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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 32745
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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my dog, a 14yr old male westie, is licking everything in sight.

Customer Question

my dog, a 14yr old male westie, is licking everything in sight. including walls, furn.iture,floors carpets,and anything else he can. he started this habit about 6 months ago, but has got worse over the months. He even stops eating to lick the walls.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 4 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking to Dr. Michael Salkin
I'm sorry to hear of this with Charlie. There are quite a few possible etiologies for Charlie's behavior. Gastrointestinal disorders, dental and oral disease, central nervous system disturbances such as brain tumors or hydrocephalus, electrolyte imbalances, metabolic diseases, and toxins such as lead can induce licking, sucking, chewing, and picas (ingestion of inanimate objects), licking of owners, and air licking. Picas may also be caused by excessive restriction of calories (i.e. weight loss diets) and any medical condition that could cause polyphagia (increased hunger). Licking, chewing, and picas can also be a side effect of drug therapy. In geriatric pets, repetititve behaviors including licking and chewing might be associated with brain aging and cognitive dysfunction.

We would first perform a thorough physical exam on Charlie and predicated upon our findings move on to diagnostic testing in the form of a senior/geriatric panel of blood and urine tests. If nothing untoward were found, we would consider a primary gastrointestinal disorder - which often isn't reflected upon basic blood and urine tests. At that point we might ultrasound Charlie's abdomen - a very sensitive imaging modality for the abdomen - or would might need to scope and biopsy these patients but I understand that that kind of invasive testing isn't appropriate for a 14 years old. Presumptive therapy, then, for an inflammatory bowel disorder involving the use of a corticosteroid such as prednisone and/or the antiinflammatory antibiotic metronidazole might be initiated. An antacid such as omeprazole or famotidine might be quite valuable.

When we've exhausted the above, cognitive dysfunction should be considered and, unfortuntely, it's just as difficult to manage in dogs as it is in our Altzheimer's patients.

For now, I would see what effect the administration of the over the counter antacid omeprazole (Prilosec) at 20mg daily has on Charlie. We could get lucky and find that that antacid addresses his gastroesophageal relfux (GERD) nicely and his licking behavior abates. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.