Dogs are a breed with many different traits and habits that humans don’t have so it can be difficult to know why they may do a certain action, one of these actions that many dogs do throughout the UK is lick their lips or ‘smacking’ their lips together repeatedly. Here at Jugdog.co.uk we’ve been asked and answered many of life’s mysterious canine related question and this one was sent to us by Zak, 19, from Basingstoke; he’ asks: “Sometimes my dog will smack his lips for a few minutes in a row and we’re a bit concerned as it doesn’t seem like a one off. Why does my dog lick his lips?“.
First of all, thanks for the question Zak. As a growing online dog community we’re always on hand to give people help and advice and if there’s any question that can’t be answered quickly that’s when we’d write a big post like this to help any others who need answers to the same question.
So, let’s jump straight into the answer!
Why is my dog licking his lips?
- Why is my dog licking his lips?
- 12 Reasons why your dog is licking their lips
- This is why your dog licks their lips
Before jumping into conclusions and looking for the cause and a cure, make sure you’ve considered everything before you jump in.
- What was your dog doing before they started licking their lips?
- How aggressive is your dog licking their lips?
- Does your dog have any other strange symptoms at the same time?
- Is your dog licking their lips and looking at you or are they alone?
It’s only natural to fear the worst when your dog is behaving oddly but there’s no need to panic. Consider the above first before looking at our list of reasons why your dog might be licking their lips. We’re not about scaremongering at JugDog, we’re dog owners ourselves remember!
12 Reasons why your dog is licking their lips
Here’s a quick list of reasons why your dog is licking their lips, please click on the reason to find out more about it
- They’ve just eaten
- They’ve just drank
- Sore lips/nose
- They are nervous
- Partial seizure
- In pain
- They want attention
- They’re salivating
- Something is stuck in their mouth
This is why your dog licks their lips
Here are some detailed answers to why your dog is smacking their lips
When dogs get thirsty or even genuinely dehydrated (click here for tips on hot weather and dogs) then they will begin to lick their lips to keep them from cracking and drying even further. I bet when you get thirsty and notice your lips are usually the first to go you’ll use your saliva to keep them moist until you can find a source of water, dogs will do the exact same thing and even extend to licking their nose to keep that moist as well.
This is an easily cured and preventable condition, simply make sure they have fresh water in their bowl and that they know where it is!
2. They’ve just eaten
Dogs who have just eaten some food which contains wet food in particular may lick their lips afterwards, my dog certainly does. We’re guessing that the dog eats the food quite vigorously and quickly that they get the food all over their face and the licking is just to clean up afterwards. Similar if you eat a jam donut and get the jam around your face, some may clean with a tissue while others (like dogs) will try and lick it all off.
There’s no solution to this one, if your dog is licking their lips shortly after a meal or a few dog treats (read up on our recommended best dog treats) then you can bet your bottom dollar that will be why.
3. They’ve just drank
Another innocent cause of lip licking is that they’ve just drank and they’re just cleaning up the loose water from their face. Everyone wants equilibrium so it’s only natural to lick the lips if they get too wet.
4. Sore lips/nose
Have you every had chapped lips or a cold sore and found yourself unable to stop tonguing the area? Well, dogs can get that feeling too! If your dog’s licking his lips often check the lip and nose area for any signs of injury. Dogs get their noses in all sorts of places and its no uncommon for them to get hurt from time to time. Some reasons for injuries can be fighting with other dogs, sticking their nose in stinging nettles, sniffing hedgehogs etc…
These injuries will almost always heal themselves quickly so don’t panic if you see it. If in doubt, you can always use a dog firs aid pack.
Nausea (feeling sick, or about to be sick) is a common cause for our JugDog Jeff to lick his lips and it’s a sign that he is about to vomit as the build up saliva in his mouth becomes too much. When the body needs to expel the bad stuff in their belly (such as when they’ve eaten grass) it will send saliva to the mouth first to protect the mouth from the incoming acid vomit. This is what starts to make them lick their lips and may lose their appetite for a short amount of time.
If your dog licks their lips be on guard to escort them somewhere to vomit so it doesn’t get on a sofa or carpet. Once the deed is done be sure to investigate what caused them to through up in the first place, you may even see the cause in the vomit itself if it hasn’t been digested.
Being nervous about something or someone can lead to some dogs licking their lips as a response. Although not overly common as dogs tend to tuck their tails and look away or sometimes be aggressive when their nervous. If your dog’s licking their lips and clearly in a nervous situation then we’d assume that’s the cause.
7. Partial Seizure
A partial seizure or ‘simple’ seizure can be a rare cause for a dog to lick their lips. Ingesting something toxic can lead to seizures and your dog to lick their lips uncontrollably along with other symptoms such as excessive drooling, fast breathing and foam emerging in the mouth. If your dog is suffering from all of those symptoms then we advise a visit to the vet immediately
8. In Pain
Dogs who have suffered an injury and are in pain can lick their lips as a coping mechanism along with other symptoms of course such as whimpering, bleeding and unable to rest. You may be aware of the injury and the dog simply needs to rest with pain medication from the vet or you may not have noticed and now need to take them to the vet. Licking lips alone will never be the symptom of a dog being in pain.
Bloat or gastric dilatation volvulus as it’s medically known is a deadly condition to dogs that can in some cases lead to death. Bloat is caused when a stomach is filled up with gas, food or fluid making it expand and crush into other organs in the body which can restrict blood flow, tear the stomach walls and breathing difficulties. Licking their lips is a symptom as attempting to vomit unsuccessfully is a symptom but you are likely to know about bloat well before then.
We recommend taking your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect bloat and to not resort to home healing or ‘waiting it out’. This is more crucial if your dog has moved on to have pale gums, a rapid heartbeat and collapsing.
10. They want attention
Sometimes dogs do silly things purely to get some attention off you for a belly rub or some cuddles. Why does my dog keep licking his lips? They might just be needy.
If this is unwanted behaviour then just make sure to not give in and give them the attention they crave, however we don’t personally think there would be anything wrong with giving in from time to time. One problem is though that if it’s regular behaviour but at one point they do it because there is something up it could cause confusion and a delay in treatment if they need it.
11. They’re salivating
Dogs and humans who are salivating (getting a wet mouth) lick their lips to try and wipe it away. Causes of salivation are varied by can be brought on by being excited such as looking at their favourite meal get prepared.
12. Something stuck in their mouth
Does your dog have something stuck in their mouth and they’re just trying to use their tongue to fish it out? Quite possibly! If your dog’s licking his lips then do some or oral checks and see if anything has lodged in their teeth or that they don’t have any other oral issues such as mouth ulcers. If they do, a trip to the vet is on the cards.
Ronnie is the JugDog site editor and a dog expert who has lived and worked with dogs his entire life. Living in St. Helens, UK with his wife son and Jug Dog Jeff Ronnie spends most of time researching the answers to the burning questions of the dog community as well as reviewing the latest and greatest dog products.
Last update on 2020-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API