My Dog, The Obsessive Licker
May 1, 2007 8:14 AM   Subscribe

My dog licks himself --a lot. The Vet suggested a very expensive (and possibly inconclusive) allergy test. Before spending $700-1000 so the Vet can tell me she has no idea I thought I would consult the hive mind.

My dog frequently gets ear infections/fluid in his ears, which is possibly a different and distinct problem. BUT he also obsessively licks his paws, penis, backside to the point that his paws are pink (the Vet said they should be dark) and he's licked the hair off the tip of his foreskin/penis sheath and made it raw.

This isn't anything new as he has pretty much always done this with his paws, but it seems to have become more severe and and he's never hurt his penis area before.

Any previous experience with this or the type of allergy it might be? My dog is already on a wheat/gluten free diet, with the exception of the occasional Milk Bone.
posted by MasonDixon to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Well- I don t know about allergies-- Could be- but when my dog had allergies he actually licked the spots where it was red- like a rash- on his skin.

The areas that he licks seem regular licking spots- but he is overdoing it

What type of dog??
Could it be boredom? Does he get alot of exercise?
Upping the exercise COULD do the trick.

If you think it COULD be boredom you could get a kong with peanut butter or maybe one of those little balls the roll around to get the treats out.

I know my dogs likes/need to chew. Maybe a bone or if you dont mind the mess a stick in the house.

Good luck.
posted by beccaj at 8:20 AM on May 1, 2007

My last dog had very sensitive skin and used to do this constantly. We wound up bathing him in a special shampoo for sensitive skin which seemed to soothe his irritation. On specific spots we also used bitter orange spray with limited success.
posted by tastybrains at 8:24 AM on May 1, 2007

My dog is already on a wheat/gluten free diet

Is he also on a corn-free diet? Corn is said to be a cause of the allergies that cause that licking habit. Our dog's licking decreased significantly when we stopped feeding him corn-based food.
posted by boomchicka at 8:34 AM on May 1, 2007

Response by poster: No rashes and the amount of excercise seems to have no effect. The problem with a peanut butter filled Kong or somesuch is that we have another dog, the dominant one, who would never let that happen in an uninterrupted way.

He appears to be a Catahoula Leopard but he did not look like his littermates who looked like their mother-- an Australian Shepherd Mix.
posted by MasonDixon at 8:35 AM on May 1, 2007

Best answer: Ear infections and allergies often go hand in hand, my vet says.

One of our dogs has profound allergies that used to cause him to lick and chew his legs and paws. Copious amounts of fish oil helped (we buy the "pills" in bulk) and when it got to be too much we gave him benadryl (consult your vet for dosage info. We usually gave him 100-150mg). It can take a few days of giving benadryl twice a day before he stops biting himself for good. We'll do that for a week and then take him off and see how he does. He seems to be doing OK for the last 6-8mo.

We tried everything short of comprehensive allergy tests (which our vet did not recommend). His symptoms were most consistent with food allergies but we tried every novel protein and carb food there is. Potato and duck, deer and carrots, all kinds of stuff.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:42 AM on May 1, 2007

Masondixon-sorry, was hoping for a easy and inexpensive answer for you.

Good luck- let us know how it all turns out!
posted by beccaj at 9:03 AM on May 1, 2007

Is he bored? Some dogs will do this when they are bored.

I know someone whose dog would obsessively lick the carpet. When they gave him toys, and interacted with him, he stopped doing it. They were at work all day, and the dog was locked up in the house with no stimulation. I'd probably be inclined to start licking the carpet too. :D

I don't mean to imply that you are maltreating your dog, or anything like that. Sorry if that's how it sounds.
posted by Solomon at 9:09 AM on May 1, 2007

Seconding Benadryl. That's what fixed the problem for our late Golden Retriever, who got hot spots all the time from excessive licking.
posted by beagle at 9:22 AM on May 1, 2007

My corgi does the obsessive licking thing for no good reason, usually during periods of time we're not running her to exhaustion. I'd try a pilot program of massive exercise and see if it gets better.

