Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of tired, crazed dog owners in the clinic, and they are all suffering from Slurpophrenia. Correctly diagnosing and treating the cause of this disease will lead to happy dogs and happier owners. Dogs that cause Slurpophrenia usually fall into 3 categories—the bored, the anxious, or the allergic.
Some dogs will repeatedly lick their feet to alleviate boredom. These dogs typically start the slurping when you settle down at night to watch television. Since your dog doesn’t want to watch TV, he needs something to do. While compulsively licking, his body releases chemicals that relax him. These endorphins are the dog’s natural narcotic, and some dogs seem to get hooked on them!
To break the cycle of licking, you must deal with your dog’s boredom. Often, obsessive dogs will stop licking if they are given enough exercise. Tire him out, and he won’t have the energy to be bored or lick! Also, provide him with a special toy or a chew bone that he only gets in the evening. It will become part of his routine, and he’ll look forward to it.
Nervous dogs will lick to relieve their anxiety. The licking behavior seems to give these stressed dogs something else (besides their worries) to focus on. This behavior is very similar to a child who sucks his thumb—a dog’s licking is a reassuring behavior, and this encourages him to do more licking.
If your dog’s licking is driving you crazy at specific times—when you are leaving for work or another pet is nearby or when it is mealtime—these can all be signs of anxiety. Once again, recognizing the underlying cause of the behavior is the key to stopping it.
Allergies are the number one cause of Slurpophrenia. When a dog has allergies, his skin is itchy and it drives him crazy! Most allergic dogs will scratch and chew all over their bodies, though they tend to pick on a couple of specific areas (over the rump, ears, bottom of feet).
Dogs are susceptible to all kinds of allergies from hay fever to fleabites to grass allergy. Often, owners will give their dog an anti-histamine to help their itchy, slurpophrenic dog. Unfortunately, anti-histamines don’t help dogs with allergies. Instead, these drugs just make dogs sleepy. Though a dog on anti-histamines may scratch less (because he is sleepy), the itchy and inflamed skin hasn’t been treated.
Oatmeal based shampoos can quiet down a dog’s allergic skin condition for a few days, and hydrocortisone sprays can also help. However, hydrocortisone lowers the skin’s resistance to bacteria, so your dog may scratch less and stink more if his skin becomes infected.
In many cases, allergies are controlled with anti-inflammatory pills or injections. After receiving an anti-inflammatory treatment, most dogs go home and sleep soundly for a few days. Apparently, Slurpophrenia affects your dog’s sleeps as much as your own! Whether your dog is bored, anxious, or allergic, proper diagnosis and treatment for Slurpophrenia can allow everyone in the household to get a good night’s sleep.