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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Excessive licking of surfaces by dogs may not be a behavioral problem, but a clue to something more

Flickr photo by greencolander
What was once thought to be strictly a compulsive disorder in dogs could very well be easily explained, and the problem quickly resolved.

Excessive licking of surfaces , or ELS, is something that I hear families mention when I'm meeting their pet for the first time, as I inquire if there are any health issues or behaviors that I ought to be aware of. 

Dogs who engage in ELS will lick the bare floor, carpeting, furniture, walls -- just about anything.

Often thought of as a behavioral problem, a lot of times, the behavior doesn't meet any resolution and can potentially result in a life-threatening intestinal blockage that requires surgery in a small number of cases as hair and fibers may be ingested.

Researchers now believe that ELS could simply be a clue that something else is up.

A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior details the outcome of two groups of dogs — 19 presenting with ELS and 10 healthy canines as the control group.

Researchers focused first on evaluating the dogs from a behavioral, physical, and neurological standpoint. Then tests were performed on their gastrointestinal (GI) systems, and based on any abnormalities that were discovered, those were treated accordingly.

This is where it gets interesting: GI disorders were found in 14 of the 19 dogs, and ranged from giardiasis, eosinophilic and/or lymphoplasmacytic infiltration of the GI tract, delayed gastric emptying and chronic pancreatitis.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome was also discovered in some of the pets.

Ten of the 17 dogs saw significant reduction in their presentation of ELS, and in over half of 17 of the dogs, ELS was eventually resolved completely.

Ahh, if only dogs could talk, right? Most of the time, pets exhibit what we think are ‘behaviors’ but are really the animal’s way of saying, “I’m not feeling well.”.

We often look to changes in their willingness to engage, to eat and their sleeping habits in order for us to help ascertain if they are feeling unwell. While those cues can be helpful, it’s a good thing for clinicians and pet owners alike to think outside the box when trying to address a vexing problem.

Click here to read more on the study.

Lorrie Shaw is owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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