Oh That Tongue!! - Why Your Dog Licks

You get a slobbery surprise every time you walk in the door, when you are watching TV, cooking dinner, reading a book, and it doesn’t stop there.  They lick your face, hands, feet, and toes, and that’s just you.  When they lick themselves, they lick everywhere.  Yes, everywhere.  
    So why do dogs lick? While most people assume it is to show affection and love, that is just one of the many reasons dogs use so much tongue.  Another reason they lick is to gather information.  Scent receptors located in their nose and mouth help them process information. Human sweat and sebaceous glands provide a lot of detail for dogs about the mood, health, and overall well being of the person on the receiving end.  
Not only does it allow them to gather information, it also gives them pleasure.  The act of licking releases endorphins that give dogs the feelings of security and comfort.  
    Besides being both pleasurable and informative, it is also a natural instinct that dogs learn from their mothers at birth.  From the moment they are born, a mother dog licks her puppies to stimulate breathing and to clean them up.  It is thought that this instinct continues on throughout the rest of their lives.
    Another theory behind licking is that it is a submissive gesture that dogs use in the wild to maintain harmony among members of the pack.  By licking, your dog is showing that you are the dominant being and the one in charge.  
So the next time your dog licks you, he might be showing you affection, letting you know that you are in charge, or maybe he just wants to make sure you are feeling ok.

A Different Kind Of Allergy

How to identify and treat food allergies in your dog

While most people assume their dogs itching and scratching is due to fleas or environmental allergies, one out of every ten dogs has allergies that have nothing to do with either of those things.  Food allergies, although slightly less prevalent than fleas, account for 20 percent of all “itching” related veterinary visits.  And unlike environmental allergies, food allergies have no preference when it comes to breed, size, shape, or age.

Studies have shown that the biggest food culprits are beef, dairy products, chicken, lamb, fish, chicken eggs, corn, wheat, and soy.  Unfortunately, these also happen to be the most common ingredients in most dog foods.  It is thought that this is not a coincidence as overexposure to these ingredients can trigger an allergy.  Other causes for food allergies are a dogs genetics and predisposition.

Food allergies can be hard to diagnose, and even harder to target the individual food or foods causing issues. Constant itching, scratching, watery stools, ear inflammation, swollen paws, excessive licking, and gassiness are some of the obvious symptoms, but others such as chronic ear infections, or several bowl movements per day can also be signs.

Because ingredients cannot be  separated in dog food, it can take trial and error of eliminating specific ingredients.  Many people will begin with a homemade diet (chicken and rice, for  example), and add food back, one ingredient at a time.  With elimination diets, it can take up to 12 weeks before proteins and other allergens are out of a dog’s system making the process slow and tedious.  Blood draws, which have been the traditional way of testing food allergies, have proven ineffective for dogs, thus making the elimination diet one of the only effective methods for diagnosing and treating food allergies.

If your dog shows signs of allergies and you think that they might be food related, there are a few things you can do to find out for sure. Look at the primary ingredients in your dog’s food and make a change. Because protein is a big allergen, change to a food with a different protein.  Also, try a food without grain or dairy, which are also big culprits. Before starting a new food, begin with a diet of chicken and rice for four weeks and then make the transition. While it can take a lot of work and time to pinpoint the allergen, it is well worth the effort, for the health of your pet.