It is common knowledge that a dog, Maltese or otherwise, licking you is a sign of love. And if they are licking themselves, the accepted theory is that they are grooming themselves.
Maltese dog parents have often complained (or maybe just wondered out loud) about their babies’ licking turning just a little obsessive. Now, there are more than a couple of reasons for your dog to be behaving this way and they are not all pretty. So read on.
The Incessant Licking
No, you are not overreacting. As lovely as this toy dog breed is, it does lick a little more than usual. This means you, toys, furniture, pillows and anything else they can find are all targets and they can go on for hours.
Yes, usually dogs lick their owners out of love and lick themselves when bored. But you should not allow it or ignore it.
Dogs’ saliva has a lot of bacteria, viruses and yeast that are not good for humans, according to Dr. Neilanjan Nandi, an assistant professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. There are some proteins too but don’t make out with your dogs, please, for the simple reason that the Maltese are known to lick their paws excessively when they have allergies or OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).
Check if there is something that is causing pain or discomfort to your pet. But don’t get paranoid just yet because it’s not always a medical condition.
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When and Why Does This Happen?
The Not-So-Worrisome Ones
When it is out of love, they find it to be calming and soothing. Like humans find massages relaxing. It is because dogs lick their puppies, usually to express love.
Grooming. This is pretty standard but they do it to you too for the same reason. It doesn’t mean you are not clean. Just that they think they are cleaning you.
Apart from that, maybe you just let them and now they have gotten into the habit of licking you. Also, Maltese dogs resort to licking when they get anxious. So maybe you have been away? Separation anxiety is a big thing.
They also do it if they feel like you are neglecting them. Licking is how they act out and all you need to do is give them some attention. Toys might not work.
Toys, however, will work if they are doing this purely out of boredom. You can also just take them out for a walk and it works like a charm.
They are also really loving dogs and can sense stress and anxiety in you. So whether it is their mood or yours that’s gone for a toss, licking is their go-to behavior.
The Maltese is a submissive breed so this is one way for them to show respect, whether it is to a dominant pack leader or their human who is possibly mad at them. They respect you and are looking for protection.
The Maltese also lick when they are hungry or thirsty. Keep an eye on the clock to detect this.
These are the harmless reasons but fix it now. You might think it is cute and be fine with it but if they don’t stop soon, it might result in hot spots, hair loss or skin irritation and you will have to run to the vet.
The Dangerous Ones
It is not very difficult and is, in fact, very important to figure out the reason behind this excessive licking because each of them has a different solution. Your puppy might be in pain and needs your help.
Something is bothering them physically, usually on their paws, ankles or toes. They lick when there is an itch or a wound. Yes, they literally lick their wounds.
Sometimes though, their saliva helps in healing because it has enzymes that can stave off bacteria.
Maltese dogs are famously allergic to certain foods or flowers. It could also be grass or any chemicals you might be using around the house, perhaps for cleaning purposes.
It could be because of a disorder called lick granuloma, also known as acral lick dermatitis or ALD. In this case, you will find your dog constantly licking their front or hind legs.
They will do this till there is a bare spot or an open sore in that place. This can also lead to systemic infection and if not checked in time, it might call for limb amputation.
In cooler weather, they tend to lick their paws in case they are suffering from arthritis. You might want to get the test done and check for the condition before it gets worse.
Imagine if you confuse it with boredom and take your arthritis-ridden dog for a walk? Or try to play fetch?
In hotter weather, if you took your dog out for walks on surfaces that heat up quickly, that might be it. Anything above 115 degrees Fahrenheit can cause trouble.
If it is above 125 degrees Fahrenheit, check for burns. While you are doing a visual check, be sure to look for plant stings (like cacti) and insect bites.
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The One That’s Neither Here nor There
You’ve all certainly seen puppies licking their parent when it returns from its quest for food. Research shows that usually, parent dogs prefer to eat all the food they find instead of carrying it back to their puppies in their mouth.
So when it returns, there are two reasons for the puppies licking their mother. One is, of course, they are happy to see the parent.
But the other reason is that grown-up dogs have a strong vomit reflex and the puppies want it to throw up some of its food for them. This half-digested food is actually said to be good for the babies.
Weirdly enough, it is possible that your dog wants you to do that. You might want to check if it is hungry.
What to Do?
Sometimes it takes time to figure out what the reason is. It could be time consuming and you might have to do this through elimination. Or it might be as easy as taking them to the vet.
How ever you choose to do this, just make sure you don’t ignore it. Although, if your pet is licking you excessively out of love, that is good news for everyone.