Whether you think it’s gross or embarrassing when your dog licks its pee, there are reasons why they do this. Dogs are very curious animals, and they can exhibit disturbing behaviors that might concern their owner. But, not to worry. A dog that licks its pee is not a big deal, nor is it an emergency.
The reason why your dog may lick its pee may simply be an effort to hide the fact that they urinated indoors. This would apply to dogs that have been trained to pee outside and know they will be punished for peeing indoors. A more serious reason is when a dog is dehydrated. When this happens, they go into canine survival mode and will drink their own pee as a substitute for water.
Your dog’s urine contains a potent combination of uric acid, ammonia, hormones, and bacteria. Don’t freak out about the bacterial part. Just like humans, a dog’s system requires a certain amount of bacteria for healthy gut flora. Scientists and vets have long recognized animals’ ability to detect illness in other dog’s urine. Your dog can tell when his or another dog’s pee indicates sickness or infection. Luckily, it is highly unlikely they will lick infectious urine.
Signs of pet urine inside your home
Before you accuse your beloved pet of peeing indoors, make sure the liquid mess is exactly that. If it is, then you want to not only concentrate on reprimanding and retraining your dog, you need to effectively clean up the spill to prevent staining of hardwood floors and carpeting along with the possibility of your home having a foul smell that can be hard to remove.
If you’re trying to detect dog urine, you should rely on your sense of smell. Dog or cat urine will feature a sharp odor similar to ammonia, If it is a large amount of urine or urine-soaked carpet that has constantly been left untreated, then the smell could get so bad that it feels as if your lungs are burning. Remember that pet urine can become a health hazard to individuals with allergies, asthma, migraines, or a weak immune system.
After years of your dog’s bad behavior, the urine and the smell can become embedded in your home’s carpet and padding, baseboards, subflooring, and furniture. Residual animal urine, if not immediately cleaned up and when occurring often can cause allergy-like symptoms in the family and friends, leave a distinct and strong odor, promote mold and bacterial growth, and even damage the structural elements of your home.
Why do dogs lick their pee?
1. A bad habit or behavioral issues
Like people, dogs can also develop bad habits. Some include chasing cars, barking at people passing by, being irritated by the mailman, and yes, occasionally urinating indoors. Before you scold your pet too harshly, consider if the dog may need another round of house training or whether they were properly trained in the beginning. Talk with your vet to make sure your furry friend is healthy, then consider retraining.
Also, the owner’s habits may be at the root of the problem. When pet owners don’t establish a regular schedule of feeding and taking the dog outdoors, the pet may begin to lose their urine simply by mistake. Also, you may want to consider removing your pet’s water dish overnight and replacing it first thing in the morning. This can prevent overnight accidents for dogs that may have a weakening bladder.
2. A senior dog with incontinence
Urinary incontinence and dog licking own urine can be common with older dogs and especially neutered females. This will be a problem for your vet to solve because canine incontinence can be due to a number of problems including a urinary tract abnormality or a bladder infection. When either of these two medical conditions are left untreated, they can cause large amounts of urine to leak from the dog’s bladder when they lie down.
Unless your senior dog is completely unaware that they are leaving pee on the kitchen floor overnight, then it may not be incontinence. Veterinarians believe 80% of true incontinence problems are caused by a weakening of the bladder neck or the ‘sphincter mechanism’. When this happens in senior dogs, they have a hard time keeping urine within the bladder. When the dog lies down, this changes the internal pressure on the bladder allowing urine to easily flow into the neck of the bladder and then start to leak out.
3. Symptoms of UTI infections in dogs
While a urinary tract infection may not directly answer the mystery of dog licking own urine, it does answer the question as to why your dog is urinating more often and unable to wait to be taken outdoors. A UTI is a bladder infection that can cause your dog pain while urinating, straining to urinate, or frequently urinating. Another telltale sign of a possible UTI in your dog is when the urine has a very strong odor.
When your dog is unable to adhere to its housetraining rules, that can be a red flag that something is wrong. The UTI may have started when bacterial traveled from the dog’s urethra and into the bladder. Since the bladder strives to be a sterile environment, the growing bacteria sets up the body’s fight reaction which is physically displayed as an infection.
