If your dog is licking her private area constantly, you may be wondering what is going on and what you can do to make her feel better. Dogs do not start licking their private areas on a whim. If your female dog is licking her private area constantly out of the blue, most likely she has a good reason to do this. There are several potential causes that may cause a dog to lick her private area constantly. It may take putting on your investigative hat to find out the underlying problem, but your best bet is to see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Intact Female Dog is Licking Her Private Area Constantly
If your dog is intact, meaning that she is not spayed and capable of having puppies, you may have to consider whether she may be coming into heat. Some female dogs become fastidious cleaners when they are in heat, and will clean up their discharge repeatedly. This sometimes makes recognizing whether the dog is in heat or not challenging at times.
Inspecting the area for a bloody or straw-colored discharge can give you a hint on whether she is coming into heat or is in heat already. The moment your dog turns around to lick, take a look if there is presence of discharge from the private area. If it's difficult to tell, you can get a white paper towel and gently blot the area and inspect whether these is discharge and if so, its color.
Consider timing as well. Consider that intact females go into heat on average every 6 months, with small breeds even going into heat as often as 3-4 times a year, while larger dogs may go into heat every 8 to 12 months.
If your dog went recently in heat though and you notice your dog is licking her private area constantly, consider that this may be a sign of a potentially life threatening condition known as pyometra. Pyometra, is an infection of the womb that often causes a discharge which the dog may readily try to clean up. See your vet at once if your intact female dog has discharge shortly after a heat cycle. If your dog is spayed (not intact), there are several other possibilities listed below.
Urinary Tract Infection
One of the most common causes, when a dog is licking her private area constantly, is a urinary tract infection. Affected dogs tend to lick their private area often because the area is irritated and burns.
On top of excessive licking of the private area, dogs with a urinary tract infections may ask to be taken out more frequently. Once out, affected dogs may have difficulty urinating, trying to pee and squatting repeatedly only to produce a couple of drops or maybe producing nothing at all. Sometimes, the affected dog may have accidents around the house. There may also be presence of blood in the urine which gives the urine a pinkish tint.
Diagnosis is obtained by submitting a urine sample to the vet. The urine sample is best if taken first thing in the morning and kept refrigerated in a sterile container if the vet is not seen right away. The sample needs to be as fresh as possible. If it's not possible to get a sample, the vet may get one by cystocentesis, a procedure where the vet inserts a needle into the bladder to collect a urine sample directly.
Treatment for a urinary tract infection consists of antibiotics. Left untreated, urinary tract infections may progress into a more serious kidney infection. Increasing water intake can be helpful as it helps flush bad bacteria out of the bladder.
Presence of Stones
Sometimes, if your dog is licking her private area constantly, the culprit may be the presence of urinary crystals or stones. There are different types of bladder stones in dogs.
The presence of crystals in the urine can be particularly annoying to the dog as they may feel like shards of glass being passed through the urinary tract. Affected dogs lick their private area excessively or may scoot.
Diagnosis can be obtained through a urinalysis and X-rays so to check presence of stones in the bladder.
Once again, it's important that the urine sample is as fresh as possible. A urine sample that is allowed to sit for too long tends to be alkaline and can produce false positives for crystal formation, explains veterinarian Dr. Altman.
If your dog is licking her private area constantly, you may want to inspect the area for any signs of problems. Your dog may have skin inflammation or even an infection in the area.
Vaginitis, is quite common in spayed female dogs considering that estrogen has a protective role, and spayed female dogs lack this hormone, explains veterinarian Dr. Jamie. Affected dogs will lick the area and there may be presence of a yellow or greenish discharge along with the redness. Sometimes, it may go away on its own, but antibiotics may be needed if there are any signs of worsening. Preventing excess licking of the area is important so to allow the area to heal. An Elizabethan collar may be necessary.
If your dog has a skin fold in the area, this may lead to annoying recurrent pyodermas (bacterial infections of the skin with the formation of annoying lesions and pustules). Look for any local swelling and redness. Also, consider that if your dog is licking the area a lot and your dog has a light-colored coat, the fur may appear dark due to staining from your dog's saliva.
If the area appears irritated, your vet can take a swab and check for presence of bacteria, white cells, or abnormal epithelial cells.
Dribbling of Urine
If your dog is lying down and suddenly turns around to lick her private area, it could your dog is dribbling urine. The trickle of urine on the dog's fur may tickle or the sensation of wetness may annoy the dog enough to trigger an immediate need to lick the area.
At a closer inspection you may notice the fur around the private area being wet and perhaps other wet areas on the bedding.
If you gently blot the area with a white paper towel, you may notice that the leaked fluid is indeed urine from its yellowish or transparent in color. There may be other spots left on the bedding. Affected dogs often will also typically dribble some urine after urinating.Urine scalding is sometimes a possibility when the area remains in contact with the urine for prolonged periods of time.
Older spayed females are the poster child for urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence in these dogs occurs because of relaxation of the urethral sphincter. Treatment typically consists of the drug Proin (phenylropanolamine) or alternative female hormones.
Several Other Problems
There are several other possible causes when a dog is licking her private area constantly. Any inflammation of the dog's urogenital tract may be a culprit. In some cases, cancer of the urogenital tract can cause the licking especially in older dogs.
Any type of discharge from the private area can be a trigger causing excessive licking. For instance, a bloody discharge may cause a dog to lick. Bleeding from the urogenital tract can be caused by blood clotting disorders or ingestion of rat poison.
Any type of trauma to the area can be a cause. Some dogs may get accidentally cut after a grooming session and the dog may feel compelled to lick. Sometimes foreign bodies such as thorns or foxtails may embed in the area. Allergies may cause excessive itching and licking in dogs.
As seen, the causes of a dog licking her private area constantly can be various. Your best option is to see your vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.