Why Does My Dog Lick Metal Objects?

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If your dog licks metal objects, does that mean your canine companion is sick or obsessed?

Dogs lick many things, including your face and even the ground while you’re out walking. But why does my dog lick metal? Mostly, these behaviors are benign. However, licking metal objects can have a more sinister root cause.

Read this guide to find out why dogs lick metal objects and what you can do to prevent that behavior.

Why Does My Dog Lick Metal?

Here are some of the most common reasons why dogs lick metal objects.

Pica

Hungry dog licking metal

If your dog is obsessively licking metal objects that offer your pet no nutritional value, the most likely reason for that behavior is a medical condition called Pica.

The cause of Pica is not fully understood, but it’s thought to be a psychopathological condition. Pica manifests itself as an obsessional licking or eating of substances that have no nutritional value to the animal.

If you notice that your canine companion is obsessed with licking metal, you should speak to your veterinarian to rule out Pica. The vet will ask about your dog’s abnormal behavior and medical history before carrying out a standard physical examination. The exam might also include a blood count to determine if any health condition is causing the behavior.

What Causes Pica?

One of the reasons why Pica is so difficult to diagnose is that there is no one cause. Instead, there are a number of potential causes for your pet’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, including:

Dietary Imbalances, Including Anemia

Sometimes, a dietary imbalance such as anemia can cause your dog to obsess with non-food items such as minerals, iron, and other metallic-tasting items. That can lead to your dog craving metal and cause the obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Anxiety and Stress

Dog Separation Anxiety

Dogs that are stressed or suffering from problems such as separation anxiety can develop stress-related behaviors, including metal-licking.

Boredom

A dog that’s shut in a crate for hours with no form of entertainment will quickly become bored, and that can lead to attention-seeking behavior, including licking a metal crate.

The best way to cure that problem is to provide your dog with plenty of safe, interactive toys to keep occupied and distract him from licking his crate.

Depression

If a dog is miserable and depressed, he will often develop an obsessive-compulsive disorder, such as licking metal.

Parasites

Parasites, such as worms feed on the nutrients in your dog’s digestive system, depriving your furry friend of the nutrition he needs to remain healthy and happy. In response to that nutritional deficiency, the dog might start licking at the metal bars of his wire crate to replace those minerals and other nutrients.

If you think your dog has worms or other parasites, ask your vet for advice on a deworming treatment and program for the future.

Medical Conditions

Woman fights with pet Goldendoodle dog over toilet paper mess in kitchen

Some medical conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes, have been linked to Pica. Again, your vet will advise you on the best treatment for your dog if your pet suffers from any of these conditions.

Curiosity

Dogs learn about their surroundings and the objects in them by using their highly developed sense of smell. If the dog is still curious about what the object this and if it’s edible.

So, if you see your dog licking a piece of metal occasionally, it’s most likely nothing more than curiosity. That’s almost certainly the case if the dog only licks the metal object a couple of times and certainly doesn’t indicate an obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s unlikely that the dog is attracted to the metal itself but rather to something the pup can smell or taste on the object.

A curious dog is usually a happy, normal pup and you don’t have any cause to worry about your pet. However, we recommend that you keep an eye on your furry friend and mention any excessive licking to your vet in case some undiagnosed health condition is to blame.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Dogs understand that they don’t get their nutritional needs from metal, and metal is certainly not a dietary requirement. However, if your dog is suffering from a nutritional deficiency, he might lick metal objects in an attempt to get the nutrients he needs.

Your dog needs a cocktail of different minerals to thrive and remain in healthy physical condition. Those substances are basically chemical elements that are included in dog food and include simple compounds, such as:

  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorous
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc

Some of those compounds are essential nutrients for dogs. Others, such as zinc and iron, are considered trace elements. Dogs don’t need very much of those trace elements to remain in good health. However, if the animal is deprived of those trace elements, it can begin to suffer from a nutritional deficiency.

For example, if your dog doesn’t get enough iron in his diet, he might develop anemia over time. Iron deficiency can result from blood loss or problems with organs such as the duodenum. Other nutritional deficiencies can result in odd behavior, such as dogs licking paint, sand, concrete, soil,  and other materials.

Dietary Issues

It’s possible that your dog’s current behavior is caused by a mineral deficiency. Sometimes, an underlying health condition can make it impossible for the dog’s body to synthesize certain minerals. Your vet will be able to carry out tests to determine if that’s the case and to rule out an underlying health condition as a cause for the negative behavior. 

However, your dog’s compulsive behavior could also be caused by the lack of an adequate diet, ultimately causing a mineral deficiency.

Sometimes, your dog’s odd behavior can be remedied simply by changing his diet or his current dog food for a better quality product.

Compulsive Disorders

Pica, as well as other compulsive disorders that can cause nervous behavior and metal licking in dogs.

If you have concerns about your dog’s emotional behavior, have a chat with your vet to rule out Pica and find out how to help your metal-obsessed pup.

There Is Something On The Metal

Dog Holding Food Bowl with Mouth

Of course, if your dog sniffs out something potentially tasty on a piece of metal, licking the metal is perfectly normal behavior for all dogs. 

For example, if you’ve spilled food onto a metal surface, such as an outdoor dining table or barbecue, your dog might decide to tuck into the perceived nutrition he can smell.