4. Cleaning up to avoid shame
If your dog has been properly housetrained and they know they will be punished if they have peed indoors, then they might lick their own pee as a way of cleaning up after an accident. This happens more often when a dog has been left indoors too long with a pee break and there is no one around to take them out. Most homeowners who know they may be gone from the home for over 8 to 10 hours per day will have a doggy door installed so the pet can easily go outside to pee and come safely back indoors.
Other options include hiring a dog walker to stop by and take your pet out for exercise and a chance to urinate. When a dog cannot pee anywhere else, it makes sense that they will urinate indoors. This can set up a sense of shame when the dog knows they have broken their training. There’s no better way to keep the secret than to get rid of the evidence. For some dogs, this means licking their own pee to avoid the shame and punishment of having an accident in the home.
5. A dog with dehydration
While it is uncommon, a dog that is dehydrated may start to lick their own pee. Your dog simply may be trying to quench their thirst when they lick their own pee. Other signs of canine dehydration include:
- lethargy or reduced energy
- drinking liquids other than water
- loss of appetite
- excessive panting
- dry nose and sticky gums
- sunken eyes
- loss of skin elasticity
- vomiting and/or diarrhea
It is recommended that healthy dogs drink 1 ounce of water for every pound, every day. That’s about a half-gallon of water for a healthy 65-pound dog.
When dogs lick other dogs pee
In addition to asking why do dogs lick their pee, many pet owners have the problem of their dog licking the urine of other dogs. Some dogs use this behavior to learn about another dog. By licking other dogs’ pee, they are using their sense of smell and taste as a social gauge. By licking another dog’s pee, they can tell if the other dog is ill, is in heat, or if the dog is female.
It is common behavior for dogs to sniff other dog’s urine while you are taking them for a walk. This is an ingrained dog behavior. You can avoid some of this by not taking your dog to trees where other dogs have likely marked their territory with urine. While it can frustrating and worrisome to use humans, a dog sniffing or licking another dog’s pee is usually instinctive behavior and one that they likely cannot control.
Tips to correct dog licking own urine
- Consider another round of house training for your dog
- Reinforce proper behavior with rewards and adoration
- Make sure your dog stays properly hydrated with fresh water
- Provide a doggy door so your dog can go outside to pee
- Have your vet give your dog a wellness check
- Immediately correct any bad behavior when you are witnesses
Finally, for dogs that were born and raised in a puppy mill, this could be the answer to “why do dogs lick their pee”. Unfortunately, these puppies will pick up bad habits like eating their own poo and licking their own pee because of the bad conditions that exist in puppy mills. Large numbers of puppies are raised together in these breeding houses, and they are often locked ins small or cages where they are fed and forced to urinate and defecate.
Puppy mill surviors will often exhibit other bad habits or behaviors such as difficulty in house training, problems interacting with other dogs, and a list of obsessive- compulsive behaviors that are repetitive like spinning, barking, chewing, All of these are primitive ways your puppy mill dog used to cope with the stress of being caged and/or neglected.
As with any dog that is exhibiting unhealthy behaviors like licking their own pee, it is helpful to remain patient while retraining to change the behavior. It can also be useful to clean up any accidental pet urination immediately. Don’t leave the urine to dry and don’t use bleach or white vinegar to clean it up. This can cause hardwood floor or carpet discoloration. Using ammonia will simply lure your dog back to the same spot because it leaves a similar smell as a dog that has marked their territory.
Instead, use an enzyme-based cleaning product that targets urine and breaks down the protease enzyme and uric acid found in the urine, dissolving it in the solution so it can be easily wiped away. These cleaners will also rid your floor of the bacteria left behind. Other options include using a mixture of baking soda or hydrogen peroxide and water which will effectively neutralize any odors.
You may also want to consider deodorizing the home. Often urine smells can be hidden from a homeowner, but be very obvious to visitors. Until you get your dog the medical or psychological help they need to stop urinating indoors and/or licking their own pee, it is important to keep the areas of accidental urine clean and disinfected.