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Lick mats are a simple, inexpensive piece of flexible rubber with ridges and grooves that encourage your dog to eat more slowly. He must lick up his food instead of bolting it down. As a result, lick mats are good for his digestion and oral health. And they’re easy to use because dogs like to lick—they’ll even lick you.
Lick mats were invented in Australia and sold under the brand name LickiMat. Now, though, these mats are available in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and (of course) colors. You can get flat lick mats, bowl-shaped lick mats, even lick mats that wobble. Prices range from $2.99 to $22.99 or more, and they are widely available at retailers like Chewy, Amazon, and local pet-supply stores.
Why Use a Lick Mat?
A lick mat’s primary purpose is to slow down dogs who eat too fast and become bloated or nauseous because of it. The ridges and channels force the dog to lick up wet foods or treats, instead of gulping them down.
Licking has been scientifically linked to the release of feel-good hormones. A lick mat reduces a dog’s anxiety because the repetitive act of licking causes the dog’s body to release relaxing hormones called endorphins. Some people use lick mats and the endorphin release as a training aid for issues like separation anxiety or anxiety about meeting other dogs.
Licking also causes dogs to produce saliva, which promotes better digestion and cleans the dog’s tongue and gums, thus promoting better oral health. Of course, all these benefits only come if you have a food-motivated dog. Fortunately, most dogs are food-motivated!
Lick mats are made of non-toxic rubber, and the flat ones are difficult, if not impossible, to chew. Lick mats work well with wet dog food and with sticky treats. Some folks even use them with dog toothpaste.