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5 Reasons Why Dogs Lick Pee & Vet Approved Ways to Stop It

Written by: Chelsie Fraser

Last Updated on June 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

akita ini puppy near wet spot

5 Reasons Why Dogs Lick Pee & Vet Approved Ways to Stop It

VET APPROVED

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

As disturbing as it is, your dog’s strange habit of licking pee is more common than you might think. It’s completely normal for dogs to lick each other’s urine. Dogs have something called a vomeronasal organ that helps them discern smells from other animals, so they learn more about other dogs by licking their urine.

While it’s normal to lick other dogs’ urine to learn about them, a dog doesn’t need to learn about themselves. So, why do dogs lick their pee? We’ll discuss the reasons why below.

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The 5 Reasons Why Dogs Lick Their Pee

1. Dehydration

Dogs that have become dehydrated will look for liquid to drink anywhere they can. If a dog is very thirsty, they may resort to drinking their urine. Dogs don’t have the same senses or thought processes humans do, so while we turn our noses up at the possibility of drinking urine, dogs don’t. It probably doesn’t taste that bad to them.

dog drinking from a water bottle
Image Credit: 5033181, Pixabay

2. Shame

If your dog is house-trained well enough to know that they aren’t supposed to pee in the house, they might lick their pee to cover up an accident. Dogs that lick urine out of shame often have infrequent accidents. In other words, they are reliably housetrained dogs that are forced to potty indoors for one reason or another.

For example, the dog might have been home alone too long and needed to go. Sometimes, it’s a sign of an underlying medical condition that’s making it impossible for them to hold their urine. Senior incontinence is a common reason for this behavior.


3. Cushing’s Syndrome

Cushing’s syndrome is not common in dogs, but it does occur, and it’s another reason your dog might be licking their pee. Increased thirst and frequent urination are often the first symptoms of the disease. The increased frequency also leads to an increased possibility of an indoor accident, which compounds the reasons your dog might lick up their pee.

A disease process may be the culprit if your dog suddenly begins having accidents, drinking excessively, or licking their pee. Therefore, it’s best to get them checked by a vet.

female veterinarian checking up a dog
Image Credit: Zivica Kerkez, Shutterstock

4. Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are bacterial infections in your dog’s urinary tract that increase the frequency and urgency of urination. Other common signs include blood in your dog’s urine, fever, accidental urination, and cloudy urine.

UTIs also leave your dog more thirsty than usual, increasing the likelihood that they will lick up their pee.


5. Pica

Pica is a term used to describe the urge to eat non-food items. It can occur in people and dogs. Dogs can get obsessed with eating a particular non-food item or eat everything in sight. Common targets for dogs with pica include rocks, wood, paper, and plastic, but anything can become the object of obsession, including urine.

The causes of pica aren’t well understood. Some experts think that it’s the result of environmental stressors or boredom. Nutritional imbalances can be a cause, as your dog seeks to correct the imbalance by seeking certain minerals in their environment.

Thyroid disorders, diabetes, and other endocrine system disorders can cause pica, as can illnesses that cause nutritional deficiencies. In some cases, pica is a side effect of a parasite infestation.

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How to Stop Your Dog From Licking Pee

How to stop your dog’s pee-licking behavior depends on why they are doing it. If there is an underlying medical cause, it must be treated first. If it’s a behavioral cause, you may need to train your dog or enroll them in professional classes.

No matter the reason for the undesirable behavior, it’s essential to understand that your dog isn’t trying to be bad. Your dog doesn’t see anything wrong with the behavior, and there’s a logical reason for it.

1. Visit the Vet

pitbull dog check by vet
Image Credit: Andy Gin, Shutterstock

Since several medical conditions can cause your dog to lick pee, it’s best to have them checked by a vet to rule anything out. The treatment will depend on the diagnosis.

Possible medical conditions that cause your dog to lick pee:
  • UTIs are easily diagnosed through a urine sample and are usually treated with a course of antibiotics.
  • Cushing’s disease is challenging to diagnose and is usually done by ruling out other diseases first. The illness is caused by a tumor either on the pituitary gland (a gland located near the brain) or the adrenal gland (a gland located near the kidney). The treatment will depend on the origin. A tumor in the adrenals can sometimes be surgically removed. If surgery is not an option, radiation therapy or medications are used to correct the hormonal imbalance.
  • Pica is treated according to the underlying cause. Behavioral pica with no medical concerns usually requires increased exercise and mental stimulation. This is often enough to cure stress and boredom. Environmental enrichment, like food puzzles, toys, and hide-and-seek games are also helpful. If you are away from home for long periods, a dog walker can be helpful to ensure that your dog is sufficiently exercised. If pica results from a medical condition, treating the underlying condition is the first step of treatment.

2. Retrain the Behavior

Many dogs require “refreshers” on their housetraining over their lifespan. If your dog has started having accidents inside, and a medical issue isn’t the cause, it’s time for retraining. Your dog already knows the drill, so it will be much simpler than housetraining a pup for the first time. Reinforcing good bathroom habits through praise or treats when they go potty outside is usually all they need.

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3. Ensure That Your Dog Has a Constant Supply of Freshwater

dog drinking water on a carpet
Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

Your dog should have free access to drinking water at all times to ensure that they stay hydrated and won’t be forced to drink pee.

Keep your dog’s water bowl somewhere that they have access to it 24 hours a day. This might mean having more than one water bowl, one inside and one outside, or one in their crate and one outside. Keep as many as you like to fit your dog’s lifestyle; just ensure your dog can get to them.

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Is Licking Pee Bad for Dogs?

While it seems repulsive, there isn’t anything bad about your dog licking urine. Dogs don’t usually have access to a large enough volume of urine to cause health problems. However, since licking pee can be a sign of many different health problems, it is worth visiting the vet before trying to treat a behavioral cause.

Licking other animals’ urine does involve some health risks. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease a dog can contract by licking an infected animal’s urine. Rodents are the carriers of this disease.

Why Do Dogs Lick Other Dogs’ Pee?

Is it normal for dogs to lick other dogs’ pee? Surprisingly, yes! The behavior results from the vomeronasal organ, also known as Jacobson’s organ. Your dog licks other dogs’ pee to learn about who they are. By doing this, your dog uses their super-powerful sense of smell to retain a “smell memory.” If your dog meets this other dog again, the dog will be familiar to them.

If your dog is licking another dog’s urine, keep in mind:

  • This is normal behavior.
  • Even if you find it gross, your dog is engaging in socially acceptable behavior among canines.

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Conclusion

As baffling dog behaviors go, licking pee might be one of the most bothersome. The reason as to why dogs drink their pee can be many different things, including medical issues, dehydration, stress, or boredom. Finding the root cause can help you stop the behavior.

If your dog is licking another dog’s pee, it is vital to understand it’s part of how your dog learns about other fellow canine individuals. While it makes our stomachs turn, it is socially acceptable canine behavior!

 

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Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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