When I first noticed my dog licking its blanket, I thought it was cute, but I became concerned when it became a habit.
If you’ve had the same concern, you may wonder, “Why does my dog lick the blanket?” Your dog may be licking its blanket because of anxiety, boredom, or because the blanket smells or tastes good. However, excessive blanket licking can sometimes indicate serious physical or mental health issues.
Let’s look at some reasons why your dog might be licking its blanket and ways you can stop it.
If your dog occasionally licks its blanket, it’s probably not a problem. However, if you notice any of the following related to your dog licking its blanket, it may have an excessive licking problem:
- Your dog has difficulty sleeping or wakes up because of its need to lick.
- Your dog moans or whines while licking its blanket.
- Your dog stops playing to lick its blanket.
- Your dog stops being able to live an everyday life because of its need to lick its blanket.
There are several reasons that your dog might be licking its blanket:
- Compulsive disorders
- Neurological Issues
- Leftover tastes and scents
Let’s explore these closely to help you guess why your dog might be licking its blanket.
Licking can be a calming action for your dog. So, if your dog is feeling anxious, it might be licking its blanket as a way to self-soothe.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), repetitive and compulsive habits are one of the symptoms of anxiety in dogs. Some reasons that dogs experience anxiety include:
- Separation anxiety
Some compulsive disorders in dogs express themselves as repetitive actions like you see when your dog keeps licking its blanket. If the blanket-licking problem happens more often or becomes more intense, it may have become impulsive.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, some compulsive disorders in dogs are genetic. So, your dog may be unable to control when it starts and stops licking.
Likely, there’s also a change in your dog’s serotonin transmissions (the chemical that helps stabilize your dog’s moods).
Often, something specific triggers a compulsive behavior, including:
- Being frustrated
- Being conflicted
- Experiencing arousal
- Not having a predictable daily routine
- Environmental changes
- Unpredicted consequences
- Lack of outlet for normal behavior
- Recurring anxiety
- Health problems
The Merck Veterinary Manual also explains that a dog might engage in repetitive behaviors like blanket licking because of stereotypies. Stereotypies are behaviors that dogs repeat for no apparent reason.
Sometimes, when your dog begins to lick its blanket, it might just be doing it as a coping mechanism.
Some of the reasons that dogs engage in stereotypies like blanket licking include:
- An environment lacking in ways for the dog to engage in normal behavior
- A puppy removed from its mother
- Neurological disorders
- Stimulating dopamine (a pleasure neurotransmitter in the brain)
Your dog may be licking its blanket simply because it’s feeling bored. If your dog lacks mental stimulation, it may resort to blanket-licking to have something to do.
Some other signs of boredom may include:
Compulsive behaviors like compulsive licking may result from health problems, such as neurotransmitter changes that help regulate your dog’s moods and behaviors.
Excessive licking can also signify dementia or cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) in older dogs. If your dog has CDS, you may notice it’s having difficulty with memory, learning, awareness, and confusion.
Sometimes, dogs lick their blankets or carpet because they have nausea.
There are a lot of reasons that your dog might be nauseous. Some include eating non-food items, being sensitive to a diet change, having an infection, having parasites, or several other diseases or ailments.
Some other symptoms that you might notice if your dog is nauseous include:
- Licking or smacking their lips
- Eating grass
- Lack of appetite
- Stomach noises
If your blanket-licking dog becomes lethargic and can’t keep water down, you should take it to the vet for emergency treatment.
Of course, your dog may be simply licking its blanket because of leftover tastes and scents. Maybe something spilled onto the blanket, some food got into the fibers, or it smells like something nice (like you).
Why does my dog lick everything so much?
If you want to discourage blanket licking, you should do so with positive reinforcement. Rather than punishing your dog for licking, you should offer an alternative like a toy. Then, reward it for choosing the toy rather than the blanket.
Of course, blanket licking often relates to an underlying issue, so simply replacing the blanket with something else won’t necessarily solve the problem. Various problems have different solutions:
- Anxiety: Distractions like play, toys, and treats during anxiety-inducing events may help. Anti-anxiety medication may also help if you have identified a source of anxiety, such as thunderstorms.
- Compulsive licking, stereotypies, and neurological issues: Your veterinarian can suggest medical or therapeutic remedies after a thorough medical examination.
- Boredom: Offer alternatives such as toys, chews, or lickable feeders like Kongs. Also, provide your dog with mentally-stimulating exercise or jobs to do. Or try getting a companion for an only dog.
- Nausea: If your dog continues to have nausea, your veterinarian can run tests to determine what type of treatment is best.
- Leftover tastes and scents: Try washing the blanket to remove the flavors or scents the dog is licking.
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Many times, paying attention to the circumstances or other symptoms your dog is exhibiting while licking its blanket can give you a clue about why it’s happening. However, this is not always the case for an underlying medical reason.
If your dog continues to lick its blanket without an apparent reason, it’s worthwhile to take it to your veterinarian for a physical examination. Your veterinarian may be able to recommend a therapeutic or medical solution for compulsive licking.