A Soggy Matter: Why Do Dogs Lick People?

Dog licking smiling man

If you are a proud dog owner, you probably know that every time you greet your pup you can prepare yourself for a wet smooch. Or, when you start to get up in the morning and your dog is strategically standing near your head, you better cover your face! A dog’s natural reaction to being petted or interacted with from their humans is to lick. But have you ever wondered about why dogs lick people? 

The Pet Experts at Elmhurst Animal Care Center are here to give you some insight into this messy phenomenon, so you can better understand why you get all the sloppy kisses. 

8 Reasons Why Dogs Lick People

For most dog behaviors, whether learned or instinctual, there is more than one explanation. This is equally true of why dogs are so enamored with “cleaning” us with their tongues. For the most part, this desire to lick isn’t something to worry about, unless it becomes habitual or is accompanied by other health concerns. 

Here are some more common reasons why dogs lick people.

  1. They want your attention. Licking is a way for them to communicate that they want something, whether it’s your attention, their breakfast, or a walk. They know that licking gets a response, and usually a reward.
  2. It’s a survival throwback. When your dog was a wee puppy, licking was a way to garner attention to be fed. Have you noticed your dog seems to lick you more when they want their meals or a tasty morsel? 
  3. You taste good to them. The skin contains a mix of whatever it is we have been exposed to, what we eat, sweat, and so on. This combination, why not appetizing to us, is delicious to four-legged friends.
  4. They’re showing affection. Licking is a mother dog’s way of grooming their young and showing their presence. It’s an age-old show of affection to say, “I am here.” Licking increases serotonin and oxytocin in the body, those feel good hormones. Your dog may consider themself to be a surrogate mama dog to you, too.
  5. They’re figuring you out. Dogs, like babies, explore the world with their mouth. You can see this exhibited in your dog’s need to chew anything and everything, even substances that can be poisonous to them. 
  6. They’re excited. When a dog gets overstimulated about something in the environment, their tendency is to lick. If this is followed by enthusiastic tail wags, jumps, and excited barks, they are probably excited to see you or whatever they want.
  7. They are playing with you. Puppies and dogs practice play nipping and licking as a way to initiate fun. If your dog starts to slobber all over you, or nip at your hand, they may just want to enjoy a game. Grab the toys!
  8. They are alleviating anxiety. If certain dogs are prone to fear or anxiety, they may start licking as a way to self-soothe. This behavior can alleviate stress in the same manner that it elevates serotonin and oxytocin during a moment of affectionate bonding.

Does your dog love to lick nonstop? Or, have you noticed they only do it in certain scenarios, such as being petted? We’d love to hear more about your doggo and their behaviors. Call us for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Naperville Animal Hospital’s Top Pet Blogs of 2020!

A chihuahua with its ears down and tongue out

‘Looks like we made it! And what a feeling it is! 2020 was quite the year and we are so grateful to be on the other side of it. We are also incredibly grateful for our pets, not just because they saw us through the best of times and the worst of times, but also for their antics and unconditional love.

The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital are here for our clients and patients, too. Not only for your patience as we adapted to the challenges of the year, but for your trust in our hospital, too. We hope some of that trust has been built on the continued publication of our blog and the information it provides you.

With that in mind, we wanted to share our most-read blogs of 2020 with you, our readers. We hope you enjoy!


Whiz Kid: Dogs and Urine Marking

Gray dog laying down on indoor rug.

Your dog’s natural calling card is their scent. They communicate their territory and other things to their canine peers through this form of marking. To us, the thought of sending an email to a friend this way is pretty gross, but to them, it’s the norm. If your pup pal decides to “communicate” in your house, then it is a problem.

Your Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital are here to help you prevent your dog from urine marking and what you can do to reduce the odor.


Tasty Treats For a Dog That Loves Nuts

A dog licks peanut butter off a Naperville veterinarian's spoon.

Most dogs go crazy for peanut butter, and their owners use this preference to treat them, keep them busy during separations, or conceal medication. Peanut butter is safe for dogs to eat – and incredibly nutritious (in moderation). Unfortunately, not all products are created equal. 

