Dogs licking their lips top lists of adorable things linked to these majestic canines.
Customarily, when a dog licks its lips, the usual assumption is that they smell something tasty, have been given a treat, or are angry.
When dogs continuously start licking and smacking their lips without food in the vicinity, it is natural to wonder what message they are trying to relay.
It is important to dig deeper and discover what could be troubling your dog.
What does it mean when dogs lick their lips?
Lip licking is a type of communication used by dogs to tell the owner how they feel or that something is happening around them that they perceive as a threat.
To keep off aggression from a person or other animals they deem as threats, a dog tends to lick its lips to calm and appease them.
Dogs can lick their lips when frustrated and confused, especially during dog training sessions.
They do this to signify having trouble grasping what is being taught. Yawning, ground-sniffing, or scratching accompany lip licking and are signs that the dog needs a break, and it is best to stop the training session.
However, when the excessive liking or drooling persists, and the dog starts looking uncomfortable, it could result from an underlying problem.
The problem could be nausea, mouth pain, pancreatitis, allergies, or oral discomfort.
At this point, keeping a close eye on your dog and contacting a veterinarian for a detailed cross-examination is advisable.
How much is too much lip-licking for a dog?
As normal as lip licking for dogs is, it becomes a problem when it comes to immoderate other than the usual licking when bored, nervous, anxious, or with something on their lips.
Uncontrollable lip licking can result in a wound if a spot is licked repeatedly.
Consequently, the wound can be infected and get itchy, prompting the dog to clean it instinctively.
Even when the wound is treated, the dog will keep licking it, preventing it from healing, and when treated using sutures, they will gradually wear off.
There are two possible causes of lip-licking for dogs; behavioural and medical:
- Behavioural causes:
- Attention seeking: If a dog has associated licking its lip with the owner petting it often, the dog will lick its lip.
- Sending an appeasing signal: When dogs perceive a possible threat, they lick their lips or yawn to show calmness and that they would rather not confront their fear.
- Anxiety: Confusion and probably a little frustration can make a dog lick its lip, especially during training or while exercising.
- Normal behaviour: when dogs anticipate food, feel dry, something sticks on their lips, or maybe a bug hits their mouth, they lick it up.
- Medical causes:
- Dehydration: Sick dogs who don't eat or drink and surfer from fluid losses (such as vomiting and diarrhoea) do lick their lips to relieve dryness.
- Nausea: This happens before vomiting. Dog hypersalivation causes them to lick their lips excessively. Some dogs may also start eating grass.
- Bites: insect bites from ants, spiders, ticks, or mosquitos can also cause lip licking