Certain dog breeds are drawn to the salt, lotion, or other items we apply to our skin. Those slobbery kisses on the face could be an expression of affection (mother dogs lick their puppies frequently in the first few weeks of life), or they could be an indication that you didn’t thoroughly clean your mouth after eating tomato soup for lunch.
It can also result in a case of licking if you are lacking in one or more essential nutrients, so make sure your dog is eating high-quality commercial pet food. If you want to know if your pet is getting the nourishment they require to maintain good health, a nutritional analysis can be useful.
Why Dogs Lick
Although the exact cause of some dogs’ propensity to lick nearly anything is unknown, the following theories are common:
- Dogs use their mouths to explore the world, and licking is one of the best ways for them to learn more about their surroundings.
- Sometimes dogs will lick something because they like the feel or temperature of it, such a tile floor or window.
- When food or liquid has spilled or when there is an intriguing fragrance that needs to be explored, licking upholstery or carpeting may occur.
- Like us, dogs are creatures of habit, and one of the many habits they can acquire throughout their lifespan is the practice of licking.
- Dogs may lick their owners or other people or animals as a sign of submission or affection.
- In addition to boredom and stress reduction, other reasons for licking include boredom and the desire for attention from their owner. Regular playtime and walks, as well as mental exercises like food puzzles and obedience training, can significantly reduce the behavior.
- Greater salivation and increased licking might result from nausea or an upset stomach.
When to Seek Help
Even though licking is a typical canine habit, it can also be a sign of something more serious. Consult your veterinarian about any licking that looks obsessive in nature, such as licking the same area of the floor repeatedly every day. Similarly, persistent licking of the paws or another area of the body may indicate allergies, dental concerns, mental health problems, injuries, or illnesses. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the staff at Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care if you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s licking habits. We are always willing to assist.
Why do dogs lick furniture and blankets?
We are aware that dogs enjoy licking soft objects in the house, such as the carpet or the sofa, as well as their own paws, people, and peanut butter treats. They groom themselves, show their people affection, enjoy the flavor of our salty skin, or savor exquisite foods with their mouths. However, there can be more concerning factors if you observe that your dog is consistently and frequently licking the furniture. Does your dog lick things like the couch, your favorite chair, the pillows in your bed, and other things? The peanut butter-covered sofa suggests that it probably isn’t. A dog’s tendency to lick the furniture may be an indication of worry, stress, or even a medical ailment.
A bored dog might lick the furniture. He might simply be attempting to pass the time as there isn’t anything else to keep his mind and body active. Make sure he has toys, games, and treats to amuse himself with when you aren’t around if the behavior isn’t constant and if he can be quickly distracted from it.
A change in the dog’s environment or routine might cause anxiety and tension, which can lead to excessive licking. Is there a new resident in the house or a significant increase in activity, for instance? Dogs are creatures of habit, so changing their regular routine can worry them. Dogs use repetitive licking as a kind of self-soothing and endorphin release. Licking the couch is frequently a one-off reaction to stress, loneliness, or boredom. If left unchecked, it might develop into a habit, though.
Consider giving your dog additional opportunities for socializing, stimulation, and exercise. Increase your child’s playtime by bringing in new toys and hard puzzles, setting up playdates, or starting a new hobby like a dog sport. By the way, activity and exercise are well-known stress relievers that can benefit people. Even if the problem is not resolved, it is the most straightforward solution and has virtually no drawbacks.
Furniture Licking and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Some dogs actually exhibit true obsessive-compulsive behavior when they lick their furnishings excessively. Obsessive and/or compulsive behavior is displayed when your dog cannot be diverted from licking, licks intensely or aggressively, or appears to be almost dozing off. In people, it’s the difference between anxiously biting your nails and being unable to leave the house without making sure the door is secured seven times.
