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Dog is obsessively licking at things.

Species: Dog
Breed: Mini Poodle Mix
Age: 8-11 years
Hello. I have a question about my dog. I think she's experienced some tummy troubles. She has often had those, but was doing so well for the last year on dehydrated raw food like Honest Kitchen, Grandma Lucy's, and Stella & Chewy's. I was also giving her a small spoon of yogurt and virgin coconut oil, and her allergies/lifelong feet chewing had literally disappeared days after I started the yogurt/coconut oil. Anywho, I was giving her Joint Support tablets for a few days (for dogs) with Glucosamine/Chondroitin. I only gave her 1/4 of a tablet (she's a 15 pound, 9.5 year old mini poodle mix, spayed) as well as 1/2 a tablet of a thyroid supplement (she's been diagnosed as mildly hypothyroid). Then, after a few days, she started licking everything at night. Her bed, the floor, the chair. Only in the middle of the night, though. She had no diarrhea, no vomiting or other symptoms except this. I thought she was nauseous and she wanted to eat grass, so I changed her to a bland diet of boiled skinless chicken and white rice. I'd previously been giving her Stella & Chewy's Rabbit (dehydrated raw food, but I actually put boiling water on it, so it cooks.. the raw gave her diarrhea 1-2 times a month, at least). She did well for one day, no licking, nothing unusual, then the next day had the same licking symptoms and gurgling stomach (this happened before, years ago, when I was giving her chicken and rice or homemade food.. that's why I switched her to commercial, and her tummy did better overall). This happened on and off, one day fine, next day gurgling tummy/licking. I gave her the appropriate dose of Pepto Bismol and she seems to be doing better with that. Her appetite is the same (pretty hungry, usually), no vomiting/diarrhea, I haven't seen tapeworms in her stool (she's an indoor dog, hates the dog parks and other dogs, so she's not around them too much). The only usual thing is that she had pretty bad breath right now, which she does sometimes, it just seems somewhat worse right now. The vet has checked her teeth and said that they're okay for now, don't need an immediate cleaning. She had a blood test probably about 16 or 20 months ago, and everything was fine at that point, except she's hypothyroid slightly. The Pepto seems to have really soothed her tummy, so I would guess that it's tummy related. Maybe gastritis/acid reflux, or...? I'm not sure. I know you can't diagnose a dog from afar, but I'm just curious as to what your guess would be is wrong with my dog.. She's overall fine right now, I'm just afraid if I stop giving her Pepto (I've given it 2 days so far) that she will go back to having tummy troubles. I'm not sure which food to give her, either. If her tummy troubles return after I stop the Pepto tomorrow, I will take her to the vet next week. Thanks for your help, I appreciate it so much!

Oh, and I did read that fleas can infect a dog with tapeworms.. she did have a flea that we found/killed about 3 or 4 weeks ago.. but again, I haven't actually seen any tapeworms in her stool. I think I know what they look like (as far as I know), as I've seen them in her stool when she was just a puppy, when I'd first gotten her. The only other unusual thing that I can think of is that she has a little scab on her ear, not sure where it's from, that had bled apparently, and now is like a dark brown scab, very tiny.. on her outer ear. It might have been from a sebaceous cyst thingy that popped recently, but I don't remember the exact location of that cyst. I just know that it popped because it's no longer there. I just put some antibacterial on it. It's healed, though, as far as I can tell. Thanks again. :)

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi, and thanks for your question. In my opinion, the most common reason for a dog to lick at things obsessively is because there is some stomach upset. And usually, the cause is difficult if not impossible to find. The occasional dose of Peptobismol is probably okay, but I don't like giving it on a regular basis. You could ask your vet about trying a medication called famotidine. It is something that is safe to give to dogs for mild stomach upset and if necessary you can give it on a long-term basis.

What you are describing really doesn't sound like tapeworms. Tapeworms don't generally cause stomach upset.

I have also seen some dogs do strange licking behaviors because there is something like a thread caught in their teeth. But it sounds like your vet has had a good look at the teeth and they are fine.

Cases like this are hard to figure out. I suppose if things keep getting worse then you could consider having some x-rays or further tests done to see if a cause can be found.

Hope that helps,

Dr. Marie

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thanks.. Right, Pepto is something I wouldn't consider using long term, just for a few days. Now that you mentioned about something caught in her teeth, I'm wondering if it might just be something tooth related. The vet looked at her teeth the last time I was there, which was probably early 2014, so he hasn't seen them recently. I've checked her mouth myself and noticed no swollen gums or loose teeth or anything, but still.. Could she have a rotten tooth or something, even though there is no swelling/loose teeth/bleeding/excessive redness/excessive plaque/etc? Her teeth look like they always have, actually maybe a bit cleaner because I've been taking better care of them.. The thing is that this licking behavior is pretty much at night and not really during the day. I woke up several times last night with her licking, and this morning when I first pet her, she was reaaaallly wanting to lick me. She's not TOO much of a licker. She does lick me everyday, but not to this extent. I just find it weird that it's mostly at nights.. could there be a reason for that or..? I know that's a rather weird question, sorry. ;) :P

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Dental problems definitely are a possibility. It's often hard to tell as well as you can't see all surfaces of every tooth without a sedated exam. But, your vet really should be able to determine if there is a problem. The behavior really does sound like a case I had where the dog had a tiny thread caught between two of her front teeth. It was really hard to see.

Customer reply:

I see.. can you think of any reason this would mainly be occurring at nights? The licking behavior, I mean.. Thanks again.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

That's hard to say. If it is due to nausea/upset stomach it may just be that for some reason that is worse at night time. If your vet does say that famotidine is a good idea then you may find you only need to give it in the evenings.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.