I have one concern, however: He licks the carpet a lot. I wonder if he might need something else in his diet, or if it might be an emotional issue. How do I correct it? Thank you for any advice you may have and for your columns, which I read regularly.
— L.S., Cresaptown, Md.
Dear L.S.: You are correct that your old dog’s obsessive licking behavior could have an emotional basis or another cause. Physical discomfort (for various reasons ranging from cancer and arthritis to dental or chronic digestive problems) can lead to comfort seeking and stress-relieving licking and chewing — sometimes a paw, other times the edging of carpet.
I would advise a full veterinary examination and take it from there. Digestive enzymes, probiotics, safe chew toys or a piece of raw beef shank bone may be beneficial, depending upon the outcome of the examination and what conditions are suspected of causing his obsessive behavior.
Don’t rule out boredom and the need for more activity and stimulation, which may be facilitated by seeing to his comfort. He may be less active because of arthritis pain or from being overweight, conditions which could be at the root of his discomfort.
Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.