Skip to Main Content
  • Comprehensive Veterinary Dermatology in Orange Park
Ask About Financing

Excessive Licking in Dogs

If you've noticed your dog has been licking their skin or fur more often lately, this may be more than an annoying habit. In this post, our Orange Park veterinary dermatologist explains potential causes behind this behavior, along with treatment options.

What is considered excessive licking?

Most dogs lick a few common areas – along their forearms, over joints, between their toes, and on their belly. You may see them lightly lick or even bite these areas intensely. 

To be deemed excessive, a dog's licking must be a compulsive behavior that your pup is unable to stop on their own, even after their experience negative aftereffects due to frequent grooming.

If you notice your dog experiencing these issues, their licking may have become excessive:

  • Hair loss 
  • Bald patches
  • Matted fur 
  • Skin redness
  • Dandruff
  • Oozing, pimple-like lesions anywhere on the body
  • Discoloration of the skin or coat 
  • Red areas on the skin
  • Green or yellow discharge 
  • Problems sleeping (your dog may frequently wake up due to the urge to lick or chew) 
  • Vocalizing, such as moaning, whimpering or whining, when licking 
  • Stopping activities or play to lick or groom frequently 
  • Limping
  • Otherwise unable to live their life normally 

What causes excessive licking in dogs? 

There are many potential reasons dogs may lick or excessively groom themselves. Your veterinary dermatologist will examine your dog and try to identify the underlying cause, which may be due to pain, a skin condition, or a behavioral issue. 

Since many dogs avoid displaying signs of illness at the vet, you might want to take videos or photos with your cell phone of your dog licking to bring to your vet, so the underlying cause can be identified. 

Common reasons your dog may excessively lick include: 

Infections & Skin Conditions

Dogs may be more likely to scratch than lick or groom their skin if they are suffering from itchiness. However, if your dog's excessive licking is accompanied by scratching or the area is red, warm to the touch, or infected, an itch due to infection may be the cause. 

Infections and skin conditions that may cause your pet to itch include:

Fleas, Mites, or Other Parasites

Fleas, mites and other parasites can cause severe itchiness. to diagnose a parasitic infection, your vet may perform a deep skin scrape (a diagnostic test that allows us to look deep into the follicles to rule out any of these infections). 

Humans can contract some of these mites, so diagnosis is critical. 

Bacterial, Yeast, or Fungal Infections 

If your veterinary dermatologist rules out ectoparasites, your vet may look for bacteria, yeast, or fungal infections on the fur and skin, using a diagnostic tool called a tape prep. Bacterial and yeast infections can also cause severe itching and are often accompanied by redness and discharge. 

Yeast love warm, moist, dark environments. This is why yeast infections are typically discovered in the ears, between the toes, and in the groin area. Brownish-red discharge and discoloration are common symptoms. The skin the dog licks may also be discolored. 

Ringworm and other fungal infections may be less itchy. If your dog has a ringworm infection, you'll likely see a ring pattern of hair loss and redness on the skin. Special cultures, lights, and follicle tests can be used to eliminate fungal infections as a potential cause of your pet's symptoms. 

Based on diagnostic test results, your veterinary dermatologist can determine appropriate course of treatment. They may prescribe an antibiotic, antiparasitic, antifungal, steroid, or immune modulator. 


If diagnostic skin tests come back negative, it's possible your dog is suffering from allergies – one of the most common causes of itchiness. 

In many cases, pets may be allergic to a substance in their food or environment, causing them to lick, chew, or scratch. A food allergy may even cause secondary digestion problems. 

Your vet may recommend combining a few different treatment methods to treat your pet's allergies. Depending on your pet's needs, omega-3 fatty acids, a calming shampoo, wipes, antihistamines, or a topical mousse may also be useful. Always check with your vet before applying any treatments to your pet's skin or administering any medications. 

Food Allergies

A hypoallergenic food trial using a prescription allergy diet may be recommended for food allergies. 

You'll likely need to feed your dog the special food for one to three months to see improvement. Ear or skin infections should be treated at the same time.

Environmental Allergies 

Environmental allergies to grasses, trees, weeds, house dust, fungi, and other allergens are very common in dogs, as are secondary infections in the skin or ears. These must be treated at the same time, similar to food allergies. 

The best long-term approach to managing environmental allergies, especially in younger dogs, is to perform allergy skin testing before starting immunotherapy, or desensitization. 

Your veterinary dermatologist may also recommend medications to treat environmental allergies. 

Other Health Issues

Aside from allergies, skin conditions and infections, other health issues such as long, cracked nails can also cause discomfort and irritation of the nail beds. To resolve this, you may just need to schedule your dog a nail trim. 

However, autoimmune issues and nutritional deficiencies can also cause dry, brittle nails. If this is the case for your dog, your vet may recommend omega-3 fatty acids and other dietary supplements to help strengthen your dog's coat and nails, leading to less of a cycle of irritation and excessive licking of these areas. 

If your dog has been licking their groin or rectum, they may be experiencing an infection of their reproductive organs, urinary tract, or anal sac. Your vet may need to express your pet's anal glands to rule out infection or impaction. A urine sample may reveal evidence of inflammation, blood, infection, or urinary bladder crystals.

Finally, if these do not correct the issue, a surgical biopsy of the area your pet is licking or chewing may be required. A pathologist will review the biopsy sample to check for abnormal cells and can hopefully obtain a diagnosis. 

Behavioral Issues

If your vet and/or veterinary dermatologist have ruled out any medical reasons for excessive licking or grooming, this compulsion may be due to a behavioral issue in your dog. 

Stress or Anxiety

If your dog is experiencing stress or anxiety, they may require over-the-counter therapy or equipment. Your vet may recommend a compression shirt, which applies gentle, constant pressure to your dog's body to decrease fear, anxiety, or overexcitement. This garment has a calming affect for many dogs and can be compared to swaddling a newborn. 

Calming treats may also be an option for dogs with environmentally induced stress, or for those experiencing anxiety, nervousness, or hyperactivity. 

Prescription anti-anxiety medications such as Prozac may also be beneficial. However, it may take time and patience to determine appropriate strength and combinations. 


Sometimes, it's boredom that causes dogs to lick, groom, and scratch. If you notice your dog's self-grooming occurs most frequently when they are idle, try increasing their daily exercise, practicing agility or fly ball for mental stimulation, or taking them to obedience classes. Puzzles with hidden treats or toys with time-released treats can also keep them entertained, filling their time with play in place of licking. 

Veterinary Dermatology at Animal Friends Dermatology

If your dog's excessive licking is due to a dermatological issue, our veterinary dermatologist can diagnose the cause, and provide appropriate treatment. We provide specialized care for pets suffering from uncomfortable skin issues in in Orange Park, Jacksonville, and beyond. 

We are available to assist with all of your pet's dermatology needs, and can offer tips and advice to help you manage any conditions and resulting symptoms. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you baffled at what could be causing your dog's excessive licking? Contact us. We can perform an exam and identify any underlying dermatological causes. 

New Patients Welcome

Animal Friends Dermatology is accepting new patients! Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

(904) 215-9293 Contact