Our dogs sometimes can behave in a way that leaves us scratching our heads. One relatively odd behavior many canine owners have observed is their dog constantly licking the floor or carpet. It may seem like a harmless habit, but it can be a sign of an underlying issue.
Dogs have three hundred million olfactory receptors compared to six million in humans. It goes without saying that our puppies may be trying to investigate any exciting scents or flavors on the ground. However, if the licking is excessive or accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea, it could indicate an upset stomach.
Surprisingly, studies show that gastrointestinal issues are a common reason dogs excessively lick surfaces like the floor. So, while this behavior is usually harmless, it’s worth understanding the reasons it happens, and what to do if there’s a problem. Let’s dive in.
So, Why Does My Dog Lick The Floor?
Dogs may lick the floor for various reasons, such as exploring scents or tastes, cleaning up food residue, a nutritional deficiency, allergies, expressing stress or anxiety through compulsive actions, or due to underlying medical and gut issues. It’s essential to monitor the behavior, especially if it’s sudden or excessive.
Understanding why our canines behave in a certain way can go a long way in relieving stress for you as a pet guardian. It is also crucial for building a strong bond with your canine companion and addressing any issues.
In my own work with dogs, as a trainer, behaviorist and owner, I usually see my dog’s lapping up food residue that may have fallen on the kitchen floor. This is probably the most common reason and it’s why it’s important to keep their environment clean to prevent them also swallowing bacteria and pathogens.
Dogs also have a natural cleanup instinct. When my spayed female dog developed ovarian remnant syndrome and left discharge on the floor where she laid, my other dogs were quick to lick it off surfaces. It may seem gross, but this was natural behavior.
Each pup is an individual, and what works for one may not work for another. Consistency, patience, and a positive approach are essential when understanding and modifying dog behavior.
Possible Reasons For Canine Floor Licking
Dogs may moisten the floor for various reasons, and multiple factors can influence the habit. Here are some possible reasons why pups may engage in floor slurping:
1. Food or Other Residue on the floor
One of the most apparent reasons your hound may be slurping the floor is because they smell food residue. Even if you think you’ve cleaned up all the crumbs, your dog’s keen sense of smell can detect even the tiniest morsel. This is especially true if you have a canine that is highly food-motivated. Your dog may especially enjoy licking the carpet, because fabric better holds interesting tastes and scents and some enjoy the texture.
But it doesn’t have to be food that your dog is licking. Anything on the floor that your dog can smell can prompt some investigation with their nose and mouth. If a dog is on heat, her scent on the floor can lead other dogs to sniff and lick the area. So can blood or any substance of interest to a dog’s natural instincts.
Even if you do a good job cleaning, enough of the original scent can still remain to prompt your dog to lick the floor surface.
2. Gastrointestinal disorders
When dogs lick things like objects or surfaces like pillows a lot more than usual, it’s called Excessive Licking of Surfaces (ELS). This might mean something is wrong with them, but it’s not always clear what. So, some scientists did a study to find out more about why dogs do this. They looked at 19 dogs who licked too much and compared them with 10 dogs who didn’t have this problem. All the dogs were checked for any problems in their behavior, body, and nervous system. Then, they got a thorough check-up of their stomach and intestines.
The sick dogs were treated based on what the doctors found wrong with them. Studies showed that dogs who licked too much had some sort of stomach or intestine issue, like allergies in their gut, slow digestion, irritable bowel syndrome, long-term pancreas inflammation, something stuck in their tummy, or a parasite called giardiasis.
Other signs your dog has gut problem is if they suddenly start eating grass together with their excessive surface licking.
After being treated, more than half of these dogs got better and licked less. Also, the study showed that the dogs who licked too much weren’t more nervous or anxious than the normal dogs when they were at the vet. So, the conclusion is that if canine licks too much, it might have a problem with its stomach or an intestinal issue, and it’s not just a behavior thing.
The study above did not show a strong link between dogs licking surfaces and nervousness, but dogs can take to licking things as a way to self-soothe. Usually it’s their paws, but occasionally I will notice an anxious pup licking anything closest to them, and this can be the floor if they are lying down.
If you suspect that your doggo is anxious, it’s essential to address the underlying cause of their anxiety and provide them with the support they need.
4. Displaced Grooming Activity
Dogs are natural groomers who may wet the floor by accident. In simple terms, they may be licking themselves and then start licking the floor. Typically this is normal enough, but sometimes it’s a sign that they are uncertain about something.
This is known as displaced grooming activity, and it can be a sign that your doggy is feeling bored or stressed. Providing your pup with plenty of toys and exercises can help prevent boredom and reduce the likelihood of this behavior.
Allergies, whether food-related or environmental, can cause skin irritation, dandruff, and upset tummies, leading to an unusual way of acting, such as excessive floor tasting. Allergies are usually environmental, such as from pollen, dust mites, or smoke. But they can also be food-related.
Bored dogs may also moisten the floor to pass the time. This way of acting can indicate that your canine companion needs more mental and physical stimulation. Providing your dog with regular exercise and interactive toys can help prevent boredom and reduce the likelihood of this action.
7. Compulsive Disorder
Dogs may taste the floor due to compulsive disorder (CD). This behavioral disorder can cause dogs to engage in repetitive and obsessive habits, such as licking or chewing. If your dog is licking compulsively and constantly, then the best thing to do is to speak to a vet about possible medication and work with a professional who can help with compulsive behavioral disorders.
