Excessive Licking of Surfaces (ELS)

By August 31, 2015 February 28th, 2019 Uncategorized

Does your dog constantly lick your floors, walls, carpets, and other objects in the house? Excessive licking of surfaces (ELS) refers to licking of objects and surfaces in excess of duration, frequency, or intensity as compared with that required for exploration. This behavior is a nonspecific sign and may be the consequence of several conditions.

In the past many of these dogs were diagnosed and treated for obsessive-compulsive behavior. New studies show that this behavior is more likely to be caused by gastrointestinal (GI) or other issues, and not a behavior problem.

If your dog is exhibiting this behavior, your veterinarian in Markham will use some of the following clues to point him in the right direction, so an accurate diagnosis can be found.

Does your pet have a history of anxiety and fear?

Dogs with previous anxious behavior often move on to excessive licking to soothe themselves.

Are you able to stop the behavior?

If you try to distract him while he is doing the behavior, will he stop? You can try saying “no,” chasing him away from the area he is licking, physically stopping him, or giving him food or a treat. If the behavior stops, there may be a behavioral component. If there were a medical illness, the veterinarians in Markham suggest distracting or interrupting the pet would be much more difficult.

This is not a foolproof method of diagnosis, as dogs that have had a behavioral issue for a long time will have the licking more deeply ingrained into their habits.

How long does he stop?

If your dog immediately begins licking again, it is more likely that this is obsessive behavior.

Medical reasons for ELS


This can be caused by issues with the GI tract, such as pancreatitis, ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, intestinal parasites an intestinal foreign body, or many other conditions.


Pain inside the body or in the mouth can lead to excessive licking. Infected teeth, oral tumors, or issues in the throat can cause this behavior to develop.

Adrenal disease

Problems with the adrenal glands can lead to electrolyte imbalances and nausea, which can both cause the licking.

Other conditions

Nervous system disorders, cognitive dysfunction, attention seeking behaviors and some other conditions can lead to this symptom.

If your dog is exhibiting ELS, call your veterinary clinic in Markham to make an appointment. You should consider using your smart phone to take a video of your pet performing the behavior, and bring this with you to your appointment for your vet to see. Your pet’s doctor will take a thorough medical history. Blood work may be needed to check his internal organ function, and to look for hormonal imbalances. X-rays or an ultrasound of the abdomen may be needed, in order to get a look inside the gastrointestinal tract.

Depending on the history, and results of the tests, your veterinarian in Markham can prescribe the proper treatment for the underlying condition. Obsessive conditions can be helped with medications similar to antidepressants in people. This may or may not require some behavioral modification with the assistance of a qualified dog trainer.

Gastrointestinal issues can be addressed in a variety of ways and can include prescription diets, probiotics, antacids, stomach protectants, antibiotics, steroids, deworming medication or other treatments. Oral disease can be addressed with professional dental care. Other conditions may require further testing, and can be treated in a variety of ways.

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Dr. Ernst Marsig, veterinarian in Markham

Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.

Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).

Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.

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