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 licking their lips or ‘smacking’ their lips together repeatedly.
This is a question new dogowners have asked me dozens of times. That should tell you it happens more often than not. But, is that a good thing? Or should you be worried?
Why is my dog licking his lips?
Your doggo could be licking or smacking lips for several reasons like dehydration or salivation. They could even be bloated or nauseated. You should observe and diagnose further to identify the underlying cause.
Before jumping to 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 aggressively 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 before looking at our list of reasons 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
When dogs get thirsty or even genuinely dehydrated 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 doughnut 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 dogs treats then you can bet your bottom dollar that will be why.
Read More: Wet Dog Food For Sensitive Stomachs
3. They’ve just drank
Another innocent cause of lip-licking is that they’ve just drank water 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 ever 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 it’s not 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 them. If in doubt, you can always use a dog first aid pack.
- Martin Bucksch (Author)
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 its 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 they’re nervous (see also ‘Here’s Why Your Dog Has Suddenly Turned Aggressive, And How To Fix It‘). 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 its lips. Ingesting something toxic can lead to seizures and your dog licking 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 (see also ‘How To Take An Aggressive Dog To The Vet‘).
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 being 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.
Read More: Best Dog Food For Flatulence
Bloat or gastric dilatation-volvulus as it’s medically known is a deadly condition in 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 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 them 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 its 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 if they don’t have any other oral issues such as mouth ulcers. If they do, a trip to the vet is on the cards.
When should you be concerned?
Lip licking in dogs can be a normal behaviour, but it can also be a sign of distress or discomfort. Knowing when to be concerned about your dog’s lip licking can help you address any underlying issues and provide proper care for your furry friend.
- Anxiety or Stress: If your dog is frequently licking their lips and appears nervous or stressed, it could be a sign of anxiety or fear. It may happen from an environmental change, a traumatic experience, or something else.
- Wound: If your dog appears to be in pain, it may be a result of an unnoticed wound or mouth. It’s usually a foreign object lodged in their mouth rather than the mouth itself being hurt or broken.
- Excessive Licking Due to Seizure: Dogs can sometimes experience seizures, which can cause them to excessively lick their lips. This is because seizures can cause a temporary change in brain activity, which can affect the muscles involved in licking.
- Oral Issues: Dogs experience many oral health issues – from tooth decay and gum disease to mouth infections and tumours. Being vigilant is particularly important if you notice any signs of swelling, redness, or bleeding in your dog’s mouth.
- Lick Granuloma From Excessive Licking: Lick granulomas are skin injuries that can develop in dogs that excessively lick one area of their body, including their lips. This excessive licking can cause damage to the skin, leading to the development of a painful, raised lesion.
In conclusion, dogs licking their lips is a common behaviour, but it can sometimes indicate an underlying health issue or discomfort. Take your doggo to a vet immediately if you suspect any of the above issues are the cause of your dog’s recent behaviour.
How to stop your dog from licking its lips?
Step 1: Identify the root of the problem.
This behaviour can be caused by several factors that we have already discussed. Pinpointing the exact issue – physical or psychological – is the key to resolving the problem.
Step 2: Remove any irritants.
Next, remove any irritants that might be causing your dog to lick their lips. This can include any food, toys, or objects that are causing your dog to lick their lips. Wait and monitor if it stops / reduces the licking or not.
Step 3: Provide distractions.
Provide your dog with distractions to redirect their attention away from licking their lips. Give them a toy to play with, take them for a walk, or engage them in interactive play. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety and provide a positive outlet for your dog’s energy.
Step 4: Bribe them with a treat.
Offer your dog a treat to discourage licking their lips. This can help to create a positive association between the treatment and the cessation of lip-licking behaviour.
Step 5: Provide proper dental care.
Make sure your doggo’s oral hygiene is maintained properly. Brush their teeth regularly, provide dental chews and toys, and feed them a well-balanced diet.
Step 6: Seek veterinary assistance
If your dog’s lip-licking behaviour persists, despite your best efforts, seek veterinary assistance. Your vet can provide a diagnosis and treatment plan to help stop your dog from licking its lips.
Last update on 2023-10-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API