(like what Solomon is saying, I'm not trying to imply that you are a bad owner. But hey, dogs do sometimes get the short end of the priority stick and then act out in unpredictable ways. It happens to the best of us.)
posted by norm at 9:29 AM on May 1, 2007

We have a dog who had chronic ear infections and bald spots from excessive licking. We switched to to California Natural food, which only has rice, meat and vitamins and it cleared up. Once in a while when we have a party he gets some tortilla chips and the licking starts again, so we're reasonably certain it was a corn allergy.
posted by jefftang at 9:45 AM on May 1, 2007

My dog (5 yr old husky-something) is also a compulsive licker. Before I recognized the signs, she would lick the fur off her lower leg/paw area before I realized what was happening. For her, it does seem to be boredom. Distracting her with a ball or a toy or a romp whenever I see it begin has mostly done the trick. good luck!
posted by tingting at 9:50 AM on May 1, 2007

I will second a corn free diet. It worked for my dog. Switch his diet for a couple weeks and see if there is a change. It could also be a contact dermatitis. Does he get into any plant matter? It could be rubbing him the wrong way.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 10:21 AM on May 1, 2007

I am honestly very surprised that your vet would suggest a full allergy workup before suggesting an elimination diet. I would first put this dog on a high quality single protein source food with a very short ingredients list (like California Natural or Wellness Simple Solutions) and see what happened. I would start with a novel protein like venison (the newer theories about food allergies in dogs suggest that constant exposure to the same protein can cause hypersensitivity - part of why I rotate protein sources with my dog). If this alleviated the symptoms, I would then work through a few different protein sources to see which (if any) sparked the problem again. I would try to find at least two proteins which did not cause a reaction and cycle between them. If you cannot get the dog any relief on a commercial diet (you need to give at least a month on each), then I would try a home cooked allergy elimination diet (plenty of info on the net) or a frozen prepared raw diet.

Most vets offer a RAST test which will show at least some allergies, and it's usually in the $300 range, I would also have this done.

Licking can be a compulsive behaviour, but when combined with chronic ear infections it's much more likely to be an allergy. Benadryl will help alleviate the symptoms, but it's better to find the cause of the problem and eliminate it if at all possible, IMO. We now also know that there are many environmental allergens to which dogs are sensitive, so it's possible this isn't a food allergy, but I would work on that possibility first.

Also, as boomchicka says, wheat and gluten free is good, but corn is a very common allergen, and is an ingredient in almost all low-to-mid-grade dog foods (including most/some of the Hill's prescription diets). I would start by finding a very good quality single-protein-source kibble (and try to make that protein source a novel one) with a short ingredients list and feed NOTHING else for at least a month and see what happens. Alternately, if you're feeling brave, you could try a prepared frozen raw diet (these come with many different protein sources, including venison), many dogs with allergies do very well on a raw diet, but it's not for everyone.
posted by biscotti at 10:22 AM on May 1, 2007

Ours has lots of licking problems, even after allergy tests & shots, lots of food changes, lots of toys/kongs. We now spray the areas he wants to lick most with Bitter Apple spray and give him claratin.
posted by Four Flavors at 10:30 AM on May 1, 2007

My 5lb. chihuahua has the exact same issue. I went through the allergy testing and even took him to a doggy dermatologist. It ended up being a bacteria on the skin. He took a long dose of antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria, however he had the itchy/licking problem for so long, it's become a habit for him now.

I've also tried all the "anti-itch" creams available for both humans and canines..nothing seems to work.

I've just learned to ignore it. If he starts making his skin raw or scratching to the point of drawing blood, I'll take him back to the vet.. He doesn't seem bothered by it at all.
posted by smart_ask at 11:45 AM on May 1, 2007

Best answer: I went through the allergy testing and even took him to a doggy dermatologist. It ended up being a bacteria on the skin. He took a long dose of antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria, however he had the itchy/licking problem for so long, it's become a habit for him now.

There's also the possibility that the bacteria only got a foothold because of the licking.
posted by norm at 7:41 AM on May 3, 2007

I just came to AskMe today to ask this same question. My dog is keeping us up at nights with his obsessive licking (my fiancee and I are staying at my mom's place at the moment, so he has to sleep in our room with us), and my guess is plant allergies of some sort as he does this every spring, but ONLY in the spring. It seems particularly bad this year, but then so do my own hayfever allergies.
posted by antifuse at 7:16 AM on June 25, 2007

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