Think about the last time you saw the ultimate ice cream sundae or a big juicy steak. Did you start salivating at the mere thought of such tasty food? If so, the increase in saliva likely made you lick your lips. The same goes for your dog. But humans that lick their lips habitually typically do it for other reasons. Is the same true for your pup?
Why Is My Dog Licking Their Lips?
Anticipating eating a mouthwatering meal is only one reason for licking lips. If your dog is licking and smacking their lips excessively, there’s likely more to it, especially if you notice other unusual behaviors. For example, your pup also licks the rug or the air, or perhaps they seem nervous or uncomfortable.
Your dog could be thirsty, feeling sick, or maybe licking has become a habit. Observing your pup to pinpoint patterns before they start a frantic lip-smacking session helps uncover the likely cause. However, knowing the possibilities is a good place to start.
Here are 10 common reasons for your dog’s constant lip licking.
1. Your Dog Is Ready to Eat
If your pup’s licking their lips every time you’re cooking dinner, the odds are good they’re hoping for a few morsels. Salivary glands start to work overtime and your dog begins licking to get rid of the excess saliva. Your dog may also continue to smack and lick their lips after they eat. This may also last a little while after they’ve finished eating.
And it isn’t just the actual food that makes your dog start drooling. According to Pavlov’s experiment, the anticipation (and saliva) starts to grow as soon as your dog starts recognizing the signs that mealtime is on the way. So, when your dog hears you shake the bag, open up the can, or start whipping up a batch of homemade dog food, they’re already dreaming of their future meal.
2. Licking for Stress-Relief
Licking is a classic doggy self-soothing tool. The act of licking releases endorphins that help your pet grow calmer. If your dog starts licking their lips excessively, it could be they’re trying to reduce anxious feelings.
If you think this is the case, you might notice that it happens during times your dog finds stressful. For example, going to the vet, visiting the groomer, or before bath time. An alternative to licking lips would be to get your pup a Neat-Lik or a toy that encourages licking, like the Rolly Cannoli.
Other behaviors your dog might use to diffuse stressful feelings are turning their head away or freezing. Yawning is another way dogs try to calm down. If your pup feels threatened, they may start licking and smacking their lips, softening their eyes, or turning their body away in an effort to show they aren’t a threat.
3. Your Dog’s Mouth Hurts
Mouth pain, whether from sore gums, tooth decay, an abscess, chipped or broken teeth, or more serious issues leads to extra saliva. The saliva helps provide your dog comfort and relief from their hurting mouth. But it also makes them lick and smack their lips more.
It’s essential to take care of your pet’s oral health, as it affects many other parts of your pup’s overall well-being. Regularly brush your dog’s teeth and stay on top of routine dental care visits with your vet.
4. Something’s Stuck in Your Pup’s Mouth
If you notice your dog licking their lips and drooling excessively, something might be stuck in their mouth. Your pup could have gotten hold of something while digging around in the backyard or even have a stray hair stuck to the roof of their mouth.
When this happens, your pet starts drooling more in an attempt to flush out the foreign object. They also may lick and smack as they try to rid their mouth of whatever is causing them discomfort.
Watch your dog carefully to see if they get the object loose. If they can’t do it on their own, or something is seriously stuck or caught in their throat, bring them to the vet immediately.
5. Your Dog Feels Sick
Feeling nauseous can also make your dog lick their lips a lot. When your pup feels sick and like they’re about to vomit, they make more saliva to lubricate their mouth and throat. Your dog starts smacking and licking to control all of the extra saliva.
Eating something unpleasant or motion sickness could make your dog throw up. However, food poisoning, worms, allergies, and other serious issues can also cause vomiting. If your dog only throws up once, they’re likely okay. But if your dog starts throwing up a few times, or is also acting differently, call your vet.
6. Dry Mouth or Dehydration
Another potential cause for licking lips is dry mouth. If your dog is dehydrated or has a dry mouth, they will start to produce more saliva to try and compensate for the loss of liquid. As the saliva increases so does the licking and smacking.
If you think your dog is dehydrated, look for other signs, including dry gums, a dry nose, appetite loss, and less energy. Other symptoms of dehydration are dark urine, decreased urination, excessive panting, and weakness.
7. Underlying Health Conditions
If your dog’s lip licking is constant, it could be a sign of an underlying health issue. Various diseases can make your pup feel nauseous, such as kidney or liver disease. Other problems could cause your pet lots of discomfort, so they lick to self-soothe.
Other things that could cause lots of licking are issues with your dog’s salivary glands. It’s vital to bring your dog to the vet if you notice them constantly licking their lips. Especially if the licking coincides with other unusual symptoms or changes in your dog’s behavior.
8. Your Dog Ate Something They Shouldn’t Have
Your pet might have eaten something toxic if you notice them suddenly licking and smacking their lips out of nowhere. Depending on what they ate, it could lead to nausea or other problems that make your dog lick.
If you suspect your dog ate something poisonous, call ASPCA Animal Poison Control, (888) 426-4435, or your vet immediately.
9. Attention-Seeking Behavior
In some cases, your pet’s lip-licking could very well be a habit. They might be trying to get your attention or have developed the quirk over time. If you typically show your dog a lot of attention whenever they lick their lips, then they’ll start to put two and two together.
10. Your Puppy Might Be Teething
If your dog is a puppy, the lip licking could be due to teething. Your dog’s licking and smacking their lips to relieve pain and discomfort. Teething usually occurs around 5 to 6 weeks old. However, if the licking persists, or you notice any other unusual signs, it’s worth contacting your vet.
Is Your Dog Licking Their Lips a Lot? When to Call the Vet
If your dog’s lip licking is occasional, see if you can pinpoint a direct cause, like getting ready to eat or heading to the vet. If so, it’s likely nothing to worry about. However, if you also notice nasal discharge, lethargy, appetite loss, weight loss, or other out-of-the-ordinary behaviors, call your vet. It’s best to rule out any serious issues.
For more helpful tips on taking care of your favorite, furry friend, check out the Neater Pets blog. Whether you want to know what makes your dog tick or how to spend quality time together, you’ll find all sorts of juicy tidbits.