Reasons Dogs Lick Excessively And Tips To Help Stop It
“Riley Stop Licking!” That's one of the most common things said in our home since our dog Riley came into our lives. All dogs lick, but sometimes the licking can actually mean something else is underlying and needs attention.
Wynter, our older dog, is more catlike in her grooming. Her fur is easy to lick clean and she's doesn't require a lot of grooming needs like our other dog, Riley. So we understand that licking is how they clean themselves.
But for some dogs, like Riley, the licking had a few things that we struggled to understand for a long time. After many vet visits, allergy shots, and watching our little guy suffer from terrible hot spots and losing his hair. We started to become concerned that his whole life would be shots, medications, and painful sores.
At one point, I questioned if we were doing the right thing by making him live in such discomfort.
All dogs lick, sometimes for fun and sometimes because they can't control it. And before we go any further, we want you to know that excessive licking can be a concern and you should talk to your vet about it. We are not medically trained professionals, we are pet parents and these are tips that helped our boy, Riley to live a better life without the itching.
Sometimes the reason for your dog's licking can be as simple as your dog wanting to get clean. They bite at their nails when they are too long, and might scratch and lick when their skin feels dirty. When you bathe your dog, you want a formula that is made for dogs, a gentle easy rinse formula that has a PH of less than 7 to keep your dog's skin and coat healthy. Choose a dog shampoo that is a mix of organic compounds and cleansing salts that soothe the skin and mix with oil to gently clean.
Some dogs, like people, develop obsessive-compulsive habits, like licking to cope with anxiety. Some even begin licking carpets, toys, blankets, and even walls to deal with stress. Sadly, some even turn to licking when they have been removed from their mother too early and this is a comforting technique.
We've found that small doses of CBD tincture for dogs calms them and can even help soothe them and help you to settle their anxiety.
It is important to find the reason for your dog's stress and help mitigate those issues.
In our struggles with Riley, we discovered that his compulsive licking not only caused his hair to fall out in chunks, but he would develop painful sores. Our vet tried several different treatments, including drugs that caused him to gain a lot of weight fast. His joints hurt, he often struggled to walk, and he hurt himself easily trying to play like other puppies could play. His body was like an old dog's body, but he was only a year old and every day we searched for answers.
When his hips hurt, he licked them until he would bleed.
It broke my heart to see this sweet boy in pain. His pain made him cranky, and it would often lead him to bite. We knew he didn't mean it, but his issues were so horrible for him that his life was pain, itching, shots, and fear. He wanted to play with Wynter, but she would accidentally hurt him and he would bite her and we would end up trying to break up dog fights.
Sadly, I ended up trying to keep them separated most of the time. Riley did learn, however, that toys could help him manage his itching, distract from his pain, and they were fun!
We love WagWell, each month they deliver new toys that not only keep him busy but they are pretty indestructible!
Riley started taking a toy with him everywhere he goes and we can tell when he's stress or even super happy because there is a squeaking sound.
Some dogs develop annoying habits, and licking can be one of those habits that's hard to break.
Once we discovered the root of Riley's licking issues, and we've worked to help control his pain and itching, we thought his excessive licking would go away. Nope, now his licking is more of a habit that he does probably without thinking about it.
We don't let him keep licking. He gets a quick “Don't lick” and he usually stops right away. In the beginning, we rewarded him with small treats to retrain him to stop licking. Now we redirect him with a toy and it usually calms him down.
Allergies and Diet
After a few years of trying everything, we turned to a holistic expert who helped us to identify that Riley, who is a Duck Toller, is allergic to birds! Duck tolling retrievers are bred to bring back duck to hunters and this one is highly allergic to ducks! Not just ducks, Riley is allergic to all birds, including chicken which is in many common dog foods and treats.
We also discovered that he was allergic to wheat.
Many dogs have sensitive digestive systems. Gas and licking are an indicator that something is off with their digestion. They can even be affected by the diet of the animal in the dog food.
Riley is now on a custom blend dog food that has limited ingredients that are made with human-grade ingredients that are delivered by PetPlate.
Riley is doing much better now. He still has some itch issues due to seasonal allergies and sometimes he manages to find something with wheat dropped on the floor. But his pain is now managed with CBD, not heavy drugs and we use special salves on his hot spots that have helped his skin to heal and his hair to grow back.
We are so thankful that we learned about a more holistic treatment option for veterinary care. Our sweet boy lived his first few years in and out of the vet's office and in constant torment. It almost cost him his life!
He is one of the reasons we have turned to a cleaner, more holistic lifestyle. We want to show people they have options for their health and their pets.
If you have a dog health success story, we would love to hear it in the comments!