Biting, chewing, or being hyperactive is common in dogs, but why is my dog licking the floor? Dog owners juggle up with these thoughts when their dogs suddenly act strange. Dogs lick themselves. It’s a common fact of life. However, sometimes dogs develop unusual behaviors—they would start licking furniture, walls, or even the floor. Such habits can develop due to several underlying health issues. Keep in mind that excessive licking can be bad and could be an indication of serious health issues in your dog.
Before we go further, let us remind you that the reasons why your dog licks the floor may vary—it could be as simple as boredom or as serious as underlying gastrointestinal issues. Some of the most common ones are stated below in detail.
ELS (Excessive Licking of Surfaces)
As mentioned earlier, dogs licking themselves or different surfaces is a common dog behavior, but constant licking of different objects—floor, carpet, furniture—is referred to as excessive licking of surfaces. Dogs who develop ELS may spend more time licking surfaces than they should. There is not always a reason or motive behind this, however. ELS usually applies to the duration of the licking period, how often the dog licks, and how hard the dog licks.
Let’s dig further into the causes of ELS.
Food Crumbs on the Floor
The most common reason for dogs to lick the floor is due to leftover food crumbs. If your dog suddenly starts licking the floor, check to see if there are any kibbles left on the ground. Keep in mind that if you have a habit of walking while eating, you would often see your dog licking the floor where you passed by while eating—and dropping crumbs of food around.
Even though it is not a cause of concern, such habits may irritate you or others in the house. We would highly advise you to make sure the floor is clean throughout the day to prevent the dog from developing licking habits.
Oral Health Issues
Dogs can develop ELS due to oral health issues. Your dog may be suffering from injuries in the mouth, teeth, or gum—that could lead to abnormal licking behavior. They may even paw at their mouth, have difficulty chewing, or may smell unpleasant in the mouth.
It is highly important to keep a regular check on your dog’s oral health—brush the teeth twice a week and make sure your dog has not hurt himself. Regular vet checkups are also necessary to prevent your dog from hurting himself and developing ELS.
Another common reason for dogs to develop ELS could be underlying gastrointestinal issues. As per ScienceDirect, 14 of 19 dogs who developed ELS were diagnosed with several gastrointestinal issues, including giardia, irritable bowel syndrome, or pancreatitis. It is believed that this is a behavioral reaction in dogs when they feel sick to their stomachs. If this happens, make sure to take your dog to a vet to get his stomach issues treated as soon as possible. This would control the ELS behavior as well.
Like other repetitive behaviors, uncontrollable licking could also be a sign of stress or obsessive behavior in dogs. If you often find your dog constantly licking the floor, it could be a sign of anxiety. Dogs develop behavioral issues when they are stressed. If this happens, look out for any environmental or diet changes, as your dog may be experiencing anxiety due to sudden changes in his lifestyle.
Other common reasons that trigger stress could be thunders, buzzers, or loud noises.
Addressing these issues would help with your dog’s ELS behavior as well.
Unfortunately, dog owners sometimes only emphasize the physical health of their pets and overlook the importance of mental health conditions. Brain issues can also lead to behavioral changes in dogs that include ELS as well. Though it is a rare occurrence, neurological disorders should always be considered in cases of floor licking.
Senior dogs may develop canine cognitive dysfunction that refers to changes in the brain caused by aging, similar to dementia in humans—this can cause the dogs to lick the floor or carpets.
Other potential causes of behavioral changes include seizures, hydrocephalus (fluid accumulation within the brain), and brain tumors. We would highly advise you to get your pet regularly tested by a vet—physically and mentally.
Pica and Polyphagia
Another reason that is not very common but can occur in dogs is called pica—dogs would chew smelly objects like socks, underwear, or towels, or they can even eat them. This may also include a smelly or dirty floor. Pica is a serious health condition that should be treated timely to ensure your pet’s healthy life. Another possible cause of ELS is polyphagia (increased appetite) caused by diabetes or the use of steroids. To determine the underlying cause, your veterinarian will most likely perform some diagnostic testing, such as blood and urine tests.
How to Stop Your Dog From Licking the Floor?
If your dog is developing a habit of licking surfaces, the foremost step you must take is to get him checked by a vet. The vet will investigate the underlying cause by conducting several tests. Once the problem is identified, the doctor would then plan a treatment procedure for your dog that you must follow strictly. Treating the underlying cause would improve the dog’s ELS behavior.
Environment plays a vital role in the way your dog behaves. If your pet develops the habit of licking the floor, ask yourself a few questions. Are you providing your dog with all the necessary space he needs? Is your house’s environment positive? Can your dog relax in the environment you have provided him with?
It is highly important to provide pets with a kind, safe, and positive environment where they can easily relax and feel loved. This would prevent them from developing negative behavioral issues, including excessive licking of surfaces.
As mentioned earlier, dogs can develop ELS due to several underlying health issues, so it is important to get the issues diagnosed timely. Some dogs would require certain medicine to get their ELS habit in control. However, keep in mind that these medicines should only be prescribed by professional vets. Buying and feeding your dogs medicines on your own can be fatal for his health.
Food crumbs on the floor, as we discussed, is the most common reason why your dog might be licking it. So, it is advised that you keep the floor clean throughout the day to prevent your dog from developing the habit of licking food from the floor.
Licking is a common behavioral habit in dogs, and you should not panic if your dog occasionally surprises you with his acts. However, excessive licking can be a problem. Dog owners need to keep a strict check on their dog’s environment, lifestyle, diet, and oral health to prevent him from developing negative behavioral issues.