Why Is My Dog Constantly Licking? Top 5 Reasons
by Jessi Larson
Licking can be a natural behavior in most dogs. But sometimes you might wonder, “Why is my dog constantly licking?”
Many pups greet their owners and other dogs with a little slobber, and even lick themselves as a form of self-grooming. But constant or excessive licking can actually be a sign on an underlying problem in your dog’s health.
This is an issue we had recently with our dog Toby. He kept licking everything – himself, us, furniture, toys, you name it. We didn’t know what was going on.
If you find yourself wondering why is my dog constantly licking like we were, here are some possible reasons that may be an answer to your question.
When Is Licking Normal?
For the most part, occasional licking is nothing to worry about. In fact, many dogs lick others as a way of showing submissiveness or even affection.
Other times, dogs may actually lick their owners simply because they taste good – either from a recent meal or the natural salt from perspiration.
This may not sound ideal, but nonetheless, is shouldn’t present any real issue.
For example, if we’ve been outside and are extra sweaty, Toby loves to lick the salty perspiration from our arms and legs. This is super gross, but totally normal.
When Licking May Be Sign of Health Problems
The real problem with licking occurs when it seems chronic or excessive. If you notice a sudden or gradual increase in your dog’s licking, it may be a sign of an underlying health condition, which will need to be identified and treated to make the behavior stop.
Obviously, the simplest way to identify excessive licking is if you constantly notice your dog licking itself.
Another way to tell there may be a problem is if you notice discoloration on your dog’s coat or skin, or spots with missing hair from constant licking.
If this is the case, you should consider paying a visit to your vet to determine if there’s a cause for alarm.
Possible Health Reasons for Excessive Licking
Here are the top 5 possible reasons behind your dog’s incessant licking.
Whatever your suspicions, it is important that your dog’s condition is evaluated and diagnosed by a vet so you can be sure you arrive at the right course of treatment.
Because the causes behind your dog’s excessive licking can be extremely convoluted, it may be difficult to pinpointing the exact reason behind it from the very start.
But don’t worry, with the proper testing, your vet will help you get your pup back to top health.
1. Allergic Reaction
The most common reason for excessive licking in dogs is an allergic reaction, either from food or environmental toxins.
Many dog owners report their dogs licking and chewing at their paws and inner thighs, sometimes to the point that it causes discoloration of the fur in the affected area.
If you suspect allergies are behind your dog’s licking, have it seen and evaluated by a vet to help determine the exact cause.
For food allergies, you will likely need to do a systematic elimination diet to pinpoint the exact source of the problem.
Environmental allergies are often caused by pollen or dander, so your doctor will recommend any appropriate medication or wipes to keep your pup’s skin free from irritants.
This was ultimately the cause of Toby’s excessive licking. He suffers from seasonal allergies, and when they’re acting up, he likes to lick and lick and lick.
2. Fleas and Other Pests
Another possible answer to the question “Why Is My Dog Constantly Licking?”: fleas or other yucky pests.
If your dog is also scratching itself, or if you notice any sign of fleas or other common pests in your dog’s coat, get them to a veterinary clinic for treatment and be sure to check other members of your household as well.
Some dogs may develop an allergic reaction to fleabites, which can result in swelling, crusting or even infection if left untreated.
To prevent this issue in the first place, a flea and tick treatment like FRONTLINE is essential.
Once a month, we apply FRONTLINE to a spot between Toby’s shoulder blades since he can’t lick this area. The pest-killing solution stores itself in a pup’s oil glands and self-distributes to their hair and skin through the hair follicles.
It’s really easy to apply and ensures fleas, ticks and lice don’t inhabit our beloved dog.
Excessive licking can be a sign of nausea in some dogs.
Usually, a nauseous dog will lick places that seem out of the ordinary, such as floor or wall surfaces, or simply lick their own lips persistently as a sign of an upset stomach.
If your dog continues to exhibit this behavior for more than 24 hours, or if there is any accompanying vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy contact your veterinarian immediately.
4. Tooth and Oral Pain
Another reason your dog might constantly be licking or smacking its own lips or simply “licking the air” may be due to discomfort or pain in the mouth.
You can try to check for any lesions or obvious sources of pain in your dog’s mouth, but an evaluation from a vet will give you a definite answer.
