Licking comes as a natural instinct in dogs, it’s a habit that is cultivated from the time they are puppies and sometimes it continues into adulthood. During birth, the mother usually licks her puppies to stimulate breathing, she also does so when cleaning herself and the puppies as well stimulate defecation.
Excessive or too much licking can be a source of concern to owners and many always wonder how to put an end to it, excessive licking is usually a behavioral or medical issue.
Excessive licking out of habit or behavior
- It’s a way of maintaining hierarchy in a pack or litter. Subordinate dogs are found to lick the dominant ones and helps maintain harmony.
- Dogs also lick to due to anxiety, nervousness or boredom. Licking releases endorphins which helps them to stay calm.
- They also do so out of affection for their owners just as they do their pack mates.
- Some studies indicate they love the taste of salt on human skin.
- Often times they are trying to communicate something e.g. they need to be let out for a bathroom break, hunger or thirst.
- Dogs also groom and clean themselves by licking. Saliva contains antibacterial properties that help kill bacteria found on the skin and wound which may help in wound healing. However excessive licking traumatizes wounds which delays healing. Licking also helps to remove dead skin cells.
Excessive licking can also be a sign of a health problem.
- Environmental allergies can cause itchiness which dogs help to relieve through licking commonly seen on e.g. flank, paws and groin area. Hot spots, redness and loss of hair are also commonly observed in such cases.
- Parasite infestations can also cause excessive licking and biting. Licking near the tail area usually indicates fleas.
- Skin infections (dermatitis) such as fungal and bacterial skin infections can also prompt them to lick themselves.
- Injuries in the body can also prompt them to lick the area to relieve pain e.g. joint pain.
- Oral or dental problems cause hyper salivation which may prompt them to lick excessively.
- Dogs can also lick to get rid of the bad taste in their mouth when feeling nauseous.
- Dogs suffering from cognitive disorders such as dementia also exhibit excessive licking as one of the signs.
- Excessive licking around the anal area can be an indication of full anal glands that need to be expressed. Dogs are also often seen scooting on the floor.
- Neurological conditions as well as organophosphate poisoning can cause excessive licking and champing of lips.
All in all owners should be keen to investigate the cause of excessive licking in their dogs. A visit to the veterinarian will also help to zero in on the cause especially if medical related. If so, treatment usually put a stop to the problem. In the case of being a behavioral problem, seeking assistance from a dog trainer can help resolve the issue.