Excessive Dog Licking

Is your dog constantly licking her paws or other parts of her body? Excessive licking can be caused by a number of factors, such as allergies, fleas, and other skin irritations. However, it can also be due to pain or emotional issues such as boredom. This page looks at some common causes of excessive licking in dogs, and how natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathy, and supplements can help.

Why is my dog licking herself all the time? This is a question that many dog owners have. It is of course normal for dogs to lick themselves sometimes, but if the licking is becoming excessive, it may be an indication of the presence of some underlying physical or emotional problems.

Understanding the possible causes of excessive licking in dogs is therefore important. As you will see, there are numerous possible reasons. If you cannot identify the cause of your dog's excessive licking, it is advisable to take her to a vet for a check-up. Only by properly identifying and tackling the underlying cause can we stop our dog from licking, chewing, and scratching himself excessively.

Skin Problems That Cause Excessive Licking

If your dog is constantly licking herself, check to see if she has any skin problems caused by:

Bernese Mountain Puppy
  • Allergies: Dogs with allergies have itchy skin and therefore tend to lick and chew their skin incessantly. If your dog starts licking after being exposed to some sort of allergens, such as antibiotics for the skin, chemicals, cigarette smoke, pollen, food (don't forget, dogs may also become allergic to their food), etc., then chances are she licks because the allergen is causing itch and discomfort to her skin.
  • Fleas: Flea bites can cause extreme itching to a dog, especially if the dog is allergic to flea bites. One way to alleviate the itchy feeling is by licking and scratching. If your dog is licking and scratching persistently, check to see if she has fleas.
  • Other Skin Irritations: Other skin irritations, such as mange, ringworm, hot spots, hives, etc., can also cause excessive dog licking.

Other Possible Causes of Excessive Licking

If you cannot find any skin irritations or problems that may have caused your dog's constant licking, here are other possibilities to consider:

  • Injuries and Pain: Dogs often lick when they are in pain. When they are injured, they lick the wounds to promote self-heal by boosting blood flow. Also, licking creates moisture, which produces a form of topical anesthesia when it evaporates. They also lick their sore spots even if there is no open wound (e.g. sore joints, a pulled muscle). If your dog licks a particular area excessively and persistently, check to see if he has a cut, bruise, or swelling.

    Also, according to Dr. Dobias, DVM, dog collars can cause damage to the nerves supplying the front legs if the dog pulls constantly on the leash. This can lead to an abnormal sensation in the feet and dogs may start licking their front paws. Removing the collar (and using a harness instead) and treating the neck injury will stop the licking.

  • Emotional Problems: A dog may start licking as a result of some emotional problems, such as boredom, anxiety, stress, etc. Over time, this licking behavior can develop into an obsession. In extreme cases, this may cause baldness and skin lesions to form.


Beware of Lick Granulomas!

Sometimes persistent and focused dog licking can cause hair loss, serious lesions and sores, resulting in a condition called lick granulomas (a.k.a. acral lick dermatitis).

Lick granulomas can lead to hard-to-heal infections that can be extremely painful.

If your dog continues to lick one specific part of his body excessively, pay careful attention and stop the licking before it causes damage.

Natural Remedies to Stop Dog Licking

While you are working with a vet to figure out the underlying cause of your dog's excessive licking, you can consider using some of the following natural remedies to stop the licking.

  • Calming Herbs: As many dogs develop their licking habit out of anxiety or stress, calming herbs can be used to reduce the stressful feelings.

    Chamomile is a very effective and safe calming herb that can be given to dogs who are stressed out. One easy way is to make a cup of chamomile tea, let it cool down and then add some of the tea to your dog's food. (About one to four teaspoon depending on the size of the dog.)

  • Homeopathy: Many people have used homeopathic remedies to reduce stress-related licking with good results. Remedies that have calming effects include Chamomilla (from chamomile), Valeriana (from valerian root), and Ignatia (from St. Ignatius bean).

    An Effective Homeopathic Product

    This remedy contains Oat, Skullcap, St. John's Wort, and more, and can effectively calm an anxious dog that exhibits unwanted behaviors such as licking.

  • Fatty Acids: Licking caused by skin irritations can be curbed by adding Omega-3 fatty acids to the dog's diet. Fatty acids help recondition dry skin and stop itching and other irritations.

Other Ways to Stop Excessive Licking

  • Natural Diet: Some dogs who are fed commerical dog foods develop allergies, which cause skin irritations and of course excessive licking and scratching. Feeding your dog a natural, wholesome diet free of artificial flavors and colors, with supplements added, can lessen the chance of developing skin irritations. Healthy wholesome food can also strengthen the dog's immune system, resulting in healthier skin and therefore less licking!
  • Regular Exercise: Regular exercise can make your dog healthy. Exercise can also stimulate the dog's brain, release a lot of pent-up energy, and keep the dog happy. This will help stop the dog from licking out of boredom or frustration.