The Wanderer.

Why Does My Dog Lick Himself?

July 9, 2019

If your pet is showing signs of distress, it’s natural to be concerned. Licking is one of those signs, and it shouldn’t be discounted as a “dog being a dog.” Pet owners often say, “I wish he could simply tell me the problem.”

Well, if you see your dog excessively licking himself, he is telling you something. However, you will need to do a little investigating to see what he’s saying.

Dogs Lick Themselves Obsessively For Two Reasons

Your dog will lick himself for two reasons. First, there are the physical reasons and second are the mental reasons. Regardless of the ‘why’, they both must be addressed so your pup can get some relief.

Physical Reasons That Cause Your Dog to Lick

If you notice that your dog is licking himself on a regular basis, take a look at the areas where he is licking for the following signs.

  • Look for any wounds, they might be evident by a cut or signs of blood. Take your time, often fur gets matted and dirty from saliva and dirt. Also, it doesn’t take a large wound to cause irritation; it could be something as small as a pin prick.
  • Allergies are the number one reason why dogs lick themselves. Look to see if your dog has been exposed to any type of chemical or other irritant, such as tree sap or oil from bushes. Consider the weather - warmer weather tends to irritate skin more than cooler weather.
  • Search for burrs or other foreign items your dog might have picked up. It could have worked its way into his fur and is rubbing against the skin. It’s difficult for many dogs to get small objects out of their fur once it’s stuck, especially if they have an undercoat.

If you don't find any of these signs, then consider any changes you’ve made to your dog’s daily life, such as a change in food, treats, bedding, or shampoo.

Mental Health Reasons for Licking

Like humans, dogs can also suffer from mental issues. Dogs also suffer from anxiety, obsessive behavior, boredom, loneliness and other mental states. They could be expressing the need for a change in their daily routine or for more attention.

Consider how much attention your pup is getting from you. Have there been any changes to your family, such as a new baby? Or moving to a new home?

Take These Steps to Help Your Dog Rid Himself Of Irritation

Take the following steps to learn more about why your dog is constantly licking himself:

  • Observe him for 24 hours. Is there a location or activity that precedes the licking? Is it after feeding time or after playing?
  • If you have other dogs, are they also licking themselves? What activities, locations, or food do they have in common?
  • Are there any other signs of distress in your dog? Such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, lack of appetite, or any other abnormal behavior?
  • If removing any obvious problems from his skin doesn't stop his licking, you should take your dog to your veterinarian.
  • If you believe it's anxiety or boredom that is causing your dog to lick himself, take the following steps:
    • Ensure the area where your dog likes to rest is quiet and comfortable
    • Give him a treat or a chew toy to take his mind off of licking
    • You might want to set aside time for cuddling and playing with your pup (he definitely won’t have any complaints about that!)
    • Establish a consistent walking schedule for your pup.

Remember, licking isn’t always a bad sign. Licking is the way your dog cleans himself. So, if the licking is sporadic, it could simply be part of his grooming habits.