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Why Do Dogs Lick Themselves?

Mar 28,2023 | Petbobi

In most cases, some of our dog’s behaviors are a direct reflection of the quality of care we provide them. Other times, it could be their body reacting to their environment. Your dog licking their butt could be one such behavior that may stem from a variety of reasons. Read on to learn more.   

Is it normal for dogs to lick themselves?

As gross as it may appear to the human eye, butt-licking is a normal behavior in the dog world. It is an action they perform in a variety of situations. Self-licking can have a plethora of effects on dogs namely relieving pain, grooming, self-comforting, etc. There is nothing to worry about if you spot your dogs licking themselves occasionally.
On the other hand, if you find your dogs licking themselves frequently or excessively throughout the day, there may be an underlying cause that you may have to address on priority.

Let’s look into some of the common reasons why dogs lick themselves and what can be done to help them.



To Scratch that Itch and Groom Themselves

Licking and biting the butt is usually a reflex action in dogs to scratch an itch because they literally have no other way to go about it. Medium to long-haired breeds tend to face this issue more as their fur attracts and holds particles like dirt and fecal matter within them which may cause itching.

Licking themselves is also a classic way for animals to groom themselves, especially after eating, drinking, and urinating.

If it happens rarely, it is generally nothing to worry about. However, frequent licking and biting of the skin may result in redness and rashes which may need medical attention. If your dog engages in butt-licking behavior excessively to scratch an itch, consider getting a vet-recommended ointment for better results.

Take your dog for regular grooming sessions. Give them a sanitary trim as and when necessary to prevent infections from fecal matter and dirt.



Anal gland irritation

Dogs have two anal glands which secrete fluid to leave their signature scent marker behind in order to provide more information to the other animals. If their anal glands or impacted or infected in any way, it can cause a great deal of discomfort to them. They may either scoot or lick themselves excessively to comfort themselves.  

Dogs’ anal glands need to be expressed from time to time, meaning, the excess fluid has to be removed to prevent infections and discomfort. Make sure to keep their anal region clean to prevent fecal matter from sticking to their fur. Feed your dog a diet consisting of fresh produce and meat to help make their stool firm which is necessary for the anal glands to express appropriately.




Fearful and nervous dogs may experience psychological and physiological disorders in highly stressful situations which may lead to compulsive behaviors like chewing paws and licking themselves. Stress, separation anxiety, and boredom are some conditions that may lead to excessive licking. Performing compulsive behaviors is a coping mechanism for dogs in stressful situations.

Anxiety in dogs can be managed with pheromone sprays and diffusers to an extent. Using diapers may help to prevent your dog from reaching its butt in order to lick. In severe cases, medication may be required. Having said that, the above-mentioned solutions are like putting a Band-Aid over the problem. It is imperative to deal with the underlying situation causing stress to your dog in order to stop the behavior for good.




Food allergies often show themselves on the dog’s skin in the form of redness, rashes, dryness, and itchy skin. All these skin conditions may make your dogs want to lick themselves, sometimes excessively. It is common for these reactions to happen near the butt as that is where the food eventually comes out.

Allergies can have varying effects on dogs ranging from mild to severe. Regardless, it is crucial to deal with allergies early on to prevent serious health issues and immune-related disorders in the future. A simple blood test will help you figure out what your dog is allergic to so that you can make changes in their diet and lifestyle accordingly.  



Internal and External Parasites

Intestinal parasites may enter your dog’s body at the larval stage, steal all the necessary nutrition from their body, and attempt to exit the body when they hatch. These parasites are known to cause discomfort not only internally, but also externally in the form of redness, soreness, and rashes, especially around the butt. Dogs may attempt to heal it by licking excessively.

External parasites in the form of fleas and ticks can be equally uncomfortable for your dogs, especially when they latch on to sensitive spots like their private parts. Licking and chewing the area is one way your dog may try to get rid of it.

Simple solutions like flea collars, spot medication, medicated baths, etc. are effective ways to get rid of ticks. When it comes to internal parasites, a blood and stool test may be necessary to check the extent of infestation and treatment. Regular deworming is an excellent preventative step.




It is likely that your dog may have hurt or bruised itself somehow. When that happens, their first instinct is to clean and care for their wound by licking the area. Sometimes the bruise may be visible to us, other times the pain could be internal. Dogs may lick regardless.

Nurse your dog’s pain by first figuring out the source of it. If it is internal, vet intervention is recommended. Sometimes a hurt dog may not even express their pain unless it becomes unbearable. Make sure to watch your dog closely, especially if they seem even a little unusual.


In conclusion

It is important to work closely with your dog’s vet and groomers to get to the root cause of your dog licking itself. The last thing you need is to make things worse for your dog through self-diagnosis and medication.