5. Anxiety or Boredom
Licking is known to release endorphins in dogs, which means that it can be used as a form of self-soothing in stressful situations.
It may be that the behavior worsens with separation anxiety or when your dog is feeling upset. It is important to intervene in this behavior so that it doesn’t worsen and develop into an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
If you suspect your dog may be licking out of boredom, you can try offering another form of activity, such as a chew toy, a game of catch or going for a long walk.
You may also need to evaluate the quality of your dog’s environment for any possible stressors that may be causing this behavior.
If exercise and attention alone don’t seem to be helping, you should speak to your vet about the ongoing issues.
Final Thoughts: Why Is My Dog Constantly Licking?
Excessive licking may not seem like a serious problem on the surface, but may actually point to a deeper health issue.
If left untreated, you risk overlooking a potentially dangerous condition, and the very act of constant licking may eventually cause skin irritation, inflammation and even infection, all of which are extremely unpleasant for your dog.
That is why, if your dog is licking excessively, it’s crucial to get to the bottom of the behavior and eliminate any possible risk of a psychological or health condition.
With proper attention and care, you can help your four-legged friend get back to their normal, stress-free self.
Eliminating all allergens and irritants from your dog’s surroundings can sound daunting, but with professional guidance, your pup will be back to their happy, healthy self in no time!
How to Find the Right Veterinarian to Care for Your Dog
As you can see above, it’s important that you have a veterinarian you know and trust.
When you have a trusted veterinarian who knows your dog’s overall health and history, it’s much easier to figure out what’s causing their current ailment.
In this case, you could quickly schedule an appointment or even email or call with the question of why is my constantly licking.
To find that dependable doctor, follow these steps.
1. Look Locally
First things first: Find a vet that is near you. If heaven forbid something happens to your dog and it’s even remotely urgent, you’ll want to be able to get to the clinic in a short period of time.
This is also important if you have to take time off work for vet appointments. It’s tough enough to get away from work but even tougher when you factor in extra drive time.
For the most part, vet visits are usually planned. You know when your dog’s due for an exam or need vaccinations.
But as we’ve learned throughout the years, things come up. Your dog ate something funky and doesn’t seem like himself. You spot a weird growth and can’t stop worrying. Your dog has a cut on his face that needs a few stitches.
Or in this case, you need to know why is my dog so itchy.
If your vet is closer, that makes things much easier.
2. Read Online Reviews
This is probably an obvious statement, but reading online reviews is incredibly important as a consumer.
And now there are more review sites than ever – Google, Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, etc.
Search around and see what people are saying about each clinic you’re looking at.
3. Ask for Recommendations
Another useful tip is to ask around. Where do your neighbors take their dogs? How about friends, family and co-workers in the area?
If your dog is taking training lessons or going to doggy daycare, get the opinion of people at these organizations, too.
This is a great method because you’ll get honest, qualitative feedback that can help make your decision.
4. Do a Test Run
Once you find a vet clinic that seems like a good fit, make an appointment for your dog to be seen.
In this initial appointment, the vet will conduct an assessment of your dog’s health. But really, you’ll also be working on an assessment of your own.
Things to consider as you figure out if this is the right place for you and your dog:
- Facilities – The first thing is to take inventory of the clinic. Is it clean and comfortable?
- Veterinarian – Most importantly, what do you think of the vet? Did they explain things clearly? How was their bedside manner? How did your dog respond to them?
- Support staff – It’s not just the vet you have to consider. You’ll actually be spending just as much time with the support staff, which includes the vet technicians, front office team members and so forth.
- Service – How was the level of service? Is the staff pleasant? Was it easy to make an appointment? How is the communication?
5. Trust Your Gut
As always, trust your gut reaction. It’s more important than people realize.
If you had a good first impression of the clinic and the team and your dog responded well, by all means proceed.
If something felt off and the experience wasn’t what you had hoped for, don’t be afraid to look for other options.
Bonus Tip: Find an Emergency Pet Hospital
While you’re looking for a standard vet clinic, it’s smart to also identify emergency pet hospitals in the area.
This is a place to go if your dog needs care urgently and you can’t wait for the next available appointment at your regular vet.
If your dog has a serious issue come up outside of the normal office hours or on the weekend – and it will happen – this is the place to go.
Generally, you won’t need an emergency vet to help with the question of why is my dog constantly licking, but is helpful to have such a clinic identified for more urgent issues.