Dogs love to lick themselves, their siblings, and their favorite humans. It is a way for them to communicate with each other and with us and is therefore a behavior that you need to understand as a dog parent.
Most dogs lick themselves as a way to groom themselves. This licking behavior is often perceived to be completely normal. However, there are situations where dog licking should be a reason to be concerned.
In the upcoming sections, you will learn all you need about dog licking behavior and when you should be worried. We shall also cover tactics that should help you stop excessive licking including taking your dog to the vet for further checkups.
Without any delay, let’s dive right in.
Why Do Dogs Lick Themselves Constantly?
Dogs typically lick themselves as a way to groom themselves. There are, however, other more insidious causes of constant self-licking that you should be aware of.
To help you figure out what’s going on with your dog, here are some of the main reasons why your furry best buddy is licking themselves so much.
Dogs may not be as fastidious with their personal hygiene as cats but they still care somewhat about their personal grooming. This is why self-grooming is one of the main reasons why dogs lick themselves constantly.
They do so to get rid of debris and excess moisture while also marking themselves with their scent. With the latter, it is actually not uncommon to find dogs licking themselves after getting professionally groomed. They do so to get rid of the unfamiliar scent of the products used.
To Relieve Itchiness
Your dog may also be licking themselves excessively because their skin is itchy. In these cases, the itching will be accompanied by scratching and chewing on different parts of their coat as they try to get relief.
The causes of itchiness could range from allergic reactions to fabrics or grooming products to irritation by parasites like ticks or fleas.
Due To Pain Or Irritation
Another common reason why dogs lick themselves is due to skin irritation or pain. This is different from licking due to itchiness as the pain and irritation don’t warrant scratching or biting.
The irritation could be due to dry skin, pain from skin infections, or simply discomfort from the underlying muscle, bone, or joint pain.
Dogs also sometimes lick themselves when suffering from psychological distress. This could be due to issues like separation anxiety, depression, phobias, as well as extreme agitation. In these gases, the dog may also have other changes in its mood and personality.
Finally, your dog may be licking themselves purely out of boredom. This will be accompanied by other calls for attention and engagement including increased vocalizations, general restlessness, and blank stares.
When Should I Be Concerned About My Dog Licking?
A dog licking itself could be a cause of concern in cases where there is an increase in intensity or when there are other signs of a serious underlying condition.
To help you tell innocent licking apart from a genuine cry for help, here are a few scenarios where your dog’s self-licking should trigger alarms.
If They Have Systemic Symptoms Of Disease
This is common especially when the licking is related to skin irritation due to systemic diseases. They include liver and kidney failure as well as hormonal issues like hypothyroidism.
Self-licking in these cases will be accompanied by other systemic issues including;
- Weight fluctuations
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Change in urine color, volume, and/or frequency
- Generalized weakness
- Changes in coat health
If They Have A History Of Allergic Reactions
Allergies are commonly implicated as a cause of skin irritation and by extension, excessive self-licking by your dog.
Therefore, if your dog has pre-existing allergies and starts to lick itself more than usual, you may have a reason to be concerned. This is because it could be a sign that your dog is experiencing an allergic reaction in which case it is best to act fast to mitigate the reaction.
If The Coat Appears Damaged
Coat damage in a dog that is licking itself too much is never a good sign.
On one hand, it could indicate that the dog is licking and perhaps scratching themselves so much that they are causing direct damage to the coat.
On the other hand, poor coat health could be a sign that whatever is triggering the skin irritation and subsequent excessive licking is actually quite serious.
If It Is More Than Usual In Intensity And Frequency
Finally, a simple increase in the intensity and/or frequency with which your dog licks itself should be a cause for concern. In these cases, you don’t even need any other signs or symptoms or clues that something is going terribly wrong.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Compulsive Licking?
The best way to stop your dog from excessively licking itself is to identify and deal with whatever is triggering the behavior. Some of the most common causes include local irritants like grooming products, fabrics on dog accessories, and parasite infestations.
The cause behind compulsive licking could also be a systemic illness like liver disease, hypothyroidism, or even kidney failure. With these issues, you will have to involve a veterinarian to identify the specific issue and provide professional care.
Here are a few other strategies that will help you stop your dog from compulsively licking themselves.
Adopt An Appropriate Coat Care Routine
Dirt, dryness, and parasites are common causes of skin irritation and excessive licking. One way to deal with this issue definitively is by adopting a coat care routine that works for your dog.
This includes understanding their coat type and needs and coming up with a schedule for brushing, trimming, and washing.
Furthermore, make sure to invest in high-quality, hypoallergenic, and preferably all-natural grooming products.
Feed Your Dog Healthy, Hypoallergenic Dog Food
Dog food allergens are also commonly implicated as a cause of excessive licking by dogs. A change in diet to hypoallergenic dog foods will therefore do your pooch a lot of good.
Moreover, eating a healthy and balanced diet will ensure improved coat health and overall well-being for the dog. This means that your dog will enjoy a healthier and better-protected coat that they don’t constantly have to look to soothe and maintain.
Restrictive Collars Or Cones
If your dog is licking open wounds or surgical incision sites to soothe pain or itchiness, a restrictive collar will come in handy. This keeps them from licking the vulnerable sites which may eventually cause local or systemic complications including infections and delayed healing.