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My Female Dog Is Licking Her Privates More Than Usual

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: October 19, 2023
My Female Dog Is Licking Her Privates More Than Usual

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A female dog licking her privates more than usual could affected by their heat cycle, urinary tract infection, allergies, skin irritation or inflammation, behavioral issues, vaginal discharge or even infection or injury. It should be noted that licking their genitals is a normal part of a dog's grooming behavior. It is only when licking their privates becomes excessive is it a problem. To understand all possible reasons for this behavior, we will need to look at the context and see if there are any other symptoms present.

Keep reading to find out why your dog keeps licking her private area, as well as what to do in this situation.

Reasons why female dogs lick their private areas

The first thing we need to know is that it is normal for a dog to lick her privates under many circumstances. Dogs are self-grooming and will lick any part of their body they think needs to be cleaned. They may lick a lot or even bite to remove stubborn dirt. There are some circumstances were licking their genitals may be a sign of a problem. Whether normal or abnormal, a dog will lick her privates due to the following possible reasons:

  • Heat cycle: during a female dog's heat cycle, she may lick herself more frequently.
  • Urinary tract infection: excessive licking could be a sign of a urinary tract infection, as dogs may try to soothe discomfort by licking.
  • Allergies: itching from allergies can lead to increased licking in the genital region.
  • Skin irritation or inflammation: any irritation or inflammation in the genital area may prompt a dog to lick.
  • Behavioral issues: stress, anxiety or boredom can lead to obsessive licking as a coping mechanism.
  • Vaginal discharge: changes in vaginal discharge may cause increased licking.
  • Infection or injury: any injury or infection in the genital area may lead to heightened licking as a protective or soothing response.

We look at all the possible reasons for a dog licking her private area in more detail in the sections below. Licking their privates is not the only reason they may lick. Check out our article on why my dog keeps licking me to find out more.

Heat cycle

A female dog usually reaches sexual maturity between six months and one year of age. Sexual maturity comes with the arrival of the dog's first heat cycle. From this moment on, you may begin to notice new behaviors in your dog, such as humping stuffed animals, blankets or other dogs. Intense licking of her private parts is especially common. This behavior is normal and part of canine nature.

One of the reasons dogs do this during their heat cycle is essentially to give themselves pleasure in the form of sexual relief. The heat cycle causes their hormones to increase and they want to seek out a male for mating. Like humans, female dogs have a clitoris inside of their vulva. This organ generates pleasure when mating. If the dog cannot mate, she may lick to relieve herself.

The hormones produced during the heat cycle will cause the dog's vulva to swell. This is normal, but it can be quite frustrating and cause discomfort for the dog. You should not be alarmed unless the vulva is protruding too much or there is an unusual lump on the dog's vulva. In addition, if your dog’s vagina is swollen, irritated or presents abnormalities we suggest consulting a specialist as soon as possible.

Female dogs will lick their privates more than usual during their heat cycle. This is normal behavior and should subside once their heat cycle is over. Dogs in the domestic environment will benefit greatly if they are spayed since it will stop the heat cycle in females. This will prevent the frustration and discomfort it will cause, as well as provide many other benefits to their health.

Some dogs may enjoy licking their privates for pleasure even after spaying. This is is usually if they are spayed after they reach sexual maturity, but it can happen in any dog.

My Female Dog Is Licking Her Privates More Than Usual - Heat cycle

Urinary tract infection

A urinary tract infection in a female dog can cause increased licking of the genital area due to discomfort and irritation. UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urethra and travel up into the urinary tract, leading to infection. Here's a brief overview of causes and treatment:

Causes of UTIs in dogs

  • Bacterial entry: bacteria from the environment or the dog's own skin can enter the urethra, leading to infection.
  • Anatomy: female dogs' shorter urethras make them more susceptible to UTIs.
  • Underlying conditions: conditions like diabetes or Cushing's disease can increase UTI risk.
  • Incontinence: dogs with urinary incontinence may be more prone to UTIs due to constant moisture in the genital area.

Symptoms of UTIs in dogs

  • Frequent urination
  • Pain or discomfort while urinating
  • Blood in the urine
  • Licking of the genital area
  • Fever
  • Straining to urinate
  • Strong-smelling urine

Treatment of UTIs in dogs

When you see a symptom such as a female dog licking her privates more than usual, it is important you take them to a veterinarian. They will be best qualified to carry out the diagnostic tests. If they do confirm a urinary tract infection in dogs, they will provide some combination of the following treatments:

  • Antibiotics: your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics to target the specific bacteria causing the infection.
  • Hydration: encourage your dog to drink more water to help flush out the urinary tract.
  • Urinary acidifiers: in some cases, urinary acidifiers may be recommended.
  • Dietary changes: special diets may help manage UTIs in dogs with recurrent infections.

