Seeing a dog licking its lips repeatedly after a tasty treat or cleaning its face of unwanted particles is perfectly normal. But what if this excessive lip licking is a frequent occurrence? Is this normal behavior in dogs, or is it a cause for concern?
Dogs who frequently lick their lips as if they have a glob of peanut butter stuck on their nose may do so for various reasons, some of which are harmless. However, excessive lips licking can also indicate a medical condition that should not be taken lightly.
This article examines why your dog is excessively licking lips and what (if anything) you should do about it.
Acme Canine is not veterinary advice & is not a substitute for veterinary guidance. If your dog is experiencing a health issue, contact a vet.
One of the most common reasons for excessive lip licking is your dog is experiencing anxiety. Various reasons may cause this, but most often, it is because they perceive a threat coming their way.
Your dog’s lip licking may be a sign of self-soothing and indicates that they would not like to confront the source of their anxiety. You may notice your dog excessively licking his lips when about to go in the car if they fear going to the vet or the groomers.
Your dog may also start frantically licking its lips when you come home, remembering that you have previously scolded them for leaving a puddle on the floor. This sadly indicates that your dog is anxious about being reprimanded, and the act of you coming home is signaling this memory.
Your Dog is Nauseous
Just as excessively licking furniture or eating grass may be a sign of nausea, so is your dog frequently licking its lips. When dogs are nauseous, they tend to drool excessively, lick their lips, and swallow to get rid of excess saliva.
Licking and gulping may signify that your dog has an upset stomach and could potentially mean that they have ingested something toxic. If you suspect that your dog has accidentally swallowed food that is toxic, take them to an emergency vet clinic immediately.
Your dog might be experiencing oral discomfort, including tooth decay, gum disease, and swollen salivary glands (a salivary mucocele). Your dog may also have something embedded in its mouth, causing significant discomfort.
If your furry friend’s oral issue makes them uncomfortable enough to lick their lips frequently, this requires immediate attention. Oral discomfort can quickly lead to problems such as trouble eating and possible bleeding from the source of the trauma. If you can see the cause of your dog’s oral issue or suspect oral discomfort is the reason for the licking, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
If you live in a western state such as California, you know what a Foxtail is. A foxtail is a type of diaspore, not unlike a burr, with the appearance of a spiky cluster of grass.
These pesky weeds can be found throughout North America and can travel exceptionally quickly. A foxtail can make its way into your dog’s mouth and down its throat within seconds. Foxtail seed heads do not break down in the body, making them incredibly dangerous to your dog. If your dog has accidentally swallowed one, you will notice them frantically licking their lips, swallowing and sneezing, trying to get rid of the painful intruder.
It’s essential to take your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect that they have swallowed a foxtail. If found early, a vet can usually remove these prickly pests easily. If left untreated, a foxtail will continue to travel deeper into your dog’s body, causing infection and even death if it travels through its internal organs.
Your Dog is Dehydrated
Smacking lips is a sign that your dog is dehydrated, and excessive drooling may be causing your dog to lick its lips and swallow repeatedly. Many factors can contribute to dehydration in dogs, including hot weather, heat stroke, and physical activity. Occasionally, dehydration can be brought on by a medical condition such as liver or kidney disease.
You can confirm if your pet’s obsessive licking is caused by dehydration by gently pinching its skin and lifting it as high as possible. If your dog is dehydrated, the skin will not snap back quickly. If they are dehydrated, it will slowly collapse or form the shape of a tent. Dehydrated dogs must be given copious amounts of water and taken to the vet if they begin to vomit, have diarrhea, or are lethargic.
Last, your dog may be trying to get your attention with their licking behavior. Do you give your dog extra attention every time they lick their lips? If so, your dog is using this to get you to take notice and receive some extra affection from you.
If you notice that your dog is licking and sneezing, this is most likely due to an allergy or irritant. Inhalant allergies are one of the most common signs of sneezing and licking. While swallowing a foxtail can cause these symptoms and must be tended to urgently, your dog may be experiencing environmental or household irritants.
These can include but are not limited to:
- Seasonal allergies (pollen, grass/weeds)
- Cleaning chemicals and laundry detergents
- Flea and tick medications
- Deicing salts
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While excessive lip licking can be as harmless as seeking attention, it can also be a symptom of an urgent condition, such as swallowing a spiky weed or an object lodged in your poor dog’s gums. Immediately get to the root of the issue if you notice your dog frequently lip licking, so you can get your pup feeling back to normal as soon as possible.
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