If you have a dog that loves nuts (and especially a yummy PB snack) we have some strategies to keep them safe and healthy.

Say No to Sweets

Dogs have an instinct to want to try pretty much everything we eat. This curiosity can land them in pretty hot water if owners aren’t careful to store or dispose of toxic foods. One example is Xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in gums, mints, sugar-free baked goods, and some nut butters. While it’s safe for humans, even a small amount of Xylitol can cause a serious drop in blood sugar and even lead to liver failure in dogs. 

Read Labels Carefully

Popular brands of nut butters can contain Xylitol. As a result, we urge all dog owners to read labels thoroughly. For a dog that loves nuts, they should only be offered creamy or crunchy nut butters that are free of this dangerous chemical. If you enjoy nut butters that have a sweeter taste, be sure to keep this product separate from the nut butter you give your dog.

All Natural Goodness

The best kind of peanut butter for a dog that loves nuts contains only one ingredient: peanuts. Some products may add unhealthy ingredients such as salt, hydrogenated oils, and more. 

Exploring Other Options

You don’t have to stop with peanut butter. While we encourage you to explore your dog’s palette with other tasty, nutritious options it is important to only do so in moderation. Giving your dog too many daily calories can cause weight gain, and may eventually lead to obesity-related problems like diabetes or arthritis. 

Also, because nuts are packed with protein and fat, eating too many nuts may create health problems like pancreatitis.

For a Dog That Loves Nuts

Cashews are more fattening than peanuts, but for a dog that loves nuts you’ll notice that they relish this occasional treat. Giving them too many roasted cashews or going overboard on their portion size of cashew butter may result in a stomach ache. Always offset their daily food intake accordingly.

Hazelnuts can also provide an interesting treat, although we recommend chopping them into small bite-sized chunks. Hazelnut butter (not with chocolate, of course) may also go over well with a dog that loves nuts.

Pistachios can be a fun offering, too. While they won’t hurt your pet in small amounts, too many pistachios have the potential to cause weight gain or pancreatitis.

From Naperville’s Top Veterinarians: Avoid These Nuts

The following nuts can deliver some uncomfortable side effects for dogs:

  • Almonds can be harder to digest and may cause GI upset for some pups.
  • Macadamia nuts are not only really high in fat, but due to a toxin also found in grapes and raisins, neurological problems may occur.
  • Walnuts contain tremorgenic mycotoxins, making them a no-no.
  • Hickory nuts and pecans have juglone, a toxin that can cause GI problems.

Remember to watch them closely when they chew on nuts to mitigate any possible choking.
If you have any questions about your dog’s diet, The veterinarians at Naperville Animal Hospital are always happy to help.

Getting Off the Hamster Wheel: Pocket Pet Mental Health

Brown hamster in a hamster wheel.

The image of a hamster on a wheel is a powerful one. Repeating the same thing over and over and getting nowhere is a feeling that we can all identify with. When we think about this image, it becomes apparent that we need to do a better job for our pets. 

The pocket pet veterinarians at Naperville Animal Hospital know that our clients love their animals great and small, and thinking about pocket pet mental health is an important way to show that.

Stir Crazy and Out of Control

Being a pocket pet might seem like a pretty easy gig. You sit around all day in an enclosure safe from predators, nibble on food and treats that magically appear at regular intervals, and enjoy attention from a loving human. What’s not to like?

If you think a little bit, though, it can become quickly apparent that being an owned pocket pet may not be all that wonderful under certain circumstances. Unless your human makes a conscious effort to support your natural instincts and behaviors and to enrich your environments, you may be doomed to circling the proverbial hamster wheel day in and out.

Besides wanting to do better for your pet, there are some very important reasons to be sure that your pet’s mental health is supported. 

Lack of proper care and stimulation most often leads to behavior issues which may include things like:

  • Increased aggression towards humans or other pets
  • Biting
  • Destructive behavior
  • Overgrooming
  • Appetite changes
  • Pica

A happy pocket pet is an important goal. Any pet with proper enrichment and socialization is a healthier and more fun companion. 

