A dog licking everything is often cause for concern to dog owners, especially when the licking is pretty much frantic with the dog acting restless and almost panicky. These dogs are often described as licking floors, carpets, walls, upholstery and almost everything in sight. Often, the licking episodes are short-lived and dogs are back to acting normal, although sometimes the licking may persist for several minutes to even hours. Repetitive cases of a dog licking everything is often brought to a veterinarian’s attention, who must confirm or rule out a variety of medical disorders until finding the ultimate culprit.
What’s Up With a Dog Licking Everything?
A dog licking everything needs to be carefully monitored. This because, by carefully watching the dog, it is possible to deduce important information about the potential underlying cause, which will help tackle it accordingly. It also helps dog owners supervise for ingestion of potentially harmful substances which is not unusual in a dog licking everything.
The causes for dogs licking everything can be several. For instance, a dog licking everything may be ultimately doing so simply because it just tastes good. If you have a toddler at home and the toddler has just eaten some pudding with his hands and then crawled on the floor, touched furniture etc., you can bet that the dog will want to lick everything the toddler got in contact with because it’s tasty. Same goes with sloppy eaters leaving crumbs under tables and chairs.
A dog licking everything should be carefully monitored considering that affected dogs may ingest toxic products or excess foreign items such as excess hairs, fibers, leaves, grass which can cause gastrointestinal upset, toxicity or even an intestinal blockage.
If your dog is licking everything, please play it safe and report the signs your are seeing to your vet. Your vet can help determine the underlying cause so that is can be treated accordingly.
A Case of Nausea
Nausea is often a main culprit in dogs licking everything in sight. Left to their own devices, dogs in a natural environment instinctively seek grass to ingest as a way to make themselves vomit.
In the home, deprived from the possibility of ingesting grass, dogs may try to soothe their tummies by licking everything in sight.
Dogs may develop nausea as a result of dietary indiscretions, food intolerances, as a side effect of certain medications (such as NSAIDs, antibiotics) or as a result of a variety of gastrointestinal conditions such as acid reflux, liver or kidney disease, pancreatic problems, inflammatory bowel disease, small intestinal disorders, adrenal disorders (Cushing’s syndrome, Addison’s disease), just to name a few.
“Licking can be a symptom of nausea. Especially when they are licking cloth or carpeting. Think of it like the indoor version of a dog eating grass to cause itself to vomit. The nausea may not be severe enough to cause vomiting yet.”~Dr. Christian K. veterinarian
A Problem in the Mouth
Some disorders of the mouth can cause pain in dogs or excess salivation, which dogs may attempt to alleviate by licking everything in sight. Sometimes, by inspecting the dog’s mouth, it is possible to identify the source of the problem. Perhaps, the dog has a torn embedded on the tongue or some foreign object stuck in between the teeth.
A dog may have ingested a foreign item, but caution is needed as sticking a finger down a dog’s throat may further push it down causing a blockage to the dog’s airway.
To remove the object, the dog should be taken to the vet who will send a scope down and safely retrieve it. Other oral problems include a sore tooth, presence of a mass such as an epulis (gum boil) or wart, or even an infection.
For dogs not used to having their mouths opened, it is best to seek the assistance of a vet, considering that some dogs may attempt to snap or bite when being handled in this way. Practice extreme caution.
A Nervous System Disorder
Several nervous system disorders may be a culprit for excess licking. In this type of licking, the dog appears unaware of what is happening around him and is unresponsive to an owner’s attempt to interrupt. Partial seizures can sometimes trigger unusual behaviors such as licking the air (fly snapping) and licking objects. In older dogs, the onset of seizures and its accompanying neurological behaviors may be attributed to brain tumors. It would be important to rule this possibility out with advanced imaging.
A Behavior Problem
Sometimes, dogs prone to behavior problems may act in peculiar ways. A dog misbehaving and licking everything in sight is sure an attention-grabber. Once the dog understands that licking gets his owners to pay attention to him, the behavior strengthens and repeats and the dog licks as a way to solicit attention.
Excess licking may also be seen as a result of a compulsive behavior disorder. Compulsive behaviors are repetitive behaviors that may be seen in high-strung dogs with a history of anxiety. A recent onset of licking everything in sight may be possible following a frightening experience or an abrupt change in the dog’s routine.
Understimulation, lack of exercise and reduced social contact may too pave the path to excessive licking disorders in certain dogs. Dogs who are anxious, frustrated or in conflict may lick as a way to gain relief from their overwhelming emotions (displacement behavior).
Worth mentioning is canine cognitive dysfunction, the canine form of Alzheimer’s disease, often seen in senior dogs over the age of 10. Reduced cognitive function may lead to various behavior changes such as pacing, night-time whining, confusion and other signs and licking everything can sometimes be one way dogs may manifest this disorder although underlying medical causes may be more common and should be ruled out first.
At the Vet’s Office
Once at the vet, the veterinarian will ask several questions pertaining to the dog’s diet, when the behavior occurs, what signs the dog exhibits, for how long it occurs and any other relevant information. Since the behavior is often performed at home, it may help to record the dog’s behavior and have the vet watch it.
After collecting some history, the vet will typically perform a physical examination. Diagnostic tests may include a complete blood count, chemistry profile, fecal examination, and urinalysis.
Treatment for a dog licking everything is based on the vet’s findings. If nausea is found to be a potential culprit, the vet may therefore do a trial of a hypoallergenic diet trial to rule out dietary intolerance. A course of Pepcid for dog upset stomach should provide relief in the case of acid reflux/nausea.
If the cause is seizure activity, the vet may prescribe anti-seizure medications. If the cause is behavioral, the vet may suggest behavior modification, if there is a problem in the mouth, the vet will fix that, and so forth.
An important differential for a dog licking everything is pica, a condition where a dog frequently craves and eats non food items. A dog suffering from pica though requires a different treatment protocol compared a dog licking everything.