Preventing UTIs in dogs involves good hygiene, regular bathroom breaks, and addressing any underlying conditions. If your female dog is licking excessively, consult a veterinarian to determine the cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Allergies

Allergies can cause a dog to lick her privates more than usual due to itching and irritation in the genital area. When a dog is exposed to allergens, whether they are environmental (such as pollen or dust) or related to food, it can trigger allergic reactions. In some cases, these allergic reactions may manifest in the following symptoms:

  • Itching: allergies can lead to generalized or localized itching. If the allergic reaction is localized to her privates, she will likely lick this area more than usual to relieve the skin agitation. Learn more about why a puppy keeps scratching and itching their privates.

  • Inflammation: allergies can cause inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes, leading to discomfort and a strong urge to lick or chew the affected areas. in severe cases, these allergic reactions can even cause anaphylactic shock in dogs.

  • Secondary infections: prolonged licking can disrupt the skin's natural barrier, making it more susceptible to secondary bacterial or yeast infections.

To address this issue, it's essential to identify and manage the underlying allergies. This may involve dietary changes, allergy testing and allergen avoidance strategies. If your dog's excessive licking persists, consult with a veterinarian to determine the specific allergen and develop an appropriate treatment plan. This may include antihistamines or other medications to relieve itching and inflammation.

Other skin infections or inflammation

In addition to UTIs and allergic reactions, there are other skin diseases which can cause irritation and inflammation. Due to these diseases, the dog will lick more to relieve her symptoms. Some common skin diseases in dogs include the following:

  • Yeast infections: fungal yeast overgrowth can cause redness, itching and discomfort in the vulvar region, prompting excessive licking. Learn more about different types of fungal infections in dogs.

  • Irritant contact dermatitis: exposure to irritants like harsh detergents or chemicals can cause skin irritation and itching. This is especially common in the dog's private area because this area often comes into contact with the ground on which these irritants may be found.

  • Hormonal changes: hormonal fluctuations, such as those during a heat cycle or pregnancy, can lead to increased licking. They can also be caused by damage to glands which secrete hormones such as a uterine tumor.

  • Skin infections: bacterial or fungal skin infections in the genital area can cause itching and irritation.

It's essential to consult with a veterinarian to diagnose the specific cause of the irritation or inflammation and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Resolving the underlying issue will help alleviate the excessive licking and discomfort in your female dog.

Behavioral issues

Behavioral issues like stress and anxiety can lead a dog to excessively lick her privates due to a number of underlying causes. They include:

  • Coping mechanism: like humans, dogs may engage in self-soothing behaviors when stressed or anxious. Excessive licking can provide comfort and serve as a coping mechanism.

  • Distraction: licking can serve as a distraction from the underlying stressor or anxiety-inducing situation.

  • Release of endorphins: Licking can trigger the release of endorphins, which can have a calming effect.

When this behavior becomes repetitive and occurs in the absence of an underlying physical cause (such as an allergy or infection), it may constitute a stereotypy. Stereotypies are repetitive, seemingly purposeless behaviors that can develop as a response to stress, confinement, or other environmental factors. In this context, excessive licking may become a compulsive habit.

It's important to differentiate between normal stress-related behaviors and stereotypies. If you suspect your dog's excessive licking is a stereotypy or is causing physical harm, consult a veterinarian or a professional dog behaviorist. They can help address the underlying stress or anxiety and provide guidance on behavior modification techniques to reduce the dog's compulsive behavior.

Vaginal discharge

Various types of vaginal discharge can cause a dog to keep licking her privates. It's important to understand the potential causes of vaginal discharge and when it might signal an issue. Some common types of discharge include:

  • Normal estrus discharge: during a dog's heat cycle (estrus), she may produce a clear or slightly bloody discharge. This is considered normal and is often accompanied by behavioral changes. This is in addition to relieving frustration caused by the heat cycle.

  • Infection: the aforementioned types of infections such as bacterial or yeast infections can lead to abnormal and often odorous vaginal discharge. This may be irritating and prompt excessive licking.

