting, chewing, and scratching themselves, then your dog may be having a psychological episode caused by either boredom, anxiety, or a change in their environment. Tips to reduce boredom or anxiety in dogs:

    • start by exercising your dog.
    • invest in some new toys.
    • change your dog’s environment.
    • make your dog’s environment less stressful.
    • your dog may be lonely, consider getting them a companion or schedule a play date.

Less Common, But More Serious Related to Dog Licking:

  1. cysts:  no matter how small should be checked out by a vet.
  2. wounds: If you notice an open wound on your dog, please take your dog to the vet for a professional examination. This is especially true for dogs who have experienced some kind of trauma or injury, and especially are whining or crying. Even if it is as simple as a small puncture, depending on the circumstances, an infection can set in. Even if you think your dog’s wound may heal on its own, your dog’s desire to clean the wound by licking it may make it worse.
  3. hip dysplasia or a dog’s back: if you notice your dog chewing or licking and your dog seems to be having issues with their hips or back, it is time to see the vet. Your dog may be telling you that they are hurting beyond what is tolerable to them.

How Can a Vet Help?

It’s always wise to see the help of a professional when you notice your dog licking and a vet can help in a variety of ways such as:

  • A vet generally will run tests to determine the cause of your dog’s licking problem, including skin scrapings.
  • A vet can prescribe medications such as antibiotics or topical steroids which are not readily available to the public.
  • A vet can generally get your dog’s licking problem diagnosed quickly so that you can get a definite diagnosis and treat the problem sooner.

Excessive dog licking, grooming, and chewing can quickly get out of hand and cause problems which in some cases are not only harmful to the health and mental well-being of your dog but will affect the health of your family (such as ringworm). So, don’t wait to take action if you notice your dog struggling with an excessive dog licking problem.


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