Has licking become your dog’s favorite activity? There are many reasons dogs enjoy licking you—or everything else around them.
While some dogs lick things out of boredom, for other dogs, licking can be compulsive, providing a calming and soothing sensation. When licking is a self-stimulating activity, it could also be a sign of anxiousness or discomfort. Other dogs can lick to the point of causing secondary problems.
Whether your dog is licking the floor after a messy meal or cleaning their best friend’s face, licking is very normal. However, you should monitor your dog’s licking behaviors because some instances can be a sign of a health or behavioral issue.
Although licking can be harmless in some cases, it can also signal an issue, whether it’s heath or behavior related.
If your pup doesn’t seem to favor licking just one thing, it’s likely a self-soothing behavior or a compulsive habit. This habit did not start overnight and will not go away quickly. It’s also important to realize that if your dog licks everything, they have also been using licking as a way to communicate to you.
Some dogs lick habitually out of boredom. You can help prevent this type of habit from developing by providing your dog lots of stimulation and exercise throughout the day.
Try playing fetch outside or going for a walk or run with your pup. Additionally, kennel-training your pup while you are away from home for brief periods can keep them from licking objects in your home that could lead to destructive behavior or ingestion of dangerous objects.
If you are having other behavioral issues with your dog, seek assistance from your veterinarian to help rule out potential causes. If you feel your dog’s licking has become uncontrollable, it is important to recognize it early on to avoid other problems, as it can be a sign of separation anxiety.
Because such behavior can lead to destructive or harmful outcomes, you and your veterinarian can discuss options such as reaching out to professional trainers or an animal behaviorist who can thoroughly evaluate your pet.
When a dog licks everything, it can also be a sign of infection or gastrointestinal upset. Having your dog checked out by your vet can help you determine if there is an underlying health issue.
If you ignore your dog’s licking behavior, it can lead to self-trauma, secondary infections, or unwanted, destructive behaviors. Always speak with your veterinarian if you think your dog is showing signs of an infection, as they may need treatment.
If your dog likes to lick certain things, or they like licking people or other animals, here are some potential reasons behind the behavior.
Dogs instinctively lick and groom themselves. Just as mother dogs will lick and clean their pups, some dogs feel the need to lick their favorite person in the world. Whether it’s a sign of respect or love for you or the left-behind crumbs from your lunch, your dog finds comfort in licking you.
Your dog may also discover that your skin tastes salty from your sweat after a gym session, so they will want to lick it. They also know that licking you will get your attention, so many dogs will lick you to distract you from whatever else you are focused on so you can pet them.
Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of licking, so it’s good to check with your veterinarian to rule out other issues.
Your dog licking at the air does not always come after smelling freshly baked cookies. Dogs can start to lick their lips in anticipation of a meal or a treat.
Excessive licking at the air, however, can be the result of a neurologic or compulsive disorder. If your pet has not been evaluated recently by your veterinarian, take them for a physical exam. Your veterinarian will be able to rule out any neurologic diseases as well as dental pain or dental disease, as licking the air can be a sign of discomfort.
Although it may seem gross, sweat from you or food from a late-night snack can be left behind in the furniture, leaving a wonderful treat your dog can find and enjoy later. Dogs will also lick furniture to explore their surroundings and survey the area for any new activity.
Keeping your furniture clear of crumbs and cleaning the surfaces can help prevent your furniture from being soaked in saliva.
If your dog’s furniture licking appears to be a continuous, compulsive activity, try offering fun and tasty toys or interactive games to keep your dog busy and so they can’t destroy your couch or other furniture. Daily exercise can also burn excess energy that pets may have at the end of the day.
Dogs may lick the floor or carpet to clean up a mess, but it can lead to destructive behavior where your dog is eating or destroying things. Licking the floor can also become a compulsive habit.
Keep your dog entertained and stimulated throughout the day to ensure they do not resort to licking and possibly chewing the floor. Offer lots of playtime and chew toys as alternatives if your dog is fascinated by carpet. Keep the floor clean and clear of foods or objects, which could be toxic to your dog or result in an obstruction.
Does your dog suddenly seem fascinated with licking their toys? Although some toys have a tasty covering, some dogs will lick their toys for a soothing sensation, especially after they are reunited with a favorite toy.
