English bulldogs will sometimes lick excessively due to a behavioral issue like boredom, anxiety, or stress or because of a medical one. An English bulldog, like all dogs, uses its tongue for a variety of functions, including tasting, panting to lower body temperature, examining new objects, animals, or people, and expressing affection. Some dog owners are more tolerant of their dogs' licking whereas other owners are driven crazy by those long, floppy tongues. Excessive licking in an English bulldog can be a sign of a problem, or it can be normal dog behavior.
Not all licking is excessive
While licking can become excessive, you can expect some level of licking from every breed. Dogs lick to show affection, or just to taste the people and environment around them. Canines explore the world around them with their mouths, which is one reason why you might see your bulldog licking air, or seeming to anyway — they really may be smelling deeply. Dogs lick to groom themselves.
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Some people love getting their hands or faces lapped at by dogs because it is understood to be an affectionate gesture. Other people find licking very irritating or embarrassing. It is unreasonable to expect a dog never to lick, but it is also a cause for concern if a dog spends a large portion of time licking everything in sight.
Medical reasons cause excessive licking
English bulldogs are prone to their own particular set of maladies. These include (but are not limited to) allergies, bloat, hip dysplasia, and cleft palate. These health conditions, along with others, may be the cause of excessive licking. For example, gastric dilation and volvulus syndrome (more commonly known as dog bloat) is a life-threatening canine illness that requires veterinary attention — food, air, or fluid gets trapped in the stomach, which then twists and cuts off blood to organs. Dog bloat is always life-threatening, and symptoms include attempts to vomit, rapid breath, excessive drooling, and licking.
Allergies can also cause excessive licking. Allergies in dogs make their skin itchy, making them lick their skin and paws to relieve the itch. Since dogs can be bothered by environmental allergens, check them for rashes, fleas, and hives, and check them after time spent outside.
Anxiety-induced excessive licking
Many English bulldogs express anxiety through obsessive-compulsive, or "stereotypical," behaviors. A dog that is not getting enough attention or exercise will often become anxious or bored, as will a dog stressed by a change in its environment (like a new puppy) or one that is not feeling well. For example, a deaf dog might be anxious because it can't hear people approaching and might respond to this stress by doing repetitive things, such as walking in circles or licking the couch incessantly. Dogs that aren't getting enough mental or physical stimulation can start licking out of boredom or anxiety, so make sure your dog is getting plenty of playtime and exercise.
English bulldog licking causes conditions
Unfortunately, an English bulldog licking air, objects, or themselves isn't just an annoying habit. When English bulldogs excessively lick themselves, it can lead to secondary conditions like infections. Repeated licking to the same sections of skin can cause the fur to fall off and balding.
How to Curb Excessive Licking
You should always consult your veterinarian to see if the excessive licking is caused by an underlying medical condition. If the licking is caused by a medical problem, it will likely be resolved through medical treatment of the underlying condition.
If your bulldog's licking doesn't stem from a medical problem, you can take steps to reduce it. You can take your dog on more or longer walks to tire it out, you can leave your dog with a friend when you go out and you can spend time after work playing, grooming, and training your dog. In addition, you can give your bulldog chewy toys and treats to occupy its mouth.