While licking is part of a pet’s normal grooming behavior, too much can lead to hair loss, infection or skin damage. Pets get into licking cycles for a variety of reasons. Some have allergies, others are merely upset -- because of a recent move or because there’s another pet in the household, for example. Here are some tips to help your pet dry out:
-Keep a ‘Lick Diary’: To help your vet get to the root of the problem, start keeping track of your pet’s licking -- when it began, what’s happening at the time, how long it lasts and whether other pets in the family are affected. The more you can tell your vet, the more likely it is that he’ll find a solution.
-Light, camera, -- lick: Since your pet probably won’t lick on command at the vet’s office, it’s a good idea to make a videotape showing her in the act. This will help the vet figure out what’s wrong.
-Look for culinary culprits: Pets that are allergic to certain foods may get skin irritation and turn to licking. Try putting your pet on a different food -- then notice if the licking stops.
-Keep her honest: You’ll never find out if your pet has food allergies if she’s wandering the neighborhood and mooching from neighbors. You need strict control to determine food allergies.
-Try an OTC: Pet stores sell topical anti-licking ointments. Bitter apple is recommended, but other flavors may be equally effective.
-Get her paws moving: Some pets go into licking because they don’t have anything else to do. Taking your pet out for regular workouts will channel her energy in a healthier direction.
Although some licking is normal, occasionally pets will lick themselves so vigorously and for such a long time that they damage the underlying tissue. The resulting sores can lead to serious infections. If your pet is licking a lot and her skin seems red and sore, call the vet right away.
*These tips are home remedies only and should not ever be used as a substitute for any treatment that may have been prescribed by your veterinarian. If your pet has a medical problem, we urge you to seek competent medical care.