Ask Dr. Anna: does your dog lick excessively?

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Do you have a dog that licks everything or licks excessively?  This behavior is called excessive licking of surfaces or ELS.  Many dogs presented with excessive licking are diagnosed with an obsessive-compulsive disorder and are treated with antidepressants. However, studies have shown that many dogs with these symptoms have a gastrointestinal disorder and not a behavior problem.

Anna Coffin is the Veterinarian at Guthrie Pet Hospital and can be contacted at (405) 282-8796.
Anna Coffin is the Veterinarian at Guthrie Pet Hospital and can be contacted at (405) 282-8796.

The licking behavior is thought to be a manifestation of nausea and pain.  Blood work, examination of a stool sample for intestinal parasites, abdominal ultrasound and obtaining biopsies of the intestinal tract may be tests that are required to make a specific diagnosis.  Inflammatory bowel disease, delayed emptying of the stomach, chronic pancreatitis, intestinal parasites and intestinal foreign bodies are a few of the diseases that might be diagnosed with this disorder.

Treatment of this disorder obviously depends upon the results of the tests.  Dietary change to a prescription diet, antacids, deworming, and anti-vomiting medication can be used in dogs where a diagnosis has not been made.  In one study, significant improvement in frequency and duration of ELS was observed in 10 out of 17 dogs.

Please e-mail me with your questions at ACoffin@aol.com and put “Ask Dr. Anna” in the subject line or mail your questions to 123 West Harrison Guthrie, OK 73044.

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