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

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

They’re a fantastic 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 entice meals and make it arduous to eat rapidly. The intention is to get canine and cats to spend their time in licking as an alternative of different undesirable behaviours, or to alleviate boredom and nervousness. In contrast to different sluggish feeders, licky mats promote licking behaviour, as an alternative of meals searching for or foraging.

Makes use of For A LickiMat 

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

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

A few of these makes use of make quite a lot 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 can additionally use it as an assist to crate coaching and getting your canine accustomed to automotive journeys. It’s additionally a good way to alleviate stress in non permanent conditions, like fireworks and thunderstorms, or homeowners leaving the home.

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

Do Lick Mats Enhance Oral Well being?

LickiMat’s producers declare that by stimulating saliva manufacturing it might clear the tongue, enamel and gums. Effectively, as somebody who’s well-acquainted with the literature on what truly retains pets’ mouths clear, this assertion lacks any foundation in truth.

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

What in regards to 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 dangerous breath brought on by tongues!

Are Lick Mats Calming?

One among my main issues not simply with lick mats however extra typically is the distinction between being busy and being comfortable. Whereas I feel these merchandise are nice for stopping nervousness in demanding conditions, it’s an enormous declare to say that such merchandise enhance nervousness that’s already current. As with my complaints about Adaptil and Feliway, such claims would possibly cease canine and cat homeowners selecting treatments that really assist them.

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

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

Intestinal Obstruction & Hygiene

golden retriever at vet

Up to now month now we have seen two animals want veterinary consideration because 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 homeowners instantly noticed what occurred and introduced him down. That’s his vomit within the image at first.

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 quite a lot of hassle. The identical might have been true for Murphy after all.

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

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

How To Use Lick Mats Extra Safely

“You have to totally practice your canine earlier than leaving her/him alone with a LickiMat.” So say LickiMat.

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

cat in e collar
Tex recovering at residence

It’s my sturdy view that no canine must 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 may be at a decrease threat, however Tex exhibits us it might 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 essential if you happen to’re utilizing them with uncooked meals. It might be sensible to purchase ones which might be dishwasher protected.

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 after they must be left. If you happen to do, I like to recommend sluggish feeder bowls, Kong Wobblers, Bobalots and Nina Ottoson merchandise with lengthy monitor data of confirmed security. Or you’ll be able to cover meals round the home or backyard.

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

Have one thing so as to add? Feedback (if open) will seem inside 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his crew right here.


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