Finding comfort in familiar toys and surroundings can bring dogs a sense of calmness. Therefore, licking their toys in moderation is typically not a sign of any deeper issue.
Making A Difference For Scottish Terriers
Often, the first sign your pet isn’t feeling well is a change in behavior.
Many pet guardians are aware that certain behavior changes, such as a sudden lack of interest in playing or eating, are red flags. But there are actually many other types of behaviors pets perform that can also signal an underlying health problem, including obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
For example, if your canine companion is obsessed with licking things, he might have a condition called “excessive licking of surfaces,” or ELS.
ELS describes a dog’s relentless, repetitive licking of floors, carpets, walls, furniture, his owner’s legs, hands, or arms, and even his own lips. It does not refer to self-licking, which is usually caused by itchy, irritated, or inflamed skin, hot spots, and/or acral lick dermatitis.
Excessive licking behavior may seem harmless, which is why many dog guardians just try to ignore it. However, if your dog swallows enough hair or fibers from the objects he’s licking, it could potentially result in a very serious intestinal blockage requiring surgery.
Some concerned dog guardians ask their veterinarian about the behavior, and are often told it is an obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, holistic vets have known for years that animals who “air lick” or obsessively lick floors, sofas, carpets, etc., almost always have GI issues.
Fortunately, a recent Canadian study suggests that ELS may actually be health-related rather than a behavioral issue. Hopefully, the study findings will motivate more conventional veterinarians to evaluate dogs with ELS behavior for potential GI disorders.
The study1 was conducted by researchers at the University of Montréal Veterinary Teaching Hospital and involved 19 dogs with ELS, 16 of which engaged in the behavior on a daily basis. Ten healthy dogs were also involved as controls.
The dogs received behavioral, physical, and neurological examinations, followed by a thorough digestive system evaluation that included laboratory tests, ultrasound, endoscopy, and histopathologic analysis of GI tissue samples.
The results showed that 14 of the 19 dogs (74 percent) with ELS had GI disease. Identified disorders included:
Treatment based on diagnostic findings was initiated, and the dogs were monitored for 90 days.
The researchers observed significant improvement in ELS behavior in 10 of 17 dogs (59 percent), with complete resolution in 9 of 17 (53 percent). They also observed that the ELS dogs were not significantly more anxious than the control dogs.
A few of the dogs (7) in the study engaged in ELS behavior after meals when they were at home, which the researchers suggested might indicate nausea or discomfort triggered by eating.
The researchers concluded that GI disorders should be considered in dogs who display excessive licking of surfaces behavior.
While the study findings are certainly important, unfortunately, the treatments administered to the ELS dogs were limited to drugs and special commercial processed diets.
The treatments were based on the dogs’ diagnostic test results and symptoms, and included:
This was a short 90-day study to determine if dogs with ELS have an underlying GI issue, and whether treatment of GI issues has a positive effect on obsessive licking behavior.
The answer to both those questions is obviously yes, however, I’m concerned about the use of drugs when there are safer alternatives, and I’m certainly no fan of processed diets. My guess is most of the dogs in the study achieved only temporary relief from their GI disorders and ELS.
When I treat a dog with GI disease, I always try to resolve the problem without resorting to the use of drugs. An exception might be in the case of an established, identified infection (e.g., giardiasis) requiring anti-parasitics or antibiotics, because the infection was not responsive to natural alternatives.
In my experience, overuse of antibiotics and corticosteroids like prednisone in veterinary medicine is the root cause of many of the GI issues we see in pets today. Their use should be strictly limited to situations in which no safer option is available or has proved effective.
Unfortunately, many conventional vets continue to automatically prescribe these medications to treat disorders of the digestive tract, and even worse, they often leave patients on these drugs for weeks, months, or years, making long-term side effects almost inevitable.
I always steer clear of processed pet food, including “commercial elimination diets,” opting instead for a customized anti-inflammatory diet of fresh, whole, organic, and non-GMO foods. Each diet must be tailored to the individual animal’s specific GI disorder(s) and symptoms.
Working with a nutritionist allows you to create the perfect diet for your pet. To date, there is not a single “veterinary diet” that is made with human grade ingredients. They all contain poor quality, rendered “feed grade” left overs as well as synthetic nutrients to make up for the depletion that occurs during the substantial manufacturing process.
