Some lapping at the floor and other surfaces is normal for your pooch, but it's concerning when it's obsessive. Obsessive licking is incessant, with your dog fully engrossed in it, and it has no obvious cause or purpose. This may indicate a health problem, so schedule a vet appointment promptly.
If your doggy obsessively licks the floor, investigate a few health concerns. The licking specifically makes nutritional deficiency a likely culprit. If your vet confirms you feed your pooch a nutritionally balanced diet, your pet may not be eating enough or properly absorbing certain nutrients. Either scenario can have numerous underlying causes, and your vet will have to investigate further. Cushing's disease, a condition marked by an overactive adrenal gland, and liver disease are other potential causes of obsessive floor licking. Neurological disorders, including cognitive dysfunction, are another concern.
If your vet rules out health problems, assume your doggy's obsessive floor licking is a behavioral matter. The origins of floor licking may be innocent enough -- your dog may have started it after meals, when there were yummy crumbs on the floor, but such purposeful licking isn't an obsessive or compulsive behavior. Once it becomes obsessive, your pooch's floor licking is considered a stereotypy. This is an individual compulsion that serves no practical purpose and is repeated again and again. Such behavior usually results from chronic under-stimulation, and may simply be an attempt at stimulation; it may also be an attention-seeking behavior. Floor licking is more likely to be the former, as attention-seeking behaviors tend to be louder or otherwise more noticeable. Anxiety, stress and nervousness can also cause obsessive behaviors like floor licking.
Treatment for your pooch's obsessive floor licking obviously depends on its cause. If your vet finds a health problem, he'll begin an appropriate course of treatment. With successful management, your doggy's symptomatic obsessive floor licking should resolve. Unfortunately, some conditions, like end-stage liver failure and cognitive dysfunction, can't be cleared up, and your doggy may continue licking the floor. For behavioral issues, offering your pup more physical and mental stimulation with increased exercise and interaction and some new toys often works wonders. When stress or emotional upset is the problem, identifying the source and eliminating it is your best bet. Your vet may also recommend a calming medication, supplement or product. Also, apply a taste repellent to the floor where your pooch licks. A little ammonia, vinegar, cayenne pepper or citrus should deter licking. This is only a temporary fix, not a substitute for addressing the underlying cause of the obsessive floor licking.
What's Going On?
While you shouldn't attempt to diagnose and solve the problem on your own and without your vet, look for clues as to what's making your best fuzzy friend obsessively lick the floor. Other physical symptoms may indicate a health problem. For example, many nutritional deficiencies cause skin and coat problems, too. If you pooch is over 6 years old and showing other signs similar to human dementia, cognitive dysfunction is a likely cause. If your doggy's obsessive behavior coincides with a significant change to her environment, such as a move or the introduction of a new pet, stress is probably the issue. Also, try to figure out whether there's a consistent trigger preceding the behavior, like a particular person arriving or lots of loud noise, to determine whether some sort of emotional disturbance is at work. If your dog often seems bored or depressed and has bouts of destructive behavior, she may not be getting enough physical activity and attention.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.