Obsessive licking is something I’ve touched on in the past as it relates to possible health issues and hot spots.
I recently came across a post that made me decide to discuss this issue again but from a different angle.
The owner posted a question about one of her dogs obsessively licking her other dog’s genitals.
That could mean a possible problem brewing, or it could actually mean nothing.
So today, we’re going to talk about the obsessive licking of one dog by another.
What is excessive licking behavior in dogs?
Before we can talk about the causes of obsessive licking, we have to define exactly what counts as “excessive.” All dogs lick- their fur, their people, their tasty treats- licking is a way of life and how they experience the world around them. Heck, I’ve even seen dogs lovingly lick cats!
It becomes obsessive and excessive, though, when it’s non-stop compulsive behavior. If your dog just can’t seem to stop himself from licking and chewing on his fur, he has a problem.
Now, that’s problematic enough when he’s doing it to himself. When he starts obsessively licking his canine bestie, though, that’s a whole different issue entirely. Let’s discuss the possible reasons behind it along with the potential issues that can arise if you let this behavior continue.
What Obsessive Licking can Mean
Obsessive licking of one dog by another dog can mean several different things, and not all of them are bad.
However, sometimes this over-licking can lead to problems, so let’s take a look at the possible reasons why this woman’s dog is licking her other dog’s genitals so much.
Let’s not discount the most obvious (and innocent) reason of all: your other dog tastes good! It sounds weird until you remember that our canine companions have very odd palates. We’re talking about creatures who think that your cat’s litter box holds tasty little snacks! So, it’s entirely possible that Fido is licking Fifi because he just plain likes the way her fur tastes.
Many dogs lick and lick and lick at different parts of their buddy’s bodies in an effort to keep things clean. It’s perfectly normal and signals a close bond between the dogs. In other words, it’s a sign of affection.
It’s not uncommon to see one dog with their snout buried in another dog’s ear, just licking away. I even had a dog that used to hold down her canine housemates and clean their teeth! We always joked that she was a dentist in a past life.
While it’s less common for this perpetual licking to take place on the genital area, it does happen. It’s not about what you probably think it’s about, either. Once again, it’s about keeping things clean.
Obsessive licking can also be the result of habit. Dogs can get into routines and just stay there. So whether it’s the ear, a paw, or genitals, it could just be the other dog getting into a habit of this behavior.
This is especially common in older dogs suffering from cognitive dysfunction
Bored dogs do incredibly odd things to occupy themselves, including obsessively grooming their bestie. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest causes to remedy. Make sure both dogs have plenty of toys to play with and get enough exercise throughout the day.
5. Comfort from Anxiety
Now we’re getting into troubling territory. In some cases, one dog may obsessively lick another out of anxiety. For reasons that are hard for us to understand, the licker finds this calming. Along with anxiety, excessive licking can also signal obsessive-compulsive disorder and other psychological conditions.
6. Illness (the “Licker” is Playing Nurse)
Dogs have the uncanny ability to detect infection and other problems well before a human can. The dog could be excessively licking the other dog’s genitals because he detects a brewing issue like an infection.
Think about how your dog reacts to your own injuries. Every time I get a nasty scratch, my pup is right there ready to help make it better.
Also, your “licker” knows that licking releases feel-good endorphins that act as a natural painkiller when he has a booboo, so he could be trying to help his canine bestie get a hefty dose of those endorphins as well.
The very first thing to do is to decide if the behavior is out of the ordinary. If this has been going on for some time with no detectable health issues involved, there’s probably nothing to worry about.
However, if the obsessive licking is a new development, it’s important to take the dog to the vet, as it could mean that there is a problem brewing.
Problems could range from an infection in the prepuce or skin surrounding the area to parasites to a tumor on the penis. The main thing to remember is that if something new is happening, a vet should check it out.
Problems Associated with Obsessive Licking
I feel it’s important to point out that even when no health issues are causing one dog to be overly aggressive with their grooming action, that grooming itself can actually lead to issues.
The constant friction from the tongue and moisture from saliva can lead to issues in the area where the other dog is obsessively licking.
Let’s take a look at what can happen when one dog is too free with the grooming.
If one dog is obsessively licking another dog’s ear, it can lead to ear infections over time. The constant licking keeps the ear canal moist, which makes it an easy breeding ground for bacteria. It’s important to keep an eye on your dog’s ear if another dog is obsessively licking it.
A hot spot can occur when one area of the skin is frequently licked over time. The constant moisture on friction caused by the perpetual licking can break down the skin over time, forming microscopic abrasions.
These abrasions allow bacteria into the skin which can cause a localized infection and breakdown of the skin which we know as hot spots.
Worsening of Infection
If your dog has a pre-existing skin issue like dermatitis caused by allergies or chronic skin infections, obsessive licking by another dog can dramatically worsen the situation.
The friction of the tongue can further break down the skin, while the moisture makes a perfect breeding ground for the bacteria existing in the area.
Acral Lick Dermatitis
Acral Lick Dermatitis, also known as lick granuloma, is a potentially serious wound caused by- you guessed it- excessive licking. While it’s uncommon for one dog to lick another to the point of causing wounds, it’s still something to watch out for. In some cases, the wound can be severe enough to require antibiotics.
So far, we’ve discussed potential problems for the lickee. However, the licker is just as much at risk for serious medical emergencies arising from his obsession. As Valarie V. Tynes, DVM, DACVB explains, “…if hair and fibers are ingested, constant licking can potentially result in [a] life-threatening intestinal blockage that requires surgical intervention.”
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we say goodbye for today, let’s just quickly go over some FAQs related to excessive licking.
Why is my dog licking excessively all of a sudden?
If your dog is excessively licking himself all of the sudden, call your vet. The cause can range from something as simple as attention-seeking behavior to as serious as a skin infection. Other reasons include arthritis (licking releases endorphins that act as painkillers to help soothe aching joints), itchiness from fleas or allergies, and even OCD.
How do I stop my dog from compulsive licking?
The answer depends entirely on the reason behind your dog’s compulsive licking. If it’s related to a medical problem, follow your vet’s recommendations. If it’s a behavioral issue, consult a dog trainer. If it’s just out of boredom, however, you can distract your dog from licking by playing a game of fetch, taking him for a walk, or even just giving him a good cuddle.
Obsessive Licking can be Something or Nothing
As cryptic as it sounds, that’s the short of obsessive licking. It can mean a problem is brewing or it can mean nothing more than a real commitment by one dog to keep the other dog clean.
Whether your dog is obsessively licking your other dog’s ear, genitals, or some other part of his body, keep a close watch on the area. Even if there are no problems, all that looking could create one. And remember, if you suspect anything is out of the ordinary, see your vet immediately.