When dogs lick their private areas, owners may feel embarrassed especially if they have guests over to witness the disconcerting sight. Yet, dogs have no sense of shame and just do what they have to do as it comes naturally. Keep tabs on the behavior though: If your dog though is licking his private areas excessively, you may want to schedule a vet visit.

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Many dogs lick their private areas, but there is licking and licking. An occasional lick can be just a response to a temporary itch, while excessive licking can be a sign that something may be wrong "down there." Veterinarian Dr. Ivana provides information on this behavior and provides a list of possible medical issues that may be the cause. 

Normal Licking Behaviors in Dogs 

Dogs are famous for their less than appealing behaviors. Licking the private parts, especially in public, is one of those less than appealing…well, better said, embarrassing behaviors. 

However, no matter how embarrassing it is for us, it is completely normal for our dogs. To put it bluntly: Males lick their penises, females lick their vulvas and both genders lick their anuses. That's just how it goes. 

In general, normal, physiological licking behaviors in dogs involving private parts fall under three main categories: licking due to grooming, licking due to heat cycles and licking out of motherly instinct. Let's take a closer look into each of these. 

Dog Licking Private Areas as a Form of Grooming 

Licking is an essential part of the dog’s grooming ritual and that includes licking the private parts too. However, the normal grooming behavior includes a moderate degree of licking. 

Dogs that lick their private parts due to grooming reasons do not focus intensely on the genitals – they just take a quick swipe and are ready to go. Passing sticky or watery stools can also be followed by moderate licking.

However, licking the private areas multiple times a day, too intensely and regardless of the urinating/defecating schedule is a good indicator something wrong is going on with your dog. So read on to learn some possible medical causes for this. 

Dog Licking Private Areas Due to Being in Heat 

Intact (non-spayed) female dogs lick their private parts excessively while in heat and this is considered a completely normal behavior. 

So, if you notice your intact female dog licking her privates frequently and intensely, check for vulvar swelling and bloody discharge. As the heat phase passes, the licking will decrease in both frequency and intensity.

It should be noted that licking the private parts in spayed, non-intact females is a cause of concern and requires veterinary attention.

Mother Dog Licking Her Puppy's Private Areas 

Mothers lick their pups’ genitals to stimulate peeing and pooping. This is a normal and instinctively wired behavior. Once the pups are done peeing or pooping the mother will once again lick them to clean them and remove the smell.

 In the wild, this is particularly beneficial since the smell of pee and poop attracts potential predators. 

As the puppies grow, you should start seeing this behavior less and less since puppies will learn to potty on their own without help. 

Abnormal Licking Behaviors in Dogs 

As mentioned, dogs will lick their private areas on occasion, but excessive and insistent licking should raise a red flag, suggesting that something medical may be going on. Following is a list of possible conditions for excessive genital licking behaviors in dogs. 

Localized Infections 

Dogs may excessively lick when they develop abnormal discharges which may be associated with certain infections. 

Female dogs can develop inflammation of the vagina (vaginitis), while male dogs can develop inflammation of the prepuce and penis (balanoposthitis). 

Both conditions are characterized by excessive production of foul-smelling discharge. In both cases, the vet will examine your dog, determine the causative agent and usually prescribe an antibiotic.

A Possible Sign of Cancer 

Cancer can affect several body parts and a dog's private areas aren't excluded. Neoplasias can develop in the dog's vagina or on the penis or prepuce.

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Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.