Your Responsibility in Pocket Pet Mental Health

A big factor in proper pocket pet care is understanding your chosen species well. This is no different when it comes to pocket pet mental health. Species differences can make a big difference in the health and enjoyment of your pet. 

Be sure to ask questions and understand:

  • The best type of cage or enclosure for your pet
  • If your pet will thrive best with or without companions of the same species
  • What toys or chewing surfaces you should provide
  • If your pet likes human interaction and what kind
  • What dietary requirements your pet has

As a pocket pet owner, it is also your responsibility to provide environmental and social enrichment. You may wish to do things such as rotating toys and features within the enclosure and providing shelters and hiding places or dust baths as appropriate for the species.

Your pet may also benefit from supervised time outside the enclosure, changes of scenery, and opportunities for exercise.

Naperville Pocket Pet Veterinarians

When welcoming a new pet into your home, the pocket pet veterinarians at Naperville Animal Hospital advise you to schedule an appointment with us so that we can help you to understand your new family member’s needs. 

Don’t forget that your little friend is depending on you for all of these needs. You play an important role in pocket pet mental health. Don’t let your pet down when it comes to ensuring an enriched and full life.

All About Cats: Is Your Cat a Bush Dweller or Tree Dweller?

If you are a fan of Jackson Galaxy on Animal Planet’s My Cat from Hell, then you may be familiar with the terms he uses in references to cats: bush dweller vs. tree dweller. This is a distinction made between felines who enjoy being hidden or those who like to be up high. While not a specific scientific theory, there is some truth to the way certain cats enjoy spending their time that is distinct to them.

The cat veterinarians at Naperville Animal Hospital thought it would be fun to explore the questions of whether your cat is a bush dweller or tree dweller. Let’s explore!


A Brief History of the Domestic Cat

Cat basking in the sun

Domestic cats are a fascinating species. They resemble wild cats, in part, due to their instinctual drive to hunt prey and their overall mystique. Most cat owners love their feline friends for their affection but also their desire for some solitary time. 

Cats hold the title of most popular pet, totaling 4 million in communities across the US, but do you know much about how these former wildcats turned into the domestic snuggle-faces we know and love?

Our veterinarians at Naperville Animal Hospital would like to treat you to a brief history of the domestic cat. What could be more purrfect?


Napoleon Dogomite: Understanding Small Dog Syndrome

A chihuahua dog with its ears down and  tongue out.

The tiniest of doggos often have the biggest personalities around. Consider the small dog who thinks they’re a big shot at the local park, or the little ankle biter who terrorizes the postal worker.

Small dogs get a bad rap for having too much bravado, but what causes the small dog syndrome everyone laments about? 

There are a few reasons why small dogs throw around their minuscule weight. The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital are here to shine some light on the issue of behavioral problems in small and toy dog breeds.


Demystifying Doggy Dewclaws

A dog laying on a bed sleeping

Most dog lovers are fairly certain that every inch of their pet is adorable, from nose to tail. If you have ever spent time admiring your pup, you may have noticed those extra little thumbs on the inside of their front paws (or lack thereof). 

What are these tiny appendages? Why do some dogs have them and others don’t? The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital have all the answers to your burning questions about doggy dewclaws.

The Deets on Dewclaws

When it comes down to it, dewclaws are really what they appear to be – thumbs! 

Sort of.


5 Ways to Pamper Your Cat

A cat sitting by the pool in a chair

The cats we share our lives with have it made, right? They sleep as much as they want. They never have to look for food (although sometimes they feel the need to beg for it). And they are diligently protected from various potential calamities. 

Despite parasites, contagious diseases, vehicular accidents, and  fights with predators, today’s pet cats are living longer than ever before. While it seems like cats have everything they want or need, the truth is that there are lots of things we can do to make them feel safe and loved. Look no further than our suggestions on how to pamper your cat.