Compulsive Licking in Dogs

Compulsive licking in dogs can be indicative of various physiological as well as psychological causes. If you are trying to find out what is causing compulsive licking and scratching in dogs, then continue reading.
DogAppy Staff
Fluffy keeps licking his body non-stop. And he has further surprised you by licking the furniture as well as the concrete floor. If this was not worrying enough, he has started to scratch his ears all night long. You had heard of the term before, but often wondered what is compulsive licking in dogs? Is Fluffy suffering from the same compulsive licking and scratching in dogs? Let's find out if this is what is troubling Fluffy so much.
What is Compulsive Licking
Dogs continue to lick, chew and scratch their bodies at all times.One of the most common dog behavior is licking. However, when this habit turns into a compulsion such that you begin to spot 'hot spots', it indicates trouble. Hot spots are areas on the skin that turn red, wet and appear irritated. They may be seen on the head, chest, hips and even paws. It occurs due to the constant scratching, licking or biting of the particular area on the skin. Soon, the skin becomes irritated and sore. But, why does Fluffy lick, scratch or chew continuously? The following paragraphs will let you know just that.
There are many reasons as to why dogs develop compulsive licking behavior. These conditions may either be related to an allergy, injury, infection or plain boredom. Some of these causes are as follows:
The Dog May Have Dry Skin
One of the problems your dog maybe facing is dry skin. Just like humans, cold climate may cause the dog skin to become dry. Sometimes, a fatty acid deficiency may also cause dry skin in dogs. This dry skin causes irritation and itchiness. Thus, making the dog lick and scratch continuously on his fur.
The Dog May Have a Parasitic Infestation
In many cases, a severe parasitic infestation causes the dog to continuously scratch or lick himself. A flea infestation is very common and causes dogs to scratch and lick their fur. A mite infestation will cause the dog to keep scratching his ears continuously day and night. A heavy mite infestation may cause the dog to go crazy due to the constant irritation. A tick sticking on the dogs fur, engorging itself with blood will also lead to this odd behavior. Thus, have a look at your dog's coat and see if there are parasites causing the dog to go crazy.
The Dog May Have Hormonal Imbalances
When the dog is low on thyroid hormones or producing too much cortisol in the body, it can lead to this odd behavior. You may find red spots and superficial skin infections cropping up on the dog's body. The dog may seek relief by licking, chewing or scratching his body.
The Dog May Have Allergies
An environmental allergy or food allergy may suddenly trigger this compulsive behavior. This allergy may occur due to mold, pollen or food additives. It causes skin irritation and a condition called contact dermatitis. Thus, the dog starts licking to reduce the irritation.
The Dog May be Suffering From Pain
If a dog has suffered an injury or has a thorn or something sharp stuck in his paws, he may start licking continuously. Pain due to arthritis, back pain, etc. will also cause the dog to lick excessively. If you observe excessive licking or chewing of a particular body part by the dog, it may indicate some problem that is making the dog feel uncomfortable. Seek veterinarian help to stop this behavior and treat the underlying cause.
The Dog is Totally Bored
There are some dog breeds who require a level of activity to keep them active and busy. If one does not exercise the dog enough, have plenty of play time or give the dog plenty of opportunity to stay busy, he becomes bored. This causes the dog to turn to compulsive behavior like licking, chewing, scratching that leads to self-mutilation. Sometimes, dogs start licking furniture, floors, walls, etc. excessively. This is the dog's way of showing his displeasure about begin bored.
The Dog Suffers From Stress
Many times dogs who are under stress or suffering from anxiety will turn on these compulsive behavior. The minute the dog comes across a trigger, he will start licking. This increases the endorphin levels in their body and helps them overcome their emotional or physical strength. However, some dogs tend to become addicted to these chemicals released by their brain. There is a theory that endorphins are opiate-like chemicals that makes the dogs addictive. Thus, a dog will continuously lick himself to make the brain release more of these chemicals.
It is important that the owner take immediate steps to stop compulsive licking in dogs. If not corrected soon, it will lead to sore skin and secondary skin infection that are hard to treat. One should get the dog treated for parasites, if it is causing this behavior. Dogs that are bored should be given more play time as well as affection. This behavior may lead to lick granuloma, also known as atopic granuloma, that is a serious complication. Speak to the veterinarian and find a solution to this problem. Ultimately, Fluffy is your pet and responsibility. Thus, make sure you take a decision that is in the best interest of the pet.
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