Canine OCD can affect any breed equally, however certain canines may be more prone to compulsive behaviors than others. This can be observed in dogs that have lived in extremely constrained, sterile conditions, such as being chained in a yard or housed without access to exercise or socialization. These canines might be exhibiting stereotypy, which is characterized as a single, recurring, non-functional habit, in this case, licking furniture. Moving to a kind, stimulating workplace could not even result in a change in the behavior because stereotypes can solidify into hard-to-break habits.
However, dogs raised in a reliable, caring, and healthy environment can also suffer from OCD. It’s possible that stimulation and diversion won’t help here. Discuss potential therapies, including as anti-anxiety medication and behavior modification therapy, with your veterinarian. You’ll eventually develop the ability to recognize triggers and foresee conduct.
The physical causes of excessive furniture licking are also possible. Due to their delicate digestive systems, dogs may exhibit symptoms of nausea or an upset stomach. Canine cognitive deterioration (dementia) in older dogs may cause compulsive licking.
So, Before Your Dog Licks the Sofa Threadbare, What Can You Do?
You have a decent probability of ending the habit if you can identify what’s driving it.
- Assume that the cause is boredom, and provide him with an alternative kind of entertainment like a toy or game.
- A new baby, visitors, loud noises outdoors, the doorbell ringing, or other stressors in his environment should all be kept in mind. Once you’ve identified the behavior’s origin, you might be able to either get rid of it or divert your dog’s attention with more suitable stimuli.
- Think of ailments like dementia or digestive difficulties.
- Speak with your veterinarian. She might suggest treatment for anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder after ruling out any specific medical factors.
It’s not necessarily aberrant behavior if your dog occasionally licks the sofa and can be distracted from it. After all, dogs will lick a variety of objects to feel and learn about their surroundings. It’s also a typical method of coping with anxiousness. But when licking results in wet chair arms or sofa cushions and becomes so persistent as to border on obsession, it’s time to take action. You’ll prevent damage to your furniture and distress for your pet’s body or mind.
Why does my dog keep licking objects?
It’s believed that fear, conflict, or dissatisfaction trigger compulsive behaviors in dogs at first, which eventually manifest outside of the original setting.
2,15 Although the exact time it takes for a repeated habit to turn into a compulsive behavior is unknown, it is most likely not a short period of time.
There are no established diagnostic standards for compulsive disorders.
15 After medical diseases and other behavioral disorders, such as displacement or redirected behaviors, have been ruled out or addressed, the diagnosis is made based on the history and the presenting symptoms. In my experience, compulsive disorders are significantly less common in companion dogs than displacement behaviors and redirected behaviors. Determining if a dog is actually suffering from a compulsive disorder is not as crucial as understanding that the dog is feeling stress, conflict, or frustration in its environment. The following treatment approach must be developed with careful consideration of the root of the anxiety, conflict, or frustration.
In addition to the more visible behaviors like cowering with its head and tail tucked and trying to hide, a dog feeling anxiety or conflict may also pace, yawn, shake its head, or lick its nose and lips repeatedly. Other symptoms of anxiety include higher heart and respiration rates, salivation, and dilated pupils, though it may be challenging to distinguish these symptoms from those exhibited by many animals who are worried about visiting the vet.
Insufficient stimulation, routine changes, inconsistent owner interactions, such as the improper application of punishment, the arrival or departure of family members, including other pets, and intense or recurrent fear-inspiring events are examples of situations that can cause anxiety, conflict, or frustration.
2 Additionally, as temperament has a significant impact on the emergence of anxiety-related behavioral issues, vets should learn to identify the telltale indications of a dog’s scared or anxious temperament.
Remember that a variety of causative factors contribute to the emergence of many behavioral issues, and anxiety-related and compulsive disorders are no exception. The gathering of behavior and medical history is crucial to a precise diagnosis because frequently the circumstance or medical condition that causes a problem is not the same one that maintains it2. For instance, medical issues that are painful or uncomfortable may generate anxiety, and anxiety may cause behaviors such as displacement that, with time, may develop into compulsive behaviors. As a result, treating a medical problem would not necessarily cause a behavior to change right away; behavior modification and environmental management (see below) might still be required.