Many people don’t realize healing modalities such as acupuncture and chiropractic can also be very helpful in treating GI disorders. For example, holistic veterinarians are aware that many dogs with excessive licking behavior have hiatal hernias that can be managed with chiropractic care.
A veterinary chiropractor I know gets dozens of referrals to treat ELS dogs diagnosed with hiatal hernias!
If you’re concerned your dog may have ELS and/or a GI condition, I recommend making an appointment with your integrative/holistic veterinarian for a checkup, including all appropriate diagnostic tests and a thorough GI evaluation.
Once you’ve ruled a GI disorder in or out, together you can decide the best approach to treat your dog’s specific situation.
Scottish Terriers: What a Unique Breed!
Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you likeScottish Terriers and you expectedher to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! Scottish Terriers are charming and playful dogs that enjoy ball games. She is self-assured and opinionated. With a patient and consistent leader, she makes a devoted and affectionate companion.
The Scottish Terrier originated in Scotland and was virtually unknown outside of their homeland until the late 1870s. Scotties were bred for vermin control on farms and for hunting badgers or foxes. They are the only dog breed that has lived in the White House alongside three Presidents. Scotties are hardy terriers, spirited and feisty. They are not recommended for homes with small children or with other animals. The Scottish Terrier is a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 12-15 years.
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Scottie. By knowing about health concerns specific to Scottish Terriers, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed.That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen inScottish Terriersto give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Scottish Terriers. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Diehard looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your Scottish Terrier
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Scottish Terrier is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Scottie’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
Scottish Terriers are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections—the same ones that all dogs can get—such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, herage, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in Scottish Terriers. It is a serious disease that may causeor worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Diehard’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest herskin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into hersystem in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
One of the best things you can do for your Scottie is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Cushing’s Disease is a malfunction of the adrenal glands causing them to produce too much steroid hormone. This is a common problem in dogs, and your Diehard is more likely than other dogs to be affected. The condition usually develops slowly, and the early signs are easily missed. Symptoms include drinking and urinating more than normal, increased appetite and reduced activity level. Later, a potbelly, thin skin, and hair loss are characteristic. Treatment usually includes oral medications, and requires close coordination with us to ensure correct dosing.
Not many things have as dramatic an impact on your dog’s quality of life as the proper functioning of his eyes. Unfortunately, Scottish Terriers can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful! We will evaluate his eyes at every examination to look for any signs of concern.
Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Scotties. We’ll watch for the lenses of his eyes to become more opaque—meaning they look cloudy instead of clear—when we examine him. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.
Distichiasis is a condition caused by extra hairs that grow inside of the eyelid and rub on the surface of the eye. This is one of the most commonly inherited diseases in dogs, and your Scottie is more likely than other dogs to develop this painful condition. If untreated, these abnormal hairs can cause corneal ulcers and chronic eye pain. Several treatment options are available, and the prognosis is good once the hairs have been permanently removed.
Sometimes small strands of tissue that were meant to disappear soon after birth remain attached to the iris. When this happens, it’s called Persistent Pupillary Membrane, and your Scottish Terrier is more likely to have this condition than other dogs. Fortunately, these tissue bits usually don’t hurt or impede vision, but occasionally they can cause problems.
There are several types of inherited bleeding disorders which occur in dogs. They range in severity from very mild to very severe. Many times a pet seems normal until a serious injury occurs or surgery is performed, and then severe bleeding can result. Von Willebrand’s disease is a blood clotting disorder frequently found in Scottish Terriers. We’ll conduct diagnostic testing for blood clotting time or a specific DNA blood test for Von Willebrand’s disease or other similar disorders to check for this problem before we perform surgery.
In humans, an allergy to pollen, mold, or dust makes people sneeze and their eyes itch. In dogs, rather than sneeze, allergies make their skin itchy. We call this skin allergy “atopy”, and Scotties often have it. Commonly, the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most affected. Symptoms typically start between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for this condition.
Cancer is a leading cause of death in older dogs. Your Diehard will likely live longer than many other breeds and therefore is more prone to get cancer in his golden years. Many cancers are cured by surgically removing them, and some types are treatable with chemotherapy. Early detection is critical! We’ll perform periodic diagnostic tests and look for lumps and bumps when we examine your pet.
