Dogs can be amusing and most of their antics are quite entertaining. While you may enjoy your dog chasing his tail or running in circles, some of their activities can be somewhat embarrassing. One embarrassing activity that all dogs engage in is licking their privates and anal region. This occurs indiscriminately between male and female dogs and is not limited to a particular setting.
While licking the privates is somewhat expected since it is how dogs groom themselves, excessive licking is worrisome. Certain illnesses can cause irritation or inflammation in the private regions, leading to excessive licking.
When Licking Is Acceptable
Licking is how dogs clean themselves so a moderate amount of licking is acceptable, and even expected. Dogs may lick their privates after urinating to clean the area. Licking occurs occasionally and briefly in this case. More persistent licking can indicate health issues.
If your dog has diarrhea, take that into consideration. Your dog might feel the need to clean up better after eliminating, so licking may appear excessive. However, they are just trying to tidy up their anal region the best they can. If your dog does not have diarrhea, licking should not follow the act of eliminating.
When Is Licking A Problem?
According to VCA Hospitals, frequent and persistent licking of the privates can be worrisome. It can indicate health issues if accompanied by other symptoms. If your dog keeps licking the privates excessively and you notice other signs, it can indicate the following health issues:
Bladder Inflammation (Cystitis)
Cystitis is the general term for bladder inflammation due to various reasons. The bladder may become inflamed due to an infection, bladder stones, injury, or other illnesses. Bacterial inflammation can occur in both male and female dogs, but female dogs are at higher risk for bacterial bladder infections. The inflammation can cause significant difficulties in urinating, including pain in the urogenital area. Dogs suffering from Cystitis will strain when urinating and have difficulty passing urine.
Due to these difficulties, dogs may lick the privates to soothe themselves or stimulate urination. Mild inflammation due to infection can be treated at home, but severe inflammation will require medical care.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are similar to bladder infections, but the bacteria are present in the urinary tract. If left untreated, a UTI can develop into a bladder infection. Female dogs are at a higher risk for developing UTIs. This is due to the close distance between the urethra and anal region. E. Coli bacteria, which are present in feces, are mainly responsible for UTIs.
The symptoms of a UTI are similar to a bladder infection, so your dog may lick the privates for the same reasons. You will notice that licking occurs excessively after your dog urinates.
Vaginitis refers to the inflammation of the vagina. There are many reasons your dog could be suffering from vaginitis, such as injury or infections. Many unspayed females develop vaginitis which resolves after the onset of their first heat cycle. However, dogs who are spayed or unspayed can suffer from vaginitis at any age. If your dog is suffering from vaginitis, you will notice her vulva is inflamed and vaginal discharge. Dogs with vaginitis may excessively lick the privates to soothe the inflammation.
Your veterinarian will run some tests and evaluate medical history to diagnose your pet. Most dogs suffering from vaginitis recover fully in a few weeks. If you have an adult dog, spaying can reduce the chances of your dog developing vaginitis.
Female dogs who are not spayed will go into heat once or thrice each year. During their heat cycles, they have a tendency to lick their privates more often. You might also notice a bloody discharge from your dog’s vagina, which is normal for unspayed dogs. If your dog is licking he privates more often along with other behavioral changes, she could be in heat. An average heat cycle lasts for one and a half to two weeks, so licking behavior should stop once the cycle is complete.
If your dog is spayed and you notice bloody discharge from her vulva, take her to the veterinarian as soon as possible. This could indicate a number of health issues including tumors, infections, and injuries.
If your dog is near the end of her pregnancy, she will lick her privates frequently. This is a sign that your dog is about to go into labor. She will also become restless and engage in nesting behavior.
Allergens are present in the environment as well as your pet’s food. Allergies can cause itching all over your dog’s body. To soothe the itchiness, your dog could excessively lick her privates. If the allergen is an environmental allergen, such as pollen, contact with it will cause severe itching. When you take your dog out for a walk, wipe down her paws, belly, and face to limit contact with allergens.
If the allergen is present in your dog’s food, then switch to a hypoallergenic diet. Dogs are usually allergic to the protein in their rich, but other ingredients may also cause a reaction. Allergies will require medical treatment and limiting your dog’s exposure to allergens is ideal.
Bacteria and yeast are present on the dog’s skin normally. However, if there is an overgrowth of bacteria or fungus, it can cause an infection. Similar to a Urinary Tract Infection, the skin around the vulva can also become infected. These infections cause the skin to become itchy, which your dog may soothe by licking. If you notice red bumps or pustules, this indicates a bacterial infection that requires treatment. Your dog can also be prone bacterial or yeast infections, so you should switch to a medicated shampoo.
Anal Gland Impaction
If your dog is licking their privates excessively, it could be a a way to soothe their impacted anal glands. Dogs have two anal glands around the rectum that emit foul-smelling fluid when they eliminate. However, if there is trouble emptying the anal glands, they can fill up and become inflamed. The irritation can cause your dog to lick the privates excessively.
If left untreated, it can develop into an infection which can progress readily. If you notice lumps around your pet’s rectum, it could be due to anal gland impaction. Consult your veterinarian to diagnose and treat the condition.
Like humans, dogs can also suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Dogs exposed to prolonged stress and anxiety can develop OCD.
Dogs can engage in a variety of compulsive behaviors, such as compulsive licking. If a dog has issues with compulsive licking, it will manifest as a persistent pattern. Licking could be limited to a certain area, like the privates, or occur all over the body. Dogs who engage in compulsive licking can also develop a painful condition called Acral Lick Dermatitis.
What You Can Do
If you notice your pet licking her privates excessively, take factors like pregnancy and heat cycles into account. If your dog is not pregnant or in heat, licking excessively could indicate a health issue. Consult your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Health issues concerning the urogenital area can be very uncomfortable and painful for your pet.