You can prevent that type of behavior pretty easily by taking the time to clean up spills.

Lead Paint

Lead paint is actually illegal in most places because it’s regarded as a highly toxic substance that prevents a severe danger to health. However, you can still find lead paint in many locations. Unfortunately, lead paint is thought to taste a lot like strawberries, which can tempt dogs to lick anything painted with lead paint.

That can lead to dogs becoming obsessed with licking objects that are covered in lead paint, including metal, simply because the pup enjoys the taste.

If you see your dog obsessively licking a painted metal object around your premises, double-check that the paint isn’t lead-based, and if you’re unsure, remove the offending item.

How Can You Stop Dogs From Licking Metal?

If your dog persists in licking dirty metal objects, you’ll need to know how to stop him from doing that. Here are some top tips!

Make The Object Unappealing

Bitter Apple Spray for Dogs to Stop Chewing Furniture Paws e1649848975104

If your dog seems to enjoy the taste of metal, probably the easiest way to persuade your pet that licking metal objects is not a good idea is to make the metal taste horrible!

You need to choose something that’s pet-safe and that won’t damage the metal but that tastes disgusting to your dog. We recommend bitter apple as our go-to product for that purpose. The spray tastes revolting to your dog but won’t harm your canine companion or the metal. You could also try lemon juice, although that could cause the metal finish to corrode, so a commercially prepared product is most likely the better choice.

Distraction Techniques

Many dogs lick or chew their metal crate simply because they’re bored and frustrated. 

A tired dog is usually a well-behaved dog, so try giving your furry friend plenty of exercise before you leave him in his crate unsupervised. If your dog is exhausted from playing or romping with other dogs at the dog park, he’s more likely to go to sleep in his crate rather than indulging in compulsive behavior.

It’s also a good idea to provide your dog with lots of interactive toys to keep him engaged. Basic obedience training can help to keep the dog’s brain busy and distract him from his obsession with metal licking.

Remove The Metal Object

If there’s a particular thing or specific pieces of metal that your dog loves to lick, restrict your canine companion’s access to that item. For example, block inorganic metal objects that you can’t physically move with pieces of furniture so that your dog can’t get access to the metal.

Talk To Your Vet

Veterinarian checking up dog

Most dogs will lick metal on occasion. However, if your four-legged friend has a mental obsession, we recommend that you discuss your pet’s habit of metal licking with your vet. That can help to rule out a possible underlying health issue or mental condition, such as the condition of Pica. 

If your vet thinks that your dog’s habit of metal licking is merely exhibiting bad behavior, he might recommend that you seek help from a specialist animal behaviorist. Alternatively, if an underlying health issue is a likely cause, tests might be necessary to establish the cause of your dog’s compulsive issues. Sometimes, a diet issue or gastrointestinal issues can cause the problem. In which case, you’ll need to address the dietary deficiency by switching your dog to different food.

FAQs

In this section of our guide, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about your dog’s metal licking habit.

Q: Why Does My Dog Persist In Licking His Metal Cage?

Answer:

It could be that your dog’s crate has a pleasant taste that your pup enjoys, so he just keeps on licking. However, if your dog bites his crate, it could be that your pet is attempting to escape.

Dogs generally develop a compulsion issue or engage in obsessive behavior when they’re afraid or highly stressed. So, your dog’s metal licking habit could be an anxiety disorder. It’s also possible that your dog wants to lick metal because of a nutrient deficiency, so you might want to try changing his diet or including a supplement in his food.

Q: Is Licking Rust Bad For Dogs?

Rusty chain

Answer:

If your dog is obsessed with licking rusty metal surfaces, don’t worry about Pica too much.

Rust won’t harm your dog when ingested. However, rusty metal can have flaky, sharp edges that could injure your dog’s mouth and tongue. Also, rusty surfaces are porous and can harbor bacteria and dirt, which can lead to an upset tummy for your dog.

Q: Can My Dogs Contract Tetanus From Licking Rusty Metal?

Answer:

It’s actually a myth that dogs can contract tetanus from licking rusty metal. In fact, Clostridium tetani, the bacterium that causes tetanus, lives on many different surfaces. So, your dog could even contract tetanus simply from licking dirt and dust.

Generally, tetanus isn’t common in dogs. However, we still recommend that you discourage your dog from chowing down on a rusty pipe!

Final Thoughts

Did you enjoy our guide to why your dog might be licking metal? If you did, please take a few moments to share the article with other owners who are concerned about their pet’s behavior.

Generally, you shouldn’t worry too much if your dog is licking metal. Many dogs lick metal objects because they are curious and want to explore their surroundings. However, your dog might have a more serious obsessive disorder, such as Pica or some type of deficiency in his diet. So, if your dog is obsessed with licking metal, we recommend that you seek veterinary advice. Once you have a reason for the cause of your dog’s behavior, you can begin to treat the problem.

Does your dog have a habit of licking metal objects? Why does he do that, and how are you treating the problem? Tell us in the comments box below.

Meet our writer

Alison Page was brought up with dogs and various other pets! For a few years, Alison worked as a Practice Manager in a small animal veterinary clinic. Alison is now a full-time writer, specializing in creating articles on the care and training of dogs, cats, and fish.

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