Why is My Dog Licking the Floor?

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While you’ve come to terms with the fact that your dog is an obsessive licker, it doesn’t take away the fact that this behavior can be frustrating, annoying, and downright strange – particularly when your dog is obsessed with licking the floor. While in most cases, obsessive licking will not cause harm to your hardwood floor or carpet, you may be starting to wonder if this behavior is cause for concern.

This article examines why your dog may be obsessively licking surfaces, including your floor, furniture, and even you!

Is Obsessive Licking Always the Sign of a Problem?

While compulsive licking is often the sign of an underlying issue, repetitive licking is not always the sign of a problem. It’s important to remember that dogs experience the world through their mouths, and repetitive floor licking may be for a completely innocent reason.

If you haven’t been dropping food on the floor, your pup may be licking your hardwood floor or carpet simply because they like its taste and/or texture.

However, several more concerning reasons, including ELS, may cause your dog’s obsessive licking.

Excessive Licking of Surfaces (ELS)

ELS stands for Excessive Licking of Surfaces, which refers to your dog’s compulsive need to lick surfaces for a prolonged period. This goes far beyond the period and regular intensity that your dog would use to explore an object and can be caused by several psychological and physical issues.

6 Common Reasons Why Your Dog is Licking the Floor

While licking the floor occasionally is entirely normal, there are several possible reasons for your dog’s behavior. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons why your dog may be experiencing ELS:

1.   Anxiety

Separation anxiety, fear anxiety, and age-related anxiety are all conditions that plague dogs. Anxiety can cause dogs (and people!) to engage in all sorts of odd behaviors, including causing them to lick the floor compulsively.

2.   Stress

Your dog may be experiencing stress for several different reasons, including a significant life change. Something as seemingly innocent as a large furniture addition could be causing your dog mental stress, but a physical illness can also cause stress. A stressed dog may also pant, drool excessively, lay its ears flat against its head, or be frequently whining, among other possible symptoms.

3.   Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Did you know that dogs, as well as humans, can be diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? While ELS is more likely caused by anxiety, OCD can occur in dogs in rare cases. Dogs with OCD are treated the same way humans are and may be prescribed Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) to help lessen their symptoms. Canine OCD is also commonly treated with clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant.

It’s essential never to try to self-diagnose your self-medicate your pup. Your veterinarian is the only one who will be able to diagnose if your dog is suffering from OCD or anxiety and can prescribe the proper medication in the correct dosage.

4.   Gastrointestinal Tract Issues

Gastrointestinal upset is one of the most common causes of Excessive Licking of Surfaces. However, this behavior is not linked to one GI issue, as several stomach issues can plague dogs.

If your dog is compulsively licking the floor, they may be suffering from any one of these common GI issues:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Giardiasis
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Lymphocytic plasmacytic enteritis (LPE)
  • Eosinophilic gastroenteritis
  • Gastric and intestinal foreign body
  • Gastroparesis

5.   Pain

While gastrointestinal issues can cause severe discomfort, other physical pain can also cause obsessive licking. Dogs who suffer from infected teeth, tumors in the mouth, and throat issues may begin compulsively licking, as well as dogs with adrenal disease. It’s common to see a dog fiercely licking right before they get sick because nausea itself can cause incessant licking.

6.   Boredom

Believe it or not, boredom can be the underlying cause of your dog’s obsession with licking. While chewing is more commonly recognized as an outlet for boredom in dogs, licking is right up there with it. If boredom is the cause of your dog’s licking behavior, they lack either mental stimulation, physical exercise, or both.

Ensure your pup gets all the exercise they need by engaging in backyard play, walks, or time at the dog park. Playing with your dog and providing them with toys to enjoy independently are great ways to provide all the physical and mental stimulation they need to leave the floor alone!

How to Stop Dog Licking Behavior

While dog licking can look and sound obnoxious, addressing the root of the behavior is essential if you want it to stop. In all likelihood, your dog’s in some sort of discomfort, be it stress, GI upset, or just plain boredom. Taking your furry friend to a veterinarian for a physical examination is the best way to determine the cause of the floor licking and how to resolve it.

While some pet owners choose to create a “licking deterrent” using diluted hot sauce or pepper sauce, this does not address the issue and will further stress your dog. It’s important to remember that our dogs have limited means to express themselves, and it’s up to us as their humans to get to the root of any discomfort.

Final Thoughts

While incessant floor licking is not ideal for us to have to listen to, keep in mind it is much more uncomfortable for your pup. Odds are, they are dealing with a medical condition or even a neurological disorder that is causing them to lick repeatedly. Even in the best-case scenario, your dog may be bored and needs more quality time with you.

Paying close attention to your dog’s needs and having them checked out by a veterinarian is the best way to ensure that you cover all your bases when it comes to eliminating this obsessive behavior. At the end of the day, we want our furry best friends to be healthy and happy, and as a result, they will (hopefully!) leave our floors alone!

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