  • Foreign body: sometimes, a foreign object or material may become lodged in the vaginal area, causing discomfort and increased licking. Foreign bodies can also cause secondary bacterial infections which result in vaginal discharge.

  • Reproductive issues: conditions related to pregnancy, pseudopregnancy, or complications during or after giving birth can result in changes in vaginal discharge and may lead to licking.

  • Hormonal imbalances: hormonal changes, such as thyroid imbalances, can affect vaginal discharge and prompt licking. Learn more wit hour article on hyperthyroidism in dogs.

It's essential to monitor your dog's vaginal discharge for any sudden changes in color, consistency, odor or the presence of blood. If you notice concerning changes, consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment. Excessive licking in response to abnormal discharge may indicate discomfort and should not be ignored.

My Female Dog Is Licking Her Privates More Than Usual - Vaginal discharge

What to do if my dog keeps licking her private area?

Now that you know all the possible reasons why a dog will lick her private area, we need to know what to do about it. Depending on the causes which are making your female dog lick her private area, treatment will differ. If it is a case of masturbation, there is no need for treatment, as this is an instinctual action for female dogs. However, if you observe that this licking behavior is becoming compulsive, consult a professional.

If the reason your female dog licking her vagina is due to stress or anxiety, you need to find out the root cause of her stress to eradicate it. If you can successfully do so, the licking behavior should slowly subside. If it does not, consult the vet on how to proceed.

If you believe that your dog is licking her private area due to hormonal imbalances or health problems, we suggest you consult your veterinarian immediately. The vet will be able to diagnose the exact cause of your dog's behavior and prescribe the best treatment for the problem.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to My Female Dog Is Licking Her Privates More Than Usual, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

Bibliography
  • Luescher, U. A., McKeown, D. B., and Halip, J. (1991). Stereotypic or obsessive-complusive disorders in dog and cats. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 21(2), 401-413.
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195561691500413
  • Gibson, A., et al. (2013). A retrospective study of pyometra at five RSPCA hospitals in the UK: 1728 cases from 2006 to 2011. Veterinary Record, 173(16), 396.
    https://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/173/16/396

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16 comments
Rating:
Nancy
My dog is about 37 weeks pregnant and seems that her Virgina is swollen why
Rating:
Kevin davidson
My dog keeps licking the part of her tale by her bum and also licking her bum over the last few days . And shes starting to be a bit down in the dumps . She is a 3 year old whippet cross staffy.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Kevin,

These are symptoms which could be due to a variety of problems of varying severity. Depression in dogs can be particularly disconcerting. It is best if you take them to a vet for a checkup.
Rating:
Jan
My Cavachon was groomed and now won’t quit licking her vulva. It’s red and she is also lethargic.
Rating:
Jacqui
My indie is 6 years old Cockerpoo,she Was spayed when she was six months old , occasionally she has licked her private parts, but in the last couple of days she has been licking Even biting it mostly in the middle of the night which wakes me With the noise she’s making ,There doesn’t seem to be any signs of the conditions you’ve mentioned above ,she is perfectly healthy , happy little dog but it’s worrying me
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Jacqui,

While we provide the possible reasons, we cannot diagnose the problem. If it persists, it is likely worth a veterinary checkup.
Rating:
Felice
My dogs shaft is swallow and red and my dog keeps licking it, what do I do?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Felice,

If the article does not indicate the problem, you should speak to a veterinarian for diagnosis.
John
Dogs like humans, enjoy masterbation too. If your dog only does it on the rare occasion you should be ok, but if they seem to do it all the time you need to spend more time playing with your dog. Stop the dog from licking itself by trying to get them to play fetch or a fun game of tug with a piece of rope. I'm convinced that most dogs would rather play with humans, if they have a chance too, rather than playing with themselves. If your dog is doing too much of this activity it's time to bring the dog to the vet and let them know how often it's done. Your dog may have something medically going on, or they could be extremely bored. Maybe they need another dog to play with, while you are at work, or away during the day. Make sure that your current dog and any new dog is fixed, so you don't end up with babies when they play together.
Rating:
Avi
My female indie dog is close to 8 months old, recently done with her periods and is constantly licking her vulva and sometimes rigorously shakes her legs while doing so. Is this normal or does she have some kind of an infection. No other sort of symptoms. She is eating well, playing, sleeping, but just that she shakes her leg, more like a seizure when she aggressively licks her vulva.
Rating:
sandra k. sweeney
my dog is licking her private area and blood is coming out. She is drinking a lot of water and vomiting
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Sandra,