TREATING ABNORMAL REPETITIVE BEHAVIOR
Treatment should include a combination of behavior modification, environmental management, and pharmacological intervention if it has been shown that the licking is a primary behavior problem resulting from anxiety, conflict, or dissatisfaction. 10 The chances of long-term success are reduced when only one of these three elements is used. These therapies aim to lessen the stress and conflict that could have triggered the compulsive illness. 2,8
Remind the owner to ignore the dog whenever it starts acting out as part of the treatment. Even though it is not the main reason why the behavior persists, an owner accidentally rewarding the dog for licking can help.
The main goal of therapy is to give the dog a setting that is as stress- and conflict-free as possible, that is stimulating enough to support typical behaviors for the species, and where owner interactions are predictable and constant. 2,8 The source of conflict should always be found and eliminated from the environment of the animal. Desensitization to the anxiety-inducing stimuli should be tried when the source of tension or worry cannot be eliminated (such as a new child or pet). Desensitization techniques have been thoroughly described in other places. 16
Encourage the owner to discover activities that match their lives to enhance the dog’s activity if it is not being given enough. Even though this can just entail taking longer walks, it’s best to engage in cardiovascular activity like flyball or agility training or chasing after a ball. Many owners need to be made aware that simply keeping a dog in the yard all day does not ensure that it is exercising enough. The majority of dogs, especially those that live in homes with only one pet, do not exercise on their own. The most of the day is spent sleeping, and when their owners return home, they make an effort to communicate with them.
The dog can obtain some exercise while alone at home if the environment is enhanced with a range of interactive objects2, such as toys that move or produce noise when the dog plays with them or toys that dispense food (such as Kong or Buster Cube [Kruuse A/S] or Busy Buddy [Premier]). Additionally, it permits the dog to engage in traditional habits for its species, like chewing and exploring. It can be necessary to look into each dog’s preferences to ascertain the kinds of objects that will appeal to it the most. To keep the toys fresh and engaging for the dog, they should be switched out frequently.
All punishment should end right away. Punishment can be a significant source of tension and worry for pets because the majority of pet owners do not employ it appropriately (within 1 to 2 seconds every time the wrong behavior happens, with the proper severity). 2,8
Exercises involving command-response-reward. Owner interactions should be confined to giving food, exercise, and other essentials along with daily training sessions for the first two to four weeks of treatment. 15 These training sessions should consist of very organized encounters in which the animal is asked to carry out a command that it is already quite familiar with, and is rewarded for doing so. Dogs simply do not receive the incentive when they do not answer, thus there is no need to penalize them. These sessions teach the owner how to engage with the dog in the right way. A dog’s nervousness can be significantly reduced by the predictability and consistency of these command-response-reward activities.
Response switching. The owner can try a method known as counter-conditioning or response replacement if they can identify the situations where the dog is most likely to engage in the licking habit. 10 The latter word implies that the goal of this training is to teach the dog a different response in place of the undesirable habit. Owners can achieve this in a number of ways, but success will require persistence, time, and patience.
Smaller dogs’ owners can go around the house with their pets attached to a long leash. The dogs should ideally be wearing head collars at this time as well. When a dog’s owner notices that the animal is about to start licking, they should gently and quickly divert the animal by bringing it to them or by commanding it to come or sit. Only employ a command that the dog is familiar with and is likely to respond to at that time, according to the owners. Because of this, it might be essential for the owner to put the command-response-reward activities into practice for a few weeks before starting the counter-conditioning exercises.
