Dogs do plenty of odd things, but one that is sure to make the top of the list is randomly licking the carpet. You may have thought that your dog was the only one that did this, but you’re not alone. So why do dogs lick the carpet? Dogs licking random surfaces may seem strange, but the pup has a reason for this behavior. It’s figuring out that reason that takes a bit of work.
We expect dogs to lick certain things, like their food, bones, and even our faces when they’re feeling affectionate. When the licking turns to objects, though, it can go from being cute to concerning. When is it time to worry about a dog licking the carpet? Is there anything that can be done to stop it?
You are the one who knows your dog best, so if they exhibit any behavior that concerns you, always speak to your veterinarian about it to address the issue. There could be a medical reason that your dog is doing the things that they do. Alternatively, this action could also stem from a behavioral problem.
Let’s look at a few possible reasons that your dog is licking the carpet and what you can do to try to get them to stop.
Excessive Licking of Surfaces
Some dogs have a condition called excessive licking of surfaces, or ELS.1 Signs of this condition include licking objects like walls, carpets, floors, and furniture legs, and there could be several different reasons causing it.
ELS used to be compared to obsessive-compulsiveness in dogs, leading people to believe that this condition was behavior-related. New evidence suggests that there could be medical reasons that dogs act this way. The way to determine if this behavior in your dog is medical or behavioral is to learn about the reasons that dogs do this and try various solutions on your pup to see what works.
The 7 Medical Reasons Why Dogs Lick the Carpet
If your dog is showing signs of ELS, here are a few medical issues that could be the cause. If you notice your dog licking the carpet, document the behavior, including the time of day, frequency, and the last time they ate a meal. All this information is helpful for the vet to use to determine why this is happening.
If a dog is nauseated, they will try to relieve their discomfort by licking. This can be done on surfaces, like the floor and walls. Dogs will sometimes lick their front legs or repeatedly lick the air. The behavior can be combined with drooling and frequent swallowing.
If you’re an experienced dog owner and you’ve seen a dog eat grass, you know what might be coming next: vomiting. Dogs eat grass when they’re feeling sick or when they have some sort of nutrient deficiency or not enough fiber. If your dog is experiencing stomach discomfort and feels the need to eat grass while inside, this can turn into licking the carpet. The dog can’t get to the grass and is using the carpet as a replacement.
2. Certain Medications
Some medications cause increased hunger in dogs. If your dog is taking medicine that makes them ravenous, they could actually be trying to eat the carpet, not just lick it. This condition is known as polyphagia and can be brought on by medicines or the dog’s age. Sometimes, senior dogs are hungrier than they’ve ever demonstrated before. This problem can usually be corrected with a change in diet that includes more fiber.
The medications that can cause polyphagia are commonly steroids, like prednisone. Not only can steroids increase hunger in your dog, but they can also cause increased thirst and urination.
Additionally, certain medications lead to gastrointestinal upset and nausea, especially if given on an empty stomach. Always double-check with your vet whether a medication should be offered with food.
3. Adrenal Disorders
Both hypoadrenocorticism and hyperadrenocorticism cause electrolyte disturbances, a feeling of insatiable hunger or polyphagia, and nausea. All of these conditions could result in excessive licking.
A veterinarian should run several tests to determine if your dog is suffering from adrenal disorders and prescribe the best treatment depending on the primary cause of the condition.
4. Nervous System Disturbances
If your dog has a condition affecting their brain or nervous system such as a tumor, infection, trauma, or seizure, they might be licking the carpet involuntarily. If you notice this behavior and you’re able to get your dog to stop licking the carpet by calling their name or redirecting them, the dog is likely not having a nervous system disturbance. If the carpet-licking is accompanied by chewing, quickly licking lips, or biting at the air (known as “fly-biting”), have a veterinarian assess your dog.
5. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is also known as dementia in dogs, leading to decreased alertness, awareness, and responsiveness. Excessive licking is a symptom of this condition. If your dog is older, they may be experiencing CCD and licking the carpet because of it.
Pica is a medical condition that causes animals to seek out and eat things that aren’t edible. Some dogs eat only one non-food item, while others will eat whatever they can find. This includes socks, underwear, rocks, toys, towels, and books, to name a few things. If your dog is regularly ingesting things that they should not be, licking the carpet could be their way of trying to eat that too.
7. Dental Pain
Pain or discomfort caused by dental issues or even an injury around the mouth or throat could cause a dog to resort to excessive licking as a soothing behavior. To rule this possibility out, get your dog checked by a veterinary dentist.
The 4 Behavioral Reasons Why Dogs Lick the Carpet
Once you’ve determined with your vet that your dog licking the carpet isn’t caused by a medical condition, you can start to rule out behavior reasons.
8. Seeking Attention
If a dog licks the carpet and receives attention for it, either positive or negative, they’ll then know that this is something that they can do to get their owner to focus on them. When they are craving attention, this behavior will get them what they want. Some dogs will do this when they feel lonely, forcing the attention that they want to be on them.
Anxious dogs lick as a way to self-soothe. This is similar to a child sucking their thumb. The act of licking releases endorphins in the dog’s brain that make them feel good. If the dog is anxious already, licking is a way to calm themselves down and relax.
When a dog needs something to lick to calm down, they can turn to themselves. Anxious, licking dogs can lick their legs and paws so much that they cause wounds to appear, called lick granulomas. When the dog chooses to lick something else instead, they’ll go for whatever they can find. This could be couch cushions, walls, table legs, or the carpet.
Sometimes, a bored dog just found something to do, and it happens to be licking the carpet. If your dog spends a great deal of time alone, this could just be a way to pass the time.
You may see your dog licking the carpet and wonder why it’s happening until you remember that you spilled a plate of spaghetti in that spot last night. You may have cleaned it up, but your dog can still smell it. If you have small children who tend to drop snacks, your dog will lick the carpet in an effort to help out and clean up after them. This should only last a few minutes until the dog is satisfied that they got everything they could. If your dog is wise to your children’s ways, they will often search the carpet for any treats that they left behind.
How to Stop Dogs From Licking Carpet
The first thing to do when you notice your dog licking the carpet is to determine if the issue is medical or behavioral. This involves taking your dog to the vet and discussing any new changes to their routine or diet.
It can be frustrating and confusing to watch your dog lick the carpet. Plus, who wants to walk on dog saliva? But as unpleasant as this activity might be, finding out and addressing the reasons behind it are important for the health of your dog.
With the help of your vet, you can determine what’s happening and why and then take the necessary steps to reverse this behavior. Your dog is doing this for a reason, and by finding it out, you can help them feel better.
We hope that this article has given you a few ideas as to why your dog may be doing this and what you can do to stop it from happening.
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