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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 17904
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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How can I stop my dog constantly licking himself and everything

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How can I stop my dog constantly licking himself and everything around him?
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I understand your concern about Zebedee's behavior as it can get him in real trouble should he ingest whatever he is licking or should he lick something toxic.

Ideally he would see his veterinarian for an examination and some blood tests including a complete blood count, biochemistry profile and thyroid profile. Some dogs exhibit pica (eating or licking non-food items) when they are anemic, nauseous, have abdominal pain, or have internal organ disease and we do want to make sure that he is healthy and there is not a physical reason for his behavior.

In the meantime in case this is related to nausea or reflux you can give over the counter drugs for acid reflux and to decrease stomach acidity. You can give either:
1)Pepcid ac (famotidine) at ¼ of a 10mg tablet per 2 to 4.5 kilograms of body weight every 12 hours
2)Prilosec (omeprazole) at ¼ of a 10mg tablet per 2 to 4.5 kilograms pounds of body weight every 24 hours
These are acid reducers and should help him feel better, and thus less likely to lick.

Some times this behavior can be an anxiety related habit.
It may be related back to a being a bottle fed puppy or a puppy that was weaned too early or taken away from his mother and littermates too early. Unfortunately these pups can get into trouble with their oral fixation if they ingest what they lick. So not only is this behavior annoying but also quite dangerous for them. The first step should be limiting access to his favorite things to lick as much as possible.

If you choose to try and change his behavior, and I think that you should, redirecting his oral fixation may help.

I like to use kong toys made for dogs filled with treats. These give them something to lick and chew on that is virtually indestructible and less likely to get him sick.

Setting him up by spraying bitter apple on things that he seems drawn to as a way of giving him negative reinforcement for his behavior may help. You will need to watch him closely when you do this however as some dogs have no problem continuing to lick and ingesting bitter apple can make them nauseous.

Immediate negative reinforcement may help if you can catch him every time (or at least most of the time). Using an air horn to scare him or throwing a can filled with pennies near him may help. These are all immediate negative consequences that aren't directly related to you (we don't want him afraid of you), won't hurt him and may interfere with his pleasure enough to get him to stop his obsession.

In some cases where this becomes obsessive behavior we need to use oral medications for it, such as amitriptylline or fluoxetine, but usually not.

Best of luck with Zebedee, please let me know if you have any further questions.
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