Lymphoma or lymphosarcoma is a type of cancer that afflicts Scottish Terriers more than other breeds. This disease makes the body form abnormal lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell. Because white blood cells can be found throughout the body, this cancer can show up almost anywhere. Lymphoma is a very treatable form of cancer, with an excellent success rate in dogs receiving chemotherapy. Treatment can be costly, however, and is a lifelong commitment. Luckily, lymphoma is one of the few types of cancer that can often be found with a blood test, so we may recommend a complete blood count twice yearly. Watch for swollen glands (ask us, we’ll show you where to look), weight loss, or labored breathing at home and be sure to call us if you notice any unusual symptoms.
Mast cell tumors are a particularly nasty type of skin cancer found more often in Scottish Terriers, and the sooner they are surgically removed the better. Trouble is, they often look just like other kinds of skin lumps and lesions, some of which are harmful, and others not. All suspicious lumps should be tested and any questionable lump should be surgically removed as soon as possible. Many cancers are cured by surgically removing them, so early detection and removal is critical.
Breeds with a large head and small pelvis are more prone to difficulties during the birthing process. Her pelvis is just too small to pass puppies and a C-section is often required for her health and that of her puppies. If you are interested in breeding your Diehard, speak with us first. We can help you make an informed decision based on body conformation of both sire and dam.
There are a few different types of stones that can form in the kidney or in the bladder, and Scottish Terriers are more likely to develop them than other breeds. We’ll periodically test his urine for telltale signs indicating the presence of kidney and bladder stones; they are painful! If your buddy has blood in his urine, can’t urinate, or is straining to urinate, it is a medical emergency. Call us immediately!
Sometimes your Scottie’s kneecap (patella) may slip out of place (called patellar luxation ). You might notice that he runs along and suddenly picks up a back leg and skips or hops for a few strides. Then he kicks his leg out sideways to pop the kneecap back in place, and he’s fine again. If the problem is mild and involves only one leg, your friend may not require much treatment beyond arthritis medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed to realign the kneecap to keep it from popping out of place.
You’ve probably heard of hip dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the hip joints to form improperly and leads to arthritis: it is common in Scottish Terriers. You may notice that he has lameness in his hind legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis — the sooner the better — to avoid discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s joints to identify the disease as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes considered in severe and life-limiting cases of hip dysplasia. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering.
Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO ) is a bizarre and temporary overgrowth of bone that develops in the jawbone or head, beginning in puppyhood. Often the abnormal thickening of bone resolves on its own by 12 months of age, but affected Scotties may have difficulty chewing or swallowing and may feel pain when opening the mouth. Pain medication, a soft food diet and sometimes a feeding tube may be required to help him through this growth phase. If your pal is still young, we will exam him for this condition during his puppy visits.
There are three types of seizures in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary. Reactive seizures are caused by the brain’s reaction to a metabolic problem like low blood sugar, organ failure, or a toxin. Secondary seizures are the result of a brain tumor, stroke, or trauma. If no other cause can be found, the disease is called primary, or idiopathic epilepsy. This problem is often an inherited condition, with Scottish Terriers commonly afflicted. If your friend is prone to seizures, they will usually begin between six months and three years of age. An initial diagnostic workup may help find the cause. Lifelong medication is usually necessary to help keep seizures under control, with periodic blood testing required to monitor side effects and effectiveness. If your dog has a seizure: Carefully prevent him from injuring himself, but don’t try to control his mouth or tongue. It won’t help him, and he may bite you accidentally! Note the length of the seizure, and call us or an emergency hospital.
Scotty Cramp is a condition primarily seen in Scottish Terriers, but also seen in the Cesky Terrier. Affected puppies or young dogs show symptoms after exercise or excitement. It is not apparently painful, but it does cause arching of the spine and a stiff-legged gait lasting several minutes. Medications may provide some relief, but there is no specific cure for this problem. Because it is passed genetically, responsible breeders recommend that affected Scotties should not be used as breeding animals. We don’t want to pass this on to future generations!
Hyperphosphatemia describes an elevated level of an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase, or ALP, in the bloodstream. Affected Scottish Terriers usually have no signs of illness, although microscopic examination of their livers can reveal abnormalities within the liver cells. There are other diseases that are more serious and can cause this enzyme to be elevated. As long as those other problems are investigated and ruled out no treatment is necessary.
Why does my dog lick everything all the time?