Please take your dog to a veterinarian to diagnose this problem. It is likely a serious and life threatening issue given the symptoms.
Rating:
Dawn edwards
My dog has a small bump on her vulva. She is sitting all the time and doesn’t want to get up. Licking constantly. Looks red from licking. Otherwise alert and has appetite
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Dawn,

If your dog has a bump on her vulva, you might find this article useful:
https://www.animalwised.com/my-dog-has-a-bump-on-her-private-area-3345.html

We cannot diagnose her from here, so if you are worried it is best to consult a vet. Good luck!
Azul Ruiz
My male bullmasive is an ok see dog , and he constantly looks at his but, and starts licking it. I say about every 20 min bot so.
Pam
Had my fur baby spayed about 6 mos ago,all went well! Dixie, 5 yr old Maltese, prior to surgery Never Licked her private area (even tho its common and normal to a degree, she just DID NOT DO IT) unless going into heat and/or during heat. Well, ever since being spayed, she compulsively licks herself!! Total change in this behavior! Help!
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Pam,

We cannot diagnose your animal, only a vet can do this. Have you considered the possibilities mentioned in the article? Are there any which might seem feasible in your dog's situation? It is designed to give you an idea, but if you are worried there is a serious problem, then the vet is the answer.
Rating:
Brianna
My 8 month old Shi tzu has been licking her privates for about a week now and it's pretty swollen but no pus. Her eyes however, are releasing an amount of mucus, don't know if its related. Unsure of whether it's just her first heat period or infection of some sort.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Brianna,

Shih Tzu dogs are particularly prone to eye infections. If they have pus coming from their eyes, this is what is likely the problem. However, we cannot give an accurate diagnosis, only a veterinary health professional can do this. They are also the only ones who can prescribe the right medication (likely antibiotics). The licking of her privates may or may not be related, but if one infection exists, it is possible for it to spread. Please take your dog to a vet if you want them treated.
Shirley Jean
Our 9 month old golden mountain berniedoodle has been licking her private area lots in the past few day and she has been spaded in April
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Shirely,

This is not uncommon for a dog to be licking after being spayed (some dogs will also lick more out of personal preference). However, if you feel there may be an underlying health concern, please seek a vet for advice as only they will be able to run the appropriate tests or achieve the right diagnosis.
Victoria
My German shepherd is about to start her 3rd heat this month and she keeps licking but no blood or swelling. Does this mean she about to start or something
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Victoria,

We are unsure of your question. You said she is about to start her 3rd heat period and then asked is she about to start. Do you mean is it imminent? If so, it is certainly possible as it is common for dogs to lick this area due to the swelling caused by heat. However, it is important to look to see if any of the other symptoms present in case there are any other possible reasons. Check with the points in the article and, as always, visit a vet if you are unsure.
Malea Mcknight
My 7yr. Old chihuahua is always licking her private area and has a little bit of an oder, also if I try to pick her up she yelps like it hurts, she also walks kind of funny with her back sort of hunched but her butt seems to be tucked down, should this be a concern because I'm a little worried ,please help
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Malea

If your dog is in pain we suggest visiting your veterinarian as soon as possible to find out what is the problem and treat it accordingly!

Regards

AnimalWised
M.E. Dillon
Her anal sac may be full and needs to be expressed. If this is the case and it is not soon done it could lead to an abcess which will require surgery. My Chihuahua has already gone through this. We now have her anal sac checked and expressed every couple of months. Very important.
Maria Joseph
My 4 year old chiwawa is in her estrus period. She is not eating as much. Is this normal? She just smells her food then walk away. Then later on she will eventually comes back later and eat. Please advice. Thank you
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Maria

It is completely normal for a dog in heat to experience either an increase or decrease in appetite. If for whatever reason you believe it is a problem, we recommend taking her to the vet.

Regards

AnimalWised
Eileen Caraccia
My Maltese she is nine years old and has been spaded she keeps licking her private part and I had a urine test done and it came back fine what could be the problem and how can I stop at during turn around put them on the back turn her around
Alice Tapiol Breeze (AnimalWised editor)
Hi Eileen,
How long ago was she spayed? Have you made sure there is no pus or the vulva is swollen? There are other reasons apart from a urinary infection that may be causing your dog to lick her private area, so you should ask the vet for a closer look at her so you can determine the cause.

Hope this helps and best wishes.
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