Canine Obsessive licking



This article is posted as part of PGAA’s curation efforts.


Obsessive licking breaking the cycle


As many of our readers have come to notice the subject of many of our articles is the searching for solutions for problems we face with our dogs. Solutions are gathered from asking our friends how they have coped, what actions they have tried, and the results of their experiences when dealing with their own Bostons. While we must recognize that their results may not be the same for our dogs, their sharing has given many of us some great ideas to work with. And so with the topic of “Obsessive Licking”.

Photo of Tyson provided by Amanda Burlingham


Several months ago we were reading about a female Boston with anxiety, this was a very bad case, “almost to the point of self-destruction”. A case of Canine acral lick dermatitis (ALD), also known as lick granuloma, is an injury to the skin caused by chronic licking.
One reader suggested that the owner consider the fact that there might be something neurological going on here. The advice given was to – first, please get her an exam with the vet to rule out any neurological problems. Second, if there are no neurological issues, consider a holistic vet who can perform acupuncture and massage on her to help her relax. Third, try water therapy or swimming for dogs. We need to help her soothe the mind before we can even begin to work on her dog obsessive licking behavior. A treadmill may help as well, but you need to take it slow and steady. A daily walk might work wonders.

Once you work on helping her to relax, and without knowing any other details about your situation, keep this in mind — dog anxiety is usually caused by a lack of exercise or release of energy.
In order to stop her obsessive licking, she needs to be properly exercised and fulfilled. She has become fixated on licking, and you need to help redirect that frustration into dog exercise and ultimately, balance.

It was also suggested that the owner might have been rewarding the dog, without being aware for displaying the behavior.

In another discussion it was reported that the Boston in question
“…only does it when the kids are loud, when we take her somewhere, when there is just too much commotion.”

It was then suggested “A frozen kong with peanut butter or another tasty treat saved for those times when a diversion might be needed and a quiet room or a crate might also help. Maybe a long walk to tire her out, before the kids get wound up.”

In addition to physiological causes, incessant licking is also a common obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in dogs. The act of licking may trigger the release of endorphins (natural substances that promote a sense of well-being). The dog learns that licking brings about this pleasant feeling, and keeps on licking.

Crating or otherwise confining a large breed dog for several hours every day is asking for trouble – especially with dogs who are already displaying anxiety-based behaviors like incessant licking. If you’re gone from home for long periods during the day, consider doggy day care or a dog walking service to give your pet opportunities for companionship and exercise while you’re away.


There can also be psychological factors involved in obsessive licking, including boredom, stress, and separation anxiety. It is important to determine the cause of the licking so it can be treated effectively.

While the dog has no behavioral abnormalities other than constant licking, while the licking may escalate into an obsession over time, chances are it isn’t rooted in OCD or another psychological disorder.

To keep your dog’s mouth away from the wound while it heals, an Elizabethan (E-collar) (The CONE of SHAME ) or BiteNot collar may be required. The collar can also be useful in curbing the behavioral component of obsessive licking by breaking the cycle.

Photo of Tyson provided by Amanda Burlingham

Sometimes “out of sight, out of mind” also works, so applying a light, nonstick bandage may keep your dog from licking the wound. However, most dogs choose to eat the bandage, so don’t take this approach if your dog will ingest the bandage! The most important point: the dog cannot lick the wound.


“If it is her paws she may have allergies. Turmeric is a naturally anti-inflammatory and antifungal herb. You can sprinkle turmeric powder on your pet’s skin if you see it scratching to help calm and heal the skin.”

Persistent licking causes the skin to become inflamed, and over time, it thickens. The area can’t heal because of the constant licking. Also, the licking and inflammation cause itching, which causes more licking, which creates a vicious cycle of itching and licking.

Secondary problems that can result from ALD are bacterial infection, ruptured hair follicles (a condition called furunculosis), and ruptured apocrine glands (a type of sweat gland in dogs). Any of these secondary conditions can make the itching worse and perpetuate the itch-lick cycle.

Baking soda also has a neutralizing effect on the body. Adding baking soda into your pet’s water will eradicate the fungal infection and help to establish a more appropriate balance of bacteria in your pet’s system. To use baking soda, add 1 teaspoon soda to 1 liter of water and use the treatment for 5 to 7 days.

The most common (though not the only) location for a lick granuloma is on the front side of a front leg between the elbow and toes. The condition is seen most often in middle-aged, large-breed dogs.

Many veterinarians believe itchy skin triggers excessive licking. It is also thought a painful condition can set it off – perhaps there’s been trauma to the leg, a fracture, post-surgical discomfort, osteoarthritis, or peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nerves of the peripheral nervous system).

A bacterial or fungal infection can also trigger itching, as can the presence of skin mites.

Epsom salt has a natural balancing effect on bacterial growth in the body. If you notice that your pet is developing a yeast infection, try using Epsom salt to eliminate a breakout before it really starts. You can treat your pet with 1/16 teaspoon of Epsom salt in 1 liter of non-chlorinated drinking water for 2 to 3 days.



Yes Dust Mites! This one was a new angle for me..

Dust mite allergies are extremely common among dogs and cats (and humans), but because house dust mites are microscopic, many pet owners think they couldn’t possibly present much of a problem. Here is the source if you want to check this out..<

No matter how clean a home is, dust mites cannot be totally eliminated. However, the number of mites can be reduced by following the suggestions below.

Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain relative humidity at about 50% or below.
Wash all bedding and blankets once a week in hot water (at least 130 – 140°F) to kill dust mites. Non-washable bedding can be frozen overnight to kill dust mites

If possible, replace wall-to-wall carpets in bedrooms with bare floors (linoleum, tile or wood) Use a damp mop or rag to remove dust. Never use a dry cloth since this just stirs up mite allergens.

Use a vacuum cleaner with either a double-layered microfilter bag or a HEPA filter to trap allergens that pass through a vacuum’s exhaust. And remove fabric curtains and upholstered furniture.

Dust mites enjoy warm, moist environments such as the inside of your dogs bed mattress, your pillow or seat cushion on your couch. They make meals of dander (which is human and animal skin flakes), so they thrive in places where there are both people and animals.

Fortunately dust mites don’t bite, they do not spread disease and usually don’t make their home on people or pets. They are harmful only to people and pets that become allergic to them. Source:

You might like to read these articles also:

Sources: a natural ingredient dog bath wash.


Written by Cindy Bush

Re-positing of this article is done with the permission of Donna Curtin of the Boston Terrier Network — full of Boston Terrier and canine information, news, and adoptables. Copyright © 2016. Boston Terrier Network