Growing older brings your canine friend into a different era of his life. The fickle frivolous puppy that Fido used to be is beginning to slow down and you start to notice little quirks that never used to be there before. One of these signs of aging is the tendency to lick more than usual. There are numerous reasons for excessive licking. It could be a sign of the onset of a medical condition or dementia. Licking can also alert you to neurological conditions or anxiety as your older dog becomes disorientated. Excessive licking is linked to nausea, seizures, loss of sight and hearing as well as an obsessivecompulsive disorder. It is a good idea if you have a dog that is approaching his senior years to have regular medical check- ups and find the right diet and an exercise plan to support him in his ‘golden years.’
The Root of the Behavior
Excessive licking is closely linked to several different medical conditions. Older dogs are going to be prone to different kinds of illnesses and slowing down of their organs. Excessive licking is often a sign of nausea and nausea can be linked to liver disease, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, inflamed bowels, and intestinal problems. This list is probably enough to shock you into rushing off to the vet and that is a good idea. Once a problem has been diagnosed, the vet can recommend a treatment plan for your dog. If your dog licks their fur excessively then perhaps an allergy is the cause or dry skin. Dogs can be allergic to all kinds of plant matter as well as parasites and insect bites. Licking dry skin could also be a hormonal imbalance as your dog is getting older and a simple change of diet could rectify this problem. Dogs age more rapidly than you think as their years go by faster in dog time than our own years. Map out five years to one of your years for a small breed of dog and 7 years to one for a larger breed of dog as a guideline.
It is important to face the fact that your dog could be aging and the licking is part of the onset of old age. Aging can manifest itself in neurological problems and the onset of dementia. Your dog becomes disorientated by the inability to use his senses and experiences memory loss. Older dogs may become nervous and feel separation anxiety more than younger dogs. Excessive licking is part of a nervous reaction to feeling insecure. Your vet will be able to assess the situation based on your dog’s age and previous history. Keeping an older dog calm and comfortable is a way to help with a nervous licking condition. Keep your dog healthy and happy with exercise modified to suit his age and mobility and stimulate his feel-good endorphins with activities that encourage a positive state of body and mind.
Encouraging the Behavior
The senior canine member of your household will be experiencing several minor signs of aging that could bring on more lip licking. Increased sensitivity, irritability, and fear of strange pets and people could cause nervous licking of lips. Keep your aging dog calm and comfortable and be aware of triggers that may increase his fears. Introducing a new pet or bringing a new member of the family home could be very unsettling for your older dog. A new boisterous puppy may just be too much for an older dog to handle. It will be up to you to keep the new dog at a respectful distance as they learn to accept each other.
Keep a close eye on your older dog’s body language and note the expression of anxiety through the lip licking. Older dogs are also prone to dental problems and routine dental check-ups will help treat decaying teeth and any other dental hygiene problems that may be part of the aging process. Dehydration can be a contributing factor in causing lip licking in an older dog. Perhaps your older dog is having difficulty getting to the water bowl and a water container closer to his favorite sleeping spot could be a better option.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Our aging pets need our respect and attention. They have served as honorable members of our family group. Dogs express their feelings through their body language and lip licking is included in the way dogs communicate. When an action becomes excessive then it is cause for concern. Extra lip licking shown by an older dog tells you that further investigation could help your dog to have a more comfortable and stress-free lifestyle as he grows older. Keeping up with regular veterinary visits and giving the right diet suited to the older dog could make all the difference to the later years of your dog’s life.
Caring for an older dog will have some challenges. Lip licking could be the least of them, but an important lead to other ailments. Growing old is not for the faint hearted they say. This could be true for your older dog too. Dogs do love us unconditionally and in their later years it is noble of us to return their love and devotion. Josh Billings, American author said: “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” As your dog gets older, take time to send back the love to your furry friend.
Written by a Rhodesian Ridgeback lover Christina Wither
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 03/21/2018, edited: 01/30/2020