When people mention obsessive-compulsive disorder and separation anxiety, you might figure they’re talking about other people.
Did you know dogs can experience the same anxieties people go through?
A tell-tale sign dog owners notice anxiety is excessive licking in dogs. Your pet may be troubled by itchy skin or cognitive dysfunction. If your dog keeps paw licking or self-grooming, it may point to stress and other problems.
Continue reading for some of the possible reasons why your pooch keeps licking one spot — or even all over — with no relief.
Licking And Scratching Causes:
Skin Irritations, Dry Skin, Dermatitis, Food Allergies, Fungal Infections
Many people think of a dog lick as a sign of affection or a “kiss.” And your dog may indeed lick to show affection. But if your puppy licks excessively, they could be experiencing a physical or emotional problem. If you notice your pet licking or scratching incessantly, call your veterinarian.
Once you and your vet determine the cause, you can help your pet stop licking, scratching, and obsessively self-grooming. Here are some possible reasons why dogs might lick themselves obsessively:
- Skin irritation
- Separation anxiety
- Dry skin
- Fungal infections1
If your dog begins to lick obsessively, irritation could lead to hair loss or raw skin. If this occurs, contact your vet immediately.
What Causes Excessive Licking in Dogs?
The most common cause of excessive licking in dogs is allergies. You may notice your dog licking in between their toes. Sometimes this causes stains on the fur due to enzymes in your dog’s saliva. Dogs may also lick their rear end and thighs.2
If your dog has allergies they could have itchy skin. The itching causes dogs to lick their skin.
If your dog has been exposed to allergens, then they might lick their skin raw. Any of the following allergens might cause discomfort for your pooch:
- Flea bites
- Environmental pollutants
- Fungal infections
- Certain Food3
If you suspect your pet may have an allergy, take them to the vet. The vet will be able to do a test to determine what exactly they are allergic to.
2. Fleas, Ticks, And Mosquitos — Oh My
When your dog has itchy skin, they can relieve the sensation by licking themselves. They might even engage in scratching, self-grooming, or chewing. Your dog’s mouth is one of their only tools, if you think about it.
If your dog is licking and scratching to no end, your vet will likely check them for fleas, ticks, mosquito bites, or other bugs.
Remember to treat you pet for fleas and ticks. Your veterinarian can recommend a treatment for your pet and can answer any other questions you may have about protecting your pet from pests.
3. Skin Problems
Your dog may have itchy or dry skin. These problems may be the reason your dog keeps licking their skin. Other possible skin issues that could lead to excessive licking in dogs include:
- Skin irritations
- Hot spots
While some of these skin conditions can be rare in dogs, it’s important to get your pet checked by the veterinarian. And the sooner you do so the better. If they do end up having a skin issue, your vet can provide treatment.
4. Pain And Injuries
Another reason dogs might be licking themselves to the extreme is pain. Dogs often lick themselves to heal injuries.5
Your dog might lick their wounds to boost blood flow.
Licking can allow your pooch to create some moisture where wounds are dry. When your dog licks, they create topical anesthesia after the saliva when it evaporates.
Even if your pup is sore with a pulled muscle or joint discomfort, they’ll lick the sore spot. If you notice your dog licking the same area over and over, check to make sure there’s no swelling, bruising, rashes, or cuts.
Should You Worry About Your Dog’s Emotional Health?
Yes. A dog’s life may sound glorious to you — eating, playing, and sleeping. But if your dog is bored, or suffers from separation anxiety, they may lick themselves for comfort. Spontaneous compulsive behaviors may present in several dog breeds. Such behaviors can point to stress or boredom. Look for the following signs:
- Repetitive pacing
- Destructive behavior
- Lack of interest in toys
- Excessive licking
- Chasing shadows or light
- Decrease in appetite6
If your pet seems to be engaging in some of these behaviors, they may not be feeling well. Make sure to give them plenty of exercise and attention. Try playing a game of fetch or taking them on a walk to relieve some of their stress or boredom. Please see your vet if your pets mood doesn’t seem to be improving. There could be something else going on.
Possible Remedies To Stop Excessive Licking In Dogs?
If your dog is licking due to stress alone, there are some natural remedies you might try. Calming herbs, like chamomile, can sometimes help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety in dogs.
Chamomile is not only safe, but it can be effective.
In fact, if you brew a cup of chamomile tea and let it cool, you can either let your pooch lap it up or pour it in their dog food.7
Just be sure to check with your vet before giving any herbs to your pooch.
If dry skin is the reason for your pets licking, you may want to add Omega-3 fatty acids to your dog’s diet. Salmon oil or fish oil may help your dog’s dry skin. Coconut oil may be another great way for your dog to get their fatty acids.8
How To Help Keep Your Dog From Excessive Licking
Talk to your vet about your dog’s licking issues. If your dog is constantly licking paws or paw pads, check to see if there’s a cut or bruising. Other discomforts may cause your dog’s behavior to shift, too.
Be aware of your dog’s overall health. If your dog is experiencing any health issue or strange behavior you’ll also want to talk to your vet.
And make sure your dog gets a good amount of playtime and exercise. This will keep them from getting bored and licking because they think there’s nothing else to do. Your pup is your best friend. Keep them happy by keeping them healthy.