Why Does My Dog Lick Metal?
[A Complete Guide]

By kropek2021. • Updated July 1, 2021

You might have asked yourself, “Why does my dog lick metal?” after seeing them doing this odd behavior. Not all dogs exhibit this problem, but our canine companions sometimes do things that lead us to ask a question about their health.

If your dog has been licking metal, there are some reasons that this behavior might be a thing they are doing. It can indicate something related to a medical condition or a sign of a nervous habit. There are other reasons that your pet might be licking as well.

Medical Reasons Your Dog Would Lick Metal

All too often, licking metal is a sign of a health condition. If you think that your dog has been showing this behavior frequently, you should take them to a veterinarian to be examined. Our canine companions can develop this habit due to various conditions that need a vet to help care for them.

Pica is a health problem that happens when a dog is licking items that are not food. It might be metal surfaces or tools, or even something like paint chips. If your dog seems to have a taste for items that are not for eating, it could point to something that a vet should see them for.
Lead paint and rust are both toxic to dogs, so if your pet is licking a painted wall or an old rusty tool in the yard, you should prevent them from accessing these surfaces. This is one of the reasons that diagnosing the cause of your dog licking metal is essential. 

Licking can also be a sign of a nervous habit. While this type of behavior is not a sign of a true physical condition, it can still point to an emotional disorder. Some dogs are naturally more worried than others, and it is easier to teach them to be calm than you might think.

Treatment for Licking Metal

Pica is treated by taking a blood sample and see if something is missing in your dog’s diet. A vet can give you another food for your pet or a supplement to alleviate the symptoms of this health condition or deficiency. This is a very treatable health issue.

Emotional behavior that leads to excessive licking is harder to treat. Your veterinarian will have a discussion with you about the sort of training that you can use to break this habit. You may also be given a new diet for your dog or medication to help with these problems. Just like people, some dogs cannot overcome their nervous behavior without some supportive care.

Boredom can also be an issue that leads to nervous licking. If your dog is alone, many of them need more exercise; they may lick things just to entertain themselves. Obsession sometimes stems from issues related to being bored.

Boredom is the easiest of these conditions to alleviate. All that is required is some of your time and a leash for a walk or a toy to throw. Dogs are always healthiest when they get enough attention and exercise.

Other Medical Conditions Connected with Licking Metal

There are a few other health problems that might be connected to this behavior. Dog health questions are always best asked of a veterinarian. These are more serious conditions and should never be treated without guidance from a vet.

Iron deficiency, or anemia, can happen due to hookworms. This is more common in pups but can affect older dogs as well. Animals will lick metal when they are trying to get iron into their bodies. A vet will treat this condition with wormer medication that kills the infestation and makes your dog healthy again.

Diabetes has also been linked to obsession-based licking. This disorder causes severe imbalances in blood sugar and can make a pet think that it needs iron to feel better. This health problem cannot be treated without a change in diet and diabetes medications.

Stomach tumors and Inflammatory Bowel Disease can also lead a dog to lick paint or something metal in the house. The connection to these conditions is less clear, but the behavior might be because these health problems often cause mineral deficiency.

Hyperthyroidism can also cause metal licking in dogs. This is also diagnosed with a blood test and then treated with adjustments to diet and medications. This problem may also lead to bad breath, so treating it with the help of a vet can make your dog’s breath significantly better.

Do Dogs Lick Things Normally

The answer to this is yes; dogs use their tongues to explore the world and learn about their environment. The difference between ordinary licking and obsessive behavior is frequency.

If your dog licks a shovel in the backyard once, that is just a normal part of them checking out the things around them. If your dog stands near this tool and tastes it over and over, that is probably a sign of other issues.
Always remember that a healthy dog will not do the same activity repeatedly for many minutes at a time. Excessive focus on any one kind of action is not normal and is cause for concern. This can be harder to define in puppies, who tend to repeat behaviors because they are learning about life.

If your puppy is not also running and playing or is not interested in anything but metal objects near them, that is a sign that there is something more serious going on.

How to Train Your Dog Not to Lick Metal

If you have taken your dog to a vet to be examined and there is no sign of a health condition, you will need to answer how to correct this behavior. It is bad for your dog to like paint and other objects like radiators or garden tools.

As with many other types of training, teach your dog to stop licking metal is often a matter of persistence. Ensure you keep an eye on the places they like to lick and remove the objects if you can.
Teach your dog to stop licking by redirecting their attention to food, a trick, or an activity. Reward the good action with a treat. You can reinforce this training with a verbal command. Once you have trained your pet about the right way to act, you can use the word of the command to prevent further bad behavior.

 

 

Even throwing a ball for your dog to distract them from licking can diffuse this bad habit and break it. Dogs who are prone to obsessive behavior often just need a better way to focus their energy. Offering them a physical outlet can give them a place to channel their excess of focus into a more useful activity.

If you have questions about how to reinforce good actions to make a habit, you should contact a dog trainer with your questions. Dogs respond best to consistent and clear training goals, so a good starter is to get help from a professional.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line related to dogs licking metal is that it usually happens because of a health condition. You should always take your dog to see a vet before assuming that they are licking paint or other objects out of boredom. It is never wise to ignore potential serious disorders in favor of an easy solution.

Most of the conditions that are related to dogs being interested in metal are very treatable. Pica and anemia can usually be treated with vitamins or a series of shots. Some of the more serious conditions linked with licking metal may not be as easy to treat, but your vet will help you work on solutions for the problem
Whether your dog is licking metal due to a physical or a mental condition, it is always a good rule of thumb to see a vet first. If there is no medical problem going on, you can get a dog trainer’s help. 

Keeping your dog happy and healthy can sometimes take a bit of work, but our canine companions will shower us with love in return. It really is a small thing to make sure that they get the best care possible.