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My Dog Keeps Licking Their Private Area – When to Worry

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by Dogster Team

Female dog grooming the genitals by licking

My Dog Keeps Licking Their Private Area – When to Worry

Sometimes, your pup becomes the life of the party at the local dog park thanks to its excitement and hilarious zoomies. But sometimes, you’re at the park, and your dog becomes a source of embarrassment when it decides to pay more attention to licking its privates than the other goings-on at the park.

Unfortunately, you can’t really scold your pup for exhibiting such behavior because it just doesn’t understand that privates are, well, private. While licking privates can be a normal behavior for dogs that stems from a need to relieve discomfort or a desire to keep clean, there may be times when such behavior is indicative of a health condition.

Keep reading to learn more about why dogs lick their privates and the reasoning behind this behavior.

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Privates?

Just like their feline counterparts, dogs will lick themselves to stay clean. Normally, dogs only need a quick lick or two to clean their private area after urinating or having a bowel movement. Licking more than this may need to be investigated as it can indicate a wide range of health issues.

dog licking its butt
Image Credit: Jiramath Noomuan, Shutterstock

When Should I Be Worried?

Constant or sustained licking of the private area may be indicative of a medical problem. If you notice your dog frequently licking that area or licking it for long periods, it may be time to chat with your vet.

You should also keep your eyes open for other signs of illness, such as:

  • Swollen or red penis or vulva
  • Swollen anus
  • Pimples on the skin
  • Skin discoloration
  • Straining to urinate
  • Increased urination
  • Scooting the bum on the ground
  • Discharge from privates

What Medical Reasons Could Be Behind This Behavior?

Several medication conditions could prompt your pup to pay extra close attention to its genitals or anal regions.

Urinary Tract Infections

Dogs with UTIs or bladder stones may incessantly lick at their privates after urinating. They may also pee more often and strain to urinate. Like humans with UTIs, animals with UTIs will also feel the urgency to urinate but produce very little.

Bladder infections are caused by bacteria that often respond well to antibiotic treatments.

dog peeing on concrete
Image Credit: Kwan Kajornsiri, Shutterstock

Allergies

Both environmental and food allergies can cause extreme itching in the genital region. Your dog may be trying to alleviate some of the itchiness by licking the area.

When food allergies are the problem, your dog will exhibit this behavior throughout the year. But when environmental allergies are at fault, you’ll only notice the excessive licking on a seasonal basis.

The remedy for both types of allergies is to try to avoid the allergen.

If your pup is allergic to something in the environment, take them on walks earlier in the morning or in the late evening, as the dew on the ground will help reduce some of the pollen floating around in the air. Make sure you clean your pup’s feet and belly with a damp towel to remove some of the pollen that may have attached to your pet.

Food allergies in dogs are often triggered when the pet is sensitive to the protein sources in its food. The most common food allergens for dogs include beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, and dairy products. Other signs that your dog’s diet is to blame for its itchiness include skin and ear infections, hives, gastrointestinal issues, and lethargy.

Skin Infection

It’s normal for dogs to have some degree of bacteria and yeast on their skin, but if it appears in excess or if your dog is immunocompromised, an infection can take place. A bacterial or yeast infection can feel extremely itchy for your dog, resulting in constant licking of the area to try and relieve some of the itchiness.

Anal Gland Impaction

Dogs have two anal glands near their rectum that fill with smelly fluids and typically empty themselves during a bowel movement. Unfortunately, some dog owners don’t even know about these glands because when they’re working as they should, there’s never any indication of their presence.

But when they become overfilled, it’s very clear that they exist. An overfilled anal gland will emit a highly noxious odor which can sometimes be accompanied by a swollen and irritated anal region. Your dog may begin licking incessantly at the rectum area in response to this irritation.

Dachshund butt
Image Credit: HPK Images, Shutterstock

Preputial Discharge

In male dogs, abnormal preputial discharge can cause excessive licking of the private area. This discharge refers to any substance (e.g., blood, urine, pus) that flows from the prepuce (the fold of skin covering the penis). Healthy dogs shouldn’t have preputial discharge, but those with the following health problems could be at risk:

  • Urethral disorders
  • Urinary bladder disorders
  • Prostate disorders
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Urinary incontinence

Vaginal Discharge

Abnormal vaginal discharge may cause your female dog to lick her privates excessively. Just like preputial discharge in males, vaginal discharge refers to any substance that emanates from the vulva labia. It can be a normal part of the heat cycle and may last as long as six to eight weeks postpartum.

Other causes of vaginal discharge include:
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Infected uterus
  • Cancer of the urogenital tract
  • Vaginitis
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Retained placenta

Estrous Cycle

Female dogs will have their first estrus (heat) cycle when they reach puberty. The age at which a dog will reach puberty will depend on the breed. Smaller dogs may have their first heat cycle earlier, while larger breeds may not come into heat until they’re 18 or 24 months.

When your dog is in heat, you may see her exhibiting new behaviors like the intense licking of her privates. Other signs will be present such as swelling of the vulva, bloody vaginal discharge, and frequent urination.

What Can My Vet Do?

A visit to the vet should be in order if you notice your dog licking its privates excessively. Your vet will likely want to run a few tests to determine the root cause of this behavior.

The vet may recommend running tests such as:
  • Complete blood count
  • Bacterial culture of any discharge
  • Abdominal X-rays
  • Abdominal ultrasounds

When your vet knows the cause of the abnormal licking, they can look at treatment options.

Husky dog lying on vet table with doctor and owner near by
Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

Conclusion

While licking privates can be a normal behavior in dogs, it can also indicate a more serious health condition at work. So, if your dog doesn’t typically lick its privates but is now suddenly paying closer attention to doing so, keep your eyes peeled for any other unusual behavior. And, as always, if you’re worried, make an appointment with your vet for peace of mind.


Featured Image Credit: _SOORACHET-KHEAWHOM, Shutterstock

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