Hello, I'm Dr. Deb.
I recently came online and see that your question about Benson hasn't been answered. I'm so sorry that you've had to wait for a response, but if you still need assistance, I'd like to help if I can.
When dogs obsessively lick these sorts of objects, there's often going to be an underlying nausea issue even though they may not be actively vomiting. If blood work hasn't been done on him recently, I'd suggest it given his age to make sure that there's nothing going on with his kidneys or liver.
However, there's also a phenomenon in swisses (and other breeds) which I've labeled Licky Fits since I've had swissies for over 20 years now and observed this behavior in several of them (as have other swissy owners).
If there's an intensity to Benson's licking with an almost manic aspect to his behavior, then he may be experiencing one of these episodes.
As to the underlying cause, some of them will have motility disorders, others appear to have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) as the underlying cause. Some vets even categorize these episodes as forms of seizure activity but I'm not sure I agree with this assessment. Dogs who are nauseous will often eat things that are not nutritious (it’s called pica when they do) but these events are much more intense and set themselves apart from “simple”nausea.
Motility disorders are often difficult to diagnose without additional diagnostic studies and biopsies are needed to diagnose IBD...something many owners are reluctant to put their dogs through for understandable reasons.
There are several things that you can do to help with this problem though without going through a lot of testing:
1. Consider a change in diet since late onset IBD may be the cause for his behavior if it's relatively new. Take the label of the current food and find something totally different. There are many, many options available at pet stores but focus primarily on different proteins and carbohydrates.
2. Feed smaller meals through the day and before bedtime.
3. Use Zantac (Ranitidine) which has a prokinetic property.
Dose would be 0.5 mg/lb and can be given twice a day.
Omeprazole (Prilosec) at a dose of 1/2 mg/lb once a day.
4. Consider soaking the kibble in water for 15-20 minutes prior to feeding.
5. Consider Erythromycin which has better pro-kinetic properties if Zantac doesn't help.
6. Consider metronidazole for IBD.
7. Stress probably plays a role for some dogs; consider DAP diffusers or a collar if this might be the case.
Short term solution (what you do can to help during an event). The sooner you start treatment, the more likely you are to stop the episode before it becomes really bad.
1. Give Gas-x or Phazyme or what ever you would take for gas. Give 1/4 of what you would take.
2. Give bread soaked in milk.
3. Allow grass ingestion if it is untreated with chemicals. Vomiting may occur, but that’s fine since some dogs appear improved after this happens.
4. Ginger snaps have a calming effect on the stomach and can be given.
5. 2-3 Tums can help some dogs.
6. Ask your vet about dispensing Xanax for anxiety for the next episode if they start becoming more frequent or last for several hours at a time.
What appears to work for one dog will not work for the next. You have to try different things to see what will help Benson when he has one of them.
If his licking lacks the intensity of a Licky Fit, then in addition to considering blood work on him, I'd give Ranitidine or Omeprazole as I mentioned above which may help with any underlying nausea issues.
I hope this helps although, again, my apologies for the delayed reply. Deb