8. Nutrient Deficiencies
A pup not getting enough nutrients in their diet may taste the floor to satisfy their cravings, typically for a mineral like iron. It is particularly common in dogs on a low-quality diet or with an underlying health condition affecting their ability to absorb nutrients.
9. Oral Health Problems
Dogs with oral health problems, such as gum disease or tooth decay, may lap the floor to alleviate discomfort. These conditions can cause pain and inflammation in the mouth, making it difficult for your dog to eat or drink.
10. Neurological Issues
In some cases, neurological problems or disorders such as canine cognitive dysfunction or dementia in older dogs can lead to abnormal manners, including excessive licking. It can also be from certain types of seizures or other brain disorders.
11. Other Medical Conditions
Various medical conditions, including liver or kidney disease, can sometimes manifest in odd actions. If other concerning symptoms accompany your dog’s ELS, consult with a veterinarian.
Possible Risks Of Canine Floor Licking
While occasional floor slurping may not be a cause for concern, excessive or compulsive licking can lead to health issues for your dog. Here are some potential problems associated with dogs moistening the floor excessively:
Licking floors in areas with toxic substances, such as cleaning agents, pesticides, or certain plants, can lead to poisoning. Dogs may inadvertently ingest harmful chemicals.
If your hound ingests dirt, dust, or cleaning chemicals, it could lead to stomach upset, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Constant licking can introduce bacteria into the mouth, leading to infections. This is especially true if your pup has cuts, sores, or pre-existing oral health issues. Viruses like Parvo can also live on surfaces like the floor for years, putting puppies who lick the area at risk.
Ingesting non-food items, including dirt or debris from the floor, can lead to digestive obstructions. This is more likely if your canine swallows large or indigestible objects on the ground.
When your pup licks an area with allergens, it may develop skin allergies or irritations. Allergens in substances on the floor can cause dermatitis. Look out for signs like redness, itching, and swelling. Allergies can also lead to hair loss due to excessive scratching.
Excessive licking can be a symptom of stress, anxiety, or boredom. Chronic stress may weaken the immune system, making the doggo more susceptible to various health problems.
When to Consult a Vet
Moistening in dogs is a natural habit. They can lap to communicate or alleviate discomfort, as when they tongue their wounds or an itchy area on their body. Doggy tasting becomes annoying when they incessantly do it, even amid distractions.
You should inform a vet without hesitation when you observe this in your pup. Other signs that you need to bring a vet on board include:
- Your dog’s moistening habit interferes with their daily activities, such as eating, sleeping, and playing.
- Other symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or loss of appetite, accompany the lapping.
- The lapping habit is focused on a specific area of the floor, such as a spot where food or chemicals were spilt, which may indicate poisoning or allergic reaction.
- Your dog’s slurping behavior is a new or sudden change in their usual behavior, which may indicate a medical condition or environmental stress.
The veterinarian may recommend counter conditioning to help your hound overcome their licking behavior.
Remember, as pet owners, it’s our responsibility to provide our dogs with proper care and attention. By consulting a veterinarian when necessary, we can ensure our dogs live a happy and healthy life.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does my dog lick the floor excessively suddenly?
It could indicate an underlying medical condition if your pup suddenly starts lapping the floor excessively. Your puppy may be experiencing nausea or gastrointestinal discomfort. Other possible causes could include anxiety, boredom, or stress. Taking your dog to the vet to rule out any medical issues is best.
Why does my senior dog lick the floor?
Senior dogs may lick the floor due to cognitive dysfunction, which can cause confusion and disorientation. It’s also possible that your older hound is experiencing dental pain or gastrointestinal discomfort. If you notice your senior dog tasting the floor excessively, taking them to the vet for a checkup is essential.
Why does my dog keep licking the floor and swallowing?
If your canine is licking the floor and swallowing excessively, it could be a sign of nausea or gastrointestinal discomfort. Other possible causes include anxiety, stress, or boredom. Taking your canine to the vet to rule out any medical issues is best.
Why does my dog lick the floor after eating?
Dogs may tongue the floor after eating to clean up any food they may have dropped. It’s also possible that your doggy is experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort or nausea.
Why won’t my dog stop licking the ground and throwing up?
If your hound won’t stop slurping the floor and is also throwing up, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, usually a gut issue like pancreatitis or irritable bowel syndrome. Your dog may have also ingested a foreign object or something toxic. If you notice these symptoms, you must take your pup to the vet immediately.
Why is my dog licking the ground and eating grass?
Dogs may taste the floor and eat grass when they have an upset stomach and try to induce vomit. Eating grass can help alleviate these symptoms. However, monitoring your dog’s behavior and taking it to the vet if you notice any other symptoms is essential.
There are several reasons why your pup may lap at the floor. Some of the reasons include medical, behavioral, and environmental factors.
Give your puppy plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and socialization to help reduce anxiety and stress. In addition, provide your dog with various toys and chews to help satisfy their need to moisten and chew. Keeping your home clean and free of toxins that may harm your dog is also essential.
Addressing any underlying issues and providing your dog with a safe and stimulating environment can help ensure that your dog stays healthy and happy.
Meet Your Experts
Tamsin De La Harpe
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.