When it appears that their dogs might start licking surfaces, owners who are uncomfortable anchoring their dogs to themselves must try various techniques of diverting their dogs. Whistles, shaker cans (a can filled with beans or coins), squeaky toys, and other noisemakers can all be useful. 2 Squirt water bottles, compressed air cans, ultrasonic gadgets, and citronella sprays are further options. It is crucial to inform owners that the goal of these gadgets is to stop a dog’s behavior so that a different one can be praised. They must not instill fear or anxiety because their goal is not to make the behavior less likely to occur again (as an effectively administered punishment would). The chosen gadget should be stopped right once and a less shocking one should be tried if it seems to make the dog more anxious or trigger a scared reaction. It should never be combined with the person screaming at the dog or telling it “no.” The owner should calmly give the dog a command once it has been effectively distracted and is looking at them for a cue. They should then be pampered if the dog obeys.
A dog should first be pampered every time it obeys a command, preferably with a prized possession or tasty treat. The owner should try to involve the dog in additional rewarding activities like play after the dog obeys a command.
When treating any anxiety-related disorder, pharmacologic therapy can be a helpful addition to behavior change and environmental control. It has been discovered that medications that target the serotonergic system are useful in treating anxiety, canine compulsive disorders, and human and canine obsessive-compulsive disorders. 10
Clomipramine. The tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine, which has selective serotonergic actions and anxiolytic and anticompulsive effects, may be used to treat a dog who repeatedly licks objects. The most frequently reported adverse effects17 are sedation and anorexia, but they might also include nausea, regurgitation, or increased water intake. 18
1 to 3 mg/kg of clomipramine taken orally twice day is the suggested dosage for canines.
18 When treating canine cognitive impairment, monoamine oxidase inhibitors like selegiline shouldn’t be used alongside clomipramine. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that giving clomipramine for more than 112 days at a dose of 3 mg/kg every 12 hours dramatically reduced the amounts of total thyroxine, free thyroxine, and 3,3′,5’tri-iodothyronine. 18 At this dose, no reports of clinical hypothyroidism were made. However, being aware of these medication-related side effects should assist you in avoiding unneeded hypothyroidism treatment. 18
Fluoxetine. A selective serotonin reuptake medication called fluoxetine may potentially be helpful in treating habitual surface licking. It may have less side effects because it has less of an impact on other neurotransmitters than other antidepressants, such tricyclic antidepressants, do. 19 Fluoxetine has been proven to be effective in treating canine compulsive disorders20 as well as other anxiety-related disorders in dogs and cats, similar to how clomipramine is effective in treating them. 19 Lethargy and decreased appetite were the only side effects observed in one investigation of fluoxetine-treated dogs; none of the adverse events were severe enough to call for drug discontinuation. 20
For dogs, fluoxetine should be taken orally once daily at a dose of 1 to 2 mg/kg.
19 Diabetic patients should be closely watched when using fluoxetine because it may influence blood glucose levels. 19 Similar to clomipramine, never use fluoxetine along with monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and proceed with caution when administering either drug to patients who already have liver or renal failure. 18,19
length of drug treatment. The text Veterinary Psychopharmacology has more details on the proper and safe use of psychotropic medications. Remind clients that while compulsive disorders may react considerably more slowly to pharmacologic treatments than some anxiety-related disorders, it may take a few days or weeks for some anxiety-related disorders to improve. Owners should be prepared to administer treatment for at least four to six weeks before determining whether or not improvement is apparent. 10 If the medication seems to be working, keep taking it for at least one or two months after the clinical signs stop, then gradually reduce the dosage and stop taking it if the clinical signs do not come back. 2 Some compulsive disorder sufferers will always need medication to maintain remission, particularly if the contributing factors cannot be found and altered.
The most common cause of a dog’s excessive surface licking is a health issue that causes nausea or digestive pain. There are times when worry or conflict results in displacement behaviors that finally develop into a true compulsive disorder. Excellent history-taking abilities and patience on the part of the physician and dog owner are essential for making an accurate diagnosis. If it’s established that the problem is mostly behavioral, pharmacological therapy is combined with environmental awareness and behavior modification for the dog. Without behavioral and environmental changes, pharmacologic therapy is less likely to be effective, and remission is more likely after drug discontinuation if the cause of the illness has not been found and altered.