Dogs lick because…they’re dogs! They lick their owners, furniture, themselves, and all kinds of other things because a canine’s tongue plays an essential role in understanding its surroundings. Being licked by your pup can be a sign of affection or communication, such as letting you know it’s time for dinner. Dogs may also lick themselves for grooming or because of a minor wound.
If you witness your dog excessively licking the floor, carpet, or a piece of furniture, take note because your pet might have a condition that needs some attention from you and possibly the vet. If your canine has a medical issue, a study has shown that in many cases, if you see your dog licking floor areas repeatedly, there’s about a 75-percent chance that your pup suffers from some gastrointestinal issue.
Your Dog and ELS
It’s vital to watch your dog’s behavioral patterns and determine whether it’s licking the floor occasionally or if it’s doing so obsessively. If the floor licking happens constantly, every day, your dog may suffer from a medical issue. Vets call this affliction Excessive Licking Syndrome (ELS), and it may cause your dog to lick any surface within reach, including walls, floors, carpet, the walls of its cage, or even the concrete outside.
There’s no reason to worry when dogs lick the floor, carpet, or furniture occasionally. However, if the behavior becomes a daily routine, you might have a problem that warrants further investigation. Especially when this behavior occurs in senior dogs, visit your vet as soon as possible, since the behavior can sometimes signal a serious illness or disease.
Physical Reasons for Licking
The most common cause of licking involves issues with a dog’s stomach health. If your pup has pain or a gastrointestinal issue, you might catch him licking the floor over and over. The problem might have an easy solution, such as changing your dog’s mealtimes, changing to a hypoallergenic food, or giving medication temporarily to treat an acidic stomach. Dogs can also have acid reflux from eating their food too quickly or stomach irritation from bacteria or other causes.
Studies have shown a strong relationship between a dog licking the floor and stomach problems. These gastrointestinal issues can include the following:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Delayed gastric emptying
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Giardiasis, or Giardia
- A foreign body in the stomach (such as a swallowed button or other items)
If your pet has a chronic disease such as diabetes, it may be more predisposed to stomach ailments as additional symptoms or complications of the disease.
Food allergies can also cause tummy troubles in your pet, and you could be unknowingly feeding your pup foods that trigger stomach inflammation, pancreatitis, or other issues. A bout of pancreatitis, which causes extreme stomach pain in a dog, can get triggered by feeding your pup certain human foods with high-fat content, such as fatty beef or pork or other human food items. If your dog licks the carpet or floor and pants, that’s a good signal that it’s feeling anxious or has pain and is looking for a way to soothe itself.
More serious physical conditions that cause dogs to lick the floor include Cushing’s disease or liver failure. These diseases could be treatable in the earlier stages, so take your pup to the vet as soon as convenient to get medical intervention and treatment.
Excessive Licking and Behavioral or Neurological Issues
When you see your dog licking, it can appear as a compulsion, especially if your pet licks the same spot repeatedly in an obsessive way. Some dogs will lick one place on the edge of the couch or the bed, for example. This behavior often acts as the dog’s attempt to self-soothe its anxiety or stress.
A new addition to your homes, such as a baby or an additional pet, can also trigger stress or anxiety. If you have changed your schedule, such as spending more time out of the house due to work, your dog could experience separation anxiety.
If your pup doesn’t have much to do, it could also suffer from boredom. High-energy dogs, such as border collies, need a certain amount of exercise each day to use up their vast stores of energy. Otherwise, this pent-up energy can feel like anxiety to them and trigger licking and other compulsive behaviors.
Some dogs have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which causes them to engage in repetitive behaviors such as licking the floor or carpet, licking a spot on the furniture repeatedly, chasing their tail, spinning in circles continually, and other behaviors. Some in the veterinary field also call this affliction Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD). Some dogs obsessively chase their tails to the point of injuring themselves, and Labradors, for example, commonly exhibit a compulsion to carry objects in their mouths, such as a stick or stuffed toy.
Other Triggers for Licking
Sometimes your dog is just licking the floor because tasty crumbs happen to have fallen from the sink or table, and your pup is hungrily devouring them. If you have a toddler in a highchair, there’s a decent chance that some of your baby’s food has made its way to the floor, with your dog acting as the cleanup crew.
If you don’t see any evidence of crumbs, a drink might have spilled on the floor and dried, which your dog discovered with its super-sensitive nose, and Fido is now licking the floor clean.
Potential Dangers of Floor and Carpet Licking
Even after you determine what’s going on with your dog licking floor areas continuously, this doesn’t mean that your dog will stop immediately. This applies especially if your dog is licking the floor, carpet, or furniture as an obsessive or compulsive habit.
If you don’t have time to keep your floors sparkling clean, or if you have small children at home who fill the floor with toys and scraps of food every time you look away, your dog licking the floor could cause it to ingest a small toy part of a food object that is dangerous or poisonous to your pet. This list includes grapes, chocolate chips, or sugar-free candies and gums that contain the sweetener Xylitol.
