Ever take a moment to appreciate your dog's myriad of oddball behaviors? Your furry friend is a constant source of amusement. From their reactions to everyday life to their penchant for rolling around in the mud, dogs are an enigma!
You never know what they're thinking, and most owners chalk up their oddities as dogs being dogs. However, a few weird behaviors are the epitome of disgusting.
Beyond sniffing poop and eating garbage, licking their private areas is one of the more embarrassing behaviors you can witness. It always grabs attention, especially when it happens in public.
This behavior isn't limited to one breed or sex. Whether it's a male dog licking its penis or you watch as a female dog licks vagina, there's no discrimination here! But what does it mean? Why do dogs lick their private areas?
Is Licking Private Parts Normal?
Don't worry: Moderate licking of the private area is common. Dogs do it all the time as a way of cleansing their body.
Your pup doesn't have the means to run to the shower when they feel icky (Not that most would want to). So, they turn to the next best thing: Their tongues!
Dogs lick their private parts to groom areas that need a little attention. In most cases, a female dog licks vagina to eliminate any urine that sticks around. It's a way to clean the vulva, prevent discomfort, and avoid infection.
For males, it's the same thing! In rare cases, you might even see your dog get into an awkward position to lick their behind if their stool is sticky or watery.
There's no need to ring the alarm for occasional licking. Think of it as a cat licking its fur to groom itself. Your dog does it to tidy up, take care of business, and move on.
Related: Do Dogs Masturbate? Yes! Here’s Why
When Licking the Private Area Becomes a Problem
Now, periodic licking is nothing you need to worry about in dogs. But if it becomes persistent, you should visit a vet.
Frequently licking the private area could point to possible health problems. A vet can diagnose the issue and recommend treatment.
Most dog owners tend to avoid their dogs' private areas. Not only is it awkward to poke around down there, but most dogs feel vulnerable when you do. But if you notice that licking is persistent, you may want to take a peek.
There are a few telltale signs that your dog is experiencing health problems. These include:
It's also wise to pay attention to behavior. Licking may accompany behaviors like scooting, increased urinary frequency, and straining.
Take your dog to a vet if you notice these symptoms and frequent private area licking.
Why Do Dogs Lick Their Private Areas?
Dogs can participate in this potentially embarrassing and awkward behavior for a few different reasons. Some are more pressing than others, but understanding what's going on can equip you with the knowledge needed to take action.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in dogs are more common than most realize. They occur when bacteria get into the urethra opening. It usually comes from feces or other debris.
While dogs typically have a strong enough immune system to prevent infections from taking hold, some aren't so lucky.
Infections can be painful. The ongoing pain causes many dogs to lick their private areas for relief. Furthermore, it causes frequent urination and straining. When your dog urinates, you may see discoloration or barely any liquid.
The good news is that UTIs are relatively easy to treat with antibiotics. Your vet can provide the proper dosage to resolve this issue. The UTI can sometimes travel to the upper urinary tract or kidneys.
In those cases, treatment is more complex. Don't hesitate to seek veterinary help if you suspect a UTI is to blame for the licking. The sooner your dog gets treatment, the better.
Anal Gland Impaction
Have you ever heard of an anal gland expression? Many groomers and vets offer this service, but if you've never had to deal with one, you may not know about impaction issues.
Dogs have anal glands that release fluid. Typically, the fluid comes out with the pressure applied during a bowel movement. But sometimes, impaction can occur.
The glands overfill, emitting a serious odor and causing irritation. If your dog is licking its anus, it may be an attempt to get relief from the swollen glands.
Impaction can cause infection and abscesses. Go to your vet as soon as possible for anal gland expression.
Bacterial and fungal infections can occur when a dog is immunocompromised. Bacteria live on the penis and vagina at all times. However, the immune system prevents the bacteria from thriving and causing irritation.
Skin infections around the penis and vagina are common if your dog gets sick or suffers from an immune system disorder. You can tell an infection is taking hold if your dog licks the area incessantly.
You'll also notice reddish-black discoloration, a strong smell, and bumps.
Treating infections in this area involves using medicated wipes, shampoos, and ointments. Your vet may also prescribe a course of antibiotics.
Pesticides and Other Irritants
If your dog loves to roll around in the grass, the issue could be pesticides! Pesticides aren't visible to the naked eye, but they could cover the grass of your community park. If it gets on the penis or vagina, dogs will lick the area to manage the irritation it causes.
The same goes for other irritants. For example, some dogs may experience issues with grass pollen, seeds, and other things lurking in the grass.
Allergies could be to blame, too. Your dog may have sensitivities to plant pollen. Not only would it irritate the private areas upon contact, but it can cause issues if inhaled. The same goes for food sensitivities.
Work with your vet to determine what allergens affect your dog. You can switch up their diet to avoid irritation if they're food-related. You can also wipe their private areas with a damp towel to remove pollen or use anti-inflammatories.
Finally, dogs sometimes lick their private areas due to stress and anxiety. It's a coping mechanism that they use to manage their emotions. You're most likely to see this if your dog suffers from separation anxiety or fear.
There's no quick fix to this problem. The best thing you can do is work with a trainer and behavioralist to address the anxiety at its source.
Licking the private area is definitely a weird thing to see. However, you shouldn't punish your dog for doing it. It's normal behavior that comes naturally. Scolding your dog will only confuse it.
All that said pay attention to how frequently they do it. If licking becomes a persistent thing, look closer at your dog's private areas to see if there's something wrong.
If there are visible changes, see a vet immediately. There are many possible health problems to blame. If there is something serious going on, you and your vet can work together to get your dog the relief it needs.