Little brown dog licking its lips.

All dogs lick, whether it’s for grooming, comfort, or showing affection. We may catch our beloved pooch bathing daily to keep clean. But there are times when licking becomes excessive and may indicate a sign of an underlying illness.

Excessive licking is a compulsive behavior which can affect any breed of dog, of either gender, and of any age. While it is a behavior which can drive a pet parent crazy, it is not without its serious side. Many canines who excessively lick do so from anxiety, however there are also underlying causes that should be addressed to protect your pet.

Excessive licking behavior in dogs has been, for many years, contributed to anxiety and stress release.  While this may be the case for some dogs, research has suggested that gastrointestinal issues may actually be a major factor in excessive licking. One such study conducted by the University of Montreal Veterinary Teaching Hospital, used 19 dogs and observed the licking behavior for 32 months. The medical evaluation revealed that 14 of the 19 dogs licking dogs suffered from GI issues, which included, chronic pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, and, in one dog, a gastric foreign body.

Treatments of the underlying GI disorder showed significant improvement in the majority of dogs in the licking group.  The first step to treat excessive licking should be a thorough health check with the veterinarian.


Bécuwe-Bonnet V, Bélanger MC, Frank D, Parent J, Hélie P. Gastrointestinal disorders in dogs with excessive licking of surfaces. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2012 Jul 1;7(4):194-204.

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