If a smaller dog swallows something that’s hard plastic, such as a small button or toy part, it might become stuck in the dog’s intestines and require surgery to remove. If this happens, you’ll find that your dog will not be able to eat and display other distress symptoms.
Another risk associated with this behavioral issue is the number of fibers your dog can ingest if it licks the carpet or furniture continuously. If you have a Golden Retriever or other large breed, you probably don’t need to worry about your dog forming a ‘hairball’ of carpet fibers in its stomach that it can’t digest.
However, this could become a real problem if you have a smaller dog, like a Chihuahua. Your pup also runs the risk of getting carpet or fabric fibers caught between its teeth or in its gums, which could lead to gum disease and eventual tooth decay and loss.
How to Resolve Floor Licking
Some of the triggers for floor licking aren’t serious, such as spilled crumbs or table scraps. However, some of the causes of floor licking stem from more serious issues involving disease, a bacterial illness, or a problem such as boredom or OCD.
The remedy could be as simple as mopping floors more frequently, and having family members take care not to spill crumbs on the floor while eating. Make sure that you use a dog-safe floor-cleaning product in case your furry friend engages in more floor licking in the future.
Pet-Proofing the Furniture
If your pet licks your furniture to soothe itself or out of boredom, you can redirect the behavior using a spray-on deterrent. You can purchase these at a local pet supply. These products usually consist of a bitter-tasting liquid that your dog won’t like, although it’s safe for them to ingest. After testing the spray in an inconspicuous part of the fabric to ensure that it’s color-safe, apply the spray on furniture and carpets to keep Fido from licking.
If your dog doesn’t have any medical issues behind its constant floor licking, offer your dog some chew toys and treats to hold its interest. You can try a Kong toy, which comes with a recessed area made to fill with peanut butter or some other food substance that your dog can safely lick.
A Vet Visit
If you find your dog licking the floor constantly, every day, there is a significant chance that it’s due to a medical issue, likely concerning your dog’s stomach. For the sake of your dog’s health, you’re best off taking your pup to the vet if the behavior becomes constant for some time, or your dog show signs of distress while licking, such as panting, pacing, shaking, whining, or a bloated stomach. Take note of any other symptoms to share with your vet, such as lethargy or walking with an arched back, which can indicate stomach pain.
Your vet may request that you also bring in a fecal sample to test for worms or parasites.
With proper medication, or in some cases a simple change of diet to remove allergy-trigger foods, your dog’s stomach condition can likely be brought under control relatively quickly, which should put a stop to the floor-licking.
Resolve Doggy Behavioral Issues
If your dog licks the floor out of boredom, the easiest solution can be more exercise, such as a daily walk or run in the park to burn off excess energy.
You can also take steps to reduce any stress your dog seems to be experiencing, such as separation anxiety. For mild separation anxiety, you can leave some clothes with your scent next to your dog when you need to leave the house. Each time you come and go, stay calm and don’t give your dog any attention at first. If you make a big deal every time you get home or leave the house, your dog will become more anxious. The key is to downplay the event. You can also come up with a specific word that you use each time you leave and come home so that your dog knows you’ll return when it hears this word.
If your dog has more severe issues, such as OCD or more severe anxiety, speak to your vet about an evaluation and possible medication. You may not have to medicate your dog forever— just long enough to get your pup through a challenging period in its development. Some dogs with more developed OCD or CCD symptoms may experience significant improvement by staying on a medication program with Prozac, for example.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Why do dogs lick the floor when sick?
Some vets suggest that when dogs feel sick to their stomachs, they lick the floor as a substitute for eating grass. Consuming grass may trigger vomiting, which can help a dog’s tummy feel better. If you notice your dog licking the floor, walls, carpet, or furniture, keep an eye on your pet. If it starts to pace, act agitated, or pant, your pup might be experiencing stomach pain and need a visit to the vet.
2. Why does my dog constantly lick the floor and carpet?
Sometimes your dog licking the carpet or floor simply because family members unknowingly drop crumbs and your pup’s strong sense of smell detects them. Watch your dog for additional signs, such as panting or an anxious demeanor, stiff body movements as if in pain, or lethargy, for example. Your pooch could be suffering from a painful stomach issue that won’t go away without intervention from a vet.
3. What causes dogs to lick their bottoms?
Several things could be causing your pup to lick its bottom, including a regular grooming routine. However, there’s also a decent chance that your dog has some allergy, infection, anal gland blockage, itching, or other bothersome issues that cause it to keep licking its backside.
Constant or excessive licking could worsen these problems, so bring your pup to the vet to get to the bottom of this type of issue. You can also bring a fecal sample in so that your vet can test for parasites.
4. Why is my dog licking the floor and panting?
Dogs often pant when anxious, agitated, or in pain. Studies have shown that if your dog is licking the floor constantly, there’s a good chance of having some distressing stomach issue. Keep an eye on your pet, and take steps to soothe your pup if you can. If the behavior continues or progresses to vomiting, hiccupping, or dry-heaving, call your vet to discuss and make an appointment to have your pup diagnosed and treated.