I get a lot of emails about people worried about their dogs constant licking on their legs and paws or chewing
on their hindquarters or even licking and chewing items around the house. Usually these dogs are almost frantic in their chewing
and licking almost to the point of being obsessed by it.
The first thing that pops to mind in these cases is usually a food allergy. Dogs can suddenly develop and
allergy to something they have previously been ok with just as humans can. I highly suggest changing dog foods in this case.
Its one of the easiest and cheapest things to do. You need to find a good high quality food that is free of corn and wheat
as these items are the most common for a dog to develop allergies too. Sometimes the licking and chewing can be from hot spots.
This is usually due to too high of a protein content in your dogs food. You would want to find a food lower in protein in
this case such as a senior formula. Now remember it usually takes a couple of weeks for a dog to readjust to a new food to
where you can see if it is helping the problem at all. You will probably also run into some loose stools or diarrhea. In most
cases when changing to a new food you will want to do it gradually, HOWEVER if you suspect that your dog may be allergic to
its food I suggest switching over immediately and not using any of the old food. If after 2-3 weeks you are NOT seeing any
improvement in the licking and chewing behavior then you need to try a different approach.
If food change does not work you may be looking at an enviornmental allergy. This could be from your groomer
using too close of a blade on your dog, or maybe a shampoo or cologne on your dog that he is allergic too, or in some cases
even something that you have used in your home recently such as floor or carpet cleaner or a spray. Some dogs will even have
seasonal issues with allergies or asthma that can be causing the excessive licking. In these cases I would recommend talking
to your vet and seeing what he has to say. Most vets will recommend Benadryl first and if that does not work will then recommend
In some extreme cases the excessive chewing and licking are caused by a separation anxiety of sorts. In
these cases you will have to use behavior modification and training to stop the unwanted behavior. In bad cases you may have
to resort to medications and sedation.
If none of the above have worked you will want to look into the possibly of a serious genetic issues that
can be causing the licking and chewing. Sebaceous Adentitis (see the health concern pages for more information on this disease)
is one genetic disease that can cause this behavior. Alopecia can be another. It could also be a mange of some type causing
it (more info on mange can be found on the internal and external parasites page). These diseases can be diagnosed by a skin
biopsy or scraping done by your vet. He can then talk to you about the disease and where to go after the diagnosis to deal
with the issue.
If your dog is scratching obsessivly this too can be an indication of allergies. Once you have ruled
out an external source such as mites, fleas, or ticks, please try changing the dogs food. Just as I said above, be sure
to avoid corn and wheat products in the food. Give the dog 2-3 weeks to adjust to the food and see if it doesnt make
If that does not work then work on eliminating anything externally that could be cuasing the problem such
as perfumes, shampoos, house hold carpet and floor cleaners. If you are still having no luck then once again take the
dog into a vet and have a skin scraping or biopsy done to rule out genetic issues or mange. It may be that your dog
is having seasonal allergies and that is causing the scratching. Your vet may give you steroids to handle the problem.