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If you have ever observed animals, chances are that you’ve seen cats licking themselves- which is typically associated with grooming. This same thought cannot be applied to dogs who lick themselves frequently for other reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons that dogs will lick themselves.

They lick to de-stress.

Moms lick their puppies to groom them several times in one day. In addition to cleaning them, this is very soothing for the puppy. Many times, a grown dog will carry this habit forward and lick themselves when they feel the need for comfort. This helps them to relax and calm down.

They lick to sanitize/disinfect.

You may not realize this, but a dog’s saliva is a very effective disinfectant that reduces the risk of infection in their bodies. You will most likely find your dog licking a wound/allergy to disinfect/sanitize the area to avoid a secondary infection from occurring. In addition, licking allows your dog to remove debris, dust, dirt, and unhealthy tissues from their wounds. In some cases, a dog will lick to relieve the itching that often occurs with a wound.

They lick to soothe allergies.

Often, dogs that are allergic to things such as pollen, dust, mold, and dirt will lick themselves to find relief from the itching caused by the irritants. In some situations, you may see them scratching or biting at themselves to get rid of the itch.

They lick to signal that it’s time to breed.

If you have a female dog, you will find that she will lick her vaginal area just before the breeding season begins. This indicates that she’s ready to mate. In addition, she will lick the area to keep it clean during this period. In some cases, you’ll notice a bloody discharge that smells awful around her vaginal area during this time.

As you can see, there are a variety of reasons why your dog may lick themselves. In some cases, it may not necessarily be a health issue, but could be a behavioral one. Either way, if the licking is incessant, you may want to take your dog to the vet to have him checked out and make sure there’s not a serious underlying medical condition.