Concerned About Dog Licking Penis

by Miki
(Vancouver, WA)

I just adopted a Great Dane who was found wandering and never claimed. He was underweight and at a medical foster home for a week or two, but because he was clearly becoming attached to them (and doing well eating for them), the shelter decided to have him come to me before he finished putting on all his needed weight.

He is a sweet dog, but a very picky eater who would much rather be with people than food. He had VERY soft silky white hair covering most of his body, but rougher hair on his hind end. In the 5 weeks I've had him, his hair isn't so soft and silky any more (several Great Dane owners have told me he's just losing his puppy hair). I believe he wasn't an only pet before, because he seems to be more stressed out when I am gone to work than he was at the medical foster home with their 5 year old Dane.

I think he's licking himself a lot while I'm gone. His belly and inner thighs and penis are noticeably pinker (I am assuming it's hair loss showing the skin through more). He had diarrhea for a day or two when I first got him (I fed him exactly what the medical foster home was) which I assumed was from stress. I noticed that his penis seemed a bit brownish in the last inch or so ~ I thought this was from licking his anus and having fecal matter on his tongue which made the white hair on his penis brown.

Trouble is, he's only had one other bout of diarrhea and the "brownish" color isn't turning white so now I'm thinking it's blood stained or stained from a discharge? He doesn't have any noticeable bleeding, but his outer penis sheath seems irritated. The skin on his belly just above his penis is also getting irritated looking now and darker than regular skin pink. He isn't fixed yet, the shelter will do that soon before my adoption becomes official. The only other thing I've noticed is he often has an interrupted stream of urine. I assumed this was because he was carefully peeing just enough at each location to mark the spot and saving more for later places. If he hasn't been outside for a long period of time, he'll pee a lot with a full stream. He has had a drip on occasion from his
penis that doesn't really smell or seem any thicker than water.

Since he isn't fixed, I thought maybe he was licking himself for entertainment when I'm not home and irritating the skin. Any ideas? Do I need to hurry him in to the vet? I'm sure the shelter is waiting for a vet to have time to donate his surgery (including an eye surgery) so it's been a little longer than I thought for him to get in for that. I expected to talk with that vet about what I was seeing but starting to wonder if I need to do something sooner? He's active and happy and doesn't lick very much when I'm home. Eating "fine" very slowly putting on weight.

Any suggestions on keeping him from licking too much when he's home alone?

Veterinarian Suggestion


Your Great Dane sounds like a lucky guy for having found a dedicated owner like you! I don’t find any of the symptoms you describe disturbing enough to warrant an emergency trip to the clinic, but they are significant enough that you will eventually want to bring them up to a local veterinarian who can examine him. Since his case is somewhat complicated, I think you would be better off making a separate appointment rather than bring up your concerns at the time of his neuter. The doctor who is performing the surgeries that day could very well be too busy to fully investigate what is going on. Also, it usually best to get a dog’s skin cleared up before surgery to limit the chance of infection.

I can’t say exactly what is going on without more information, but a couple of thoughts spring to mind. The brown discoloration on your dog’s penis may simply be salivary staining. Dog saliva has a pigment called porphyrin in it that turns a reddish brown when exposed to air. This would fit with the licking you describe. I also wonder how big a role anxiety is playing here. If your dog were my patient, I would certainly want to run a urinalysis and a few quick tests on his skin first, but if the results came back normal, it would be interesting to start treating him for anxiety and see what happens.

Some over the counter products that might help are nutritional supplements like Anxitane and dog appeasing pheromone, which comes in the form of diffusers, sprays, and collars.

Best of luck,
Jennifer Coates, DVM

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