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Lick Mats for Canine & Cats: A Vet’s View


Over the previous 5 years, I’ve watched lick mats grow to be one of many customary instruments for treating nervousness and tedium in canines and cats. That’s very true for the branded model LickiMat®.

They’re a terrific assist, and I’m not going to let you know to not use them. However I would like you to watch out.

What Is A Lick Mat?

A lick mat is a textured flat floor made out of rubber, often with suction cups to connect it to the ground. The sample on the highest is designed to lure meals and make it exhausting to eat shortly. The purpose is to get canines and cats to spend their time in licking as a substitute of different undesirable behaviours, or to alleviate boredom and nervousness. Not like different gradual feeders, licky mats promote licking behaviour, as a substitute of meals looking for or foraging.

Makes use of For A LickiMat 

The makes use of being promoted for the LickiMat® on their web site embody:

  • Leisure & distraction
  • Discount of hysteria & stress 
  • Boredom buster 
  • Sluggish feeding
  • Uncooked feeding
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Bettering oral well being

A few of these makes use of make lots of sense. A lick mat is a good way to get a canine to tolerate disagreeable conditions like bathing, grooming, nail clipping and vet visits. That’s solely as long as your canine is extremely food-motivated.

You might additionally use it as an help to crate coaching and getting your canine accustomed to automobile journeys. It’s additionally a good way to alleviate stress in non permanent conditions, like fireworks and thunderstorms, or house owners leaving the home.

So what’s the issue? Firstly, a few of the claims make little or no sense.

Do Lick Mats Enhance Oral Well being?

LickiMat’s producers declare that by stimulating saliva manufacturing it may well clear the tongue, tooth and gums. Properly, as somebody who’s well-acquainted with the literature on what really retains pets’ mouths clear, this assertion lacks any foundation in actual fact.

Actually, the kinds of treats getting used on these mats ought to logically make periodontal illness worse, not higher. All the time keep in mind that periodontal illness in canines and cats follows the identical course because it does in people: you wouldn’t anticipate your tooth to be higher by licking peanut butter off a rubber tray both.

What concerning the declare that scraping the tongue freshens your pet’s breath? Ludicrous. I’ve been a vet for near 30 years, and I’ve by no means but seen unhealthy breath brought on by tongues!

Are Lick Mats Calming?

One in all my main considerations not simply with lick mats however extra typically is the distinction between being busy and being completely satisfied. Whereas I believe these merchandise are nice for stopping nervousness in annoying conditions, it’s a giant declare to say that such merchandise enhance nervousness that’s already current. As with my complaints about Adaptil and Feliway, such claims may cease canine and cat house owners selecting treatments that truly assist them.

Beware the producer declare that “the prolonged licking motion promoted by LickiMat releases a relaxing hormone”. To date there’s no proof for nervousness discount with lick mats or any ‘hormone’ being launched. Sure, a mat may preserve them busy and fewer liable to expressing anxious behaviours, however that’s not the identical factor.

These two complaints are minor quibbles in contrast with my considerations about security. Listed below are two methods.

Intestinal Obstruction & Hygiene

golden retriever at vet

Previously month now we have seen two animals want veterinary consideration on account of lick mats.

The primary is a canine referred to as Murphy. He was left alone with a lick mat for only a second, and promptly chewed it up and swallowed it. Fortunately his house owners instantly noticed what occurred and introduced him down. That’s his vomit within the image firstly.

The second is Tex the cat. He ate a bit of his lick mat with out anybody noticing. When he began vomiting, his proprietor realised what was flawed. That’s his x-ray under; the white rectangle in his stomach is the piece, now blocking his intestines.

lick mat in intestines

There’s additionally an image above of that piece matched with the remainder of the mat, after we took it out. With out main surgical procedure, he would have been in lots of bother. The identical might have been true for Murphy after all.

This could come as no shock. Vets have at all times mentioned that something flavoured like meals, however not digestible is extraordinarily harmful. So right here’s the newly up to date listing:

  • corn cobs
  • satay sticks
  • icecream sticks
  • meat wrapping
  • cooked bones
  • lick mats

How To Use Lick Mats Extra Safely

“You should absolutely practice your canine earlier than leaving her/him alone with a LickiMat.” So say LickiMat.

These merchandise are being promoted for pets left house alone, which in my opinion is insanity. Within the normal enthusiasm for something new, we’ve forgotten some primary guidelines.

cat in e collar
Tex recovering at house

It’s my robust view that no canine needs to be left alone with a lick mat. Even after ‘coaching’, no matter that’s. There’s no telling when a canine will get annoyed and simply chew it up. Cats is perhaps at a decrease danger, however Tex reveals us it may well nonetheless occur, particularly with the softer silicone merchandise.

One other factor: be careful that these mats are correctly cleaned after every use. That is notably vital when you’re utilizing them with uncooked meals. It could be good to purchase ones which can be dishwasher secure.

What Can I Use As a substitute Of A Lick Mat?

bob-a-lot treat dispenser

I’m not against utilizing meals as a distraction once they should be left. If you happen to do, I like to recommend gradual feeder bowls, Kong Wobblers, Bobalots and Nina Ottoson merchandise with lengthy observe data of confirmed security. Or you’ll be able to conceal meals round the home or backyard.

To be truthful, LickiMat make a ‘Tuff’ model, and even a keeper tray to make chewing more durable. However I’ve seen each the purple and black rubber Kongs destroyed and know solely too nicely how damaging a decided canine will be.

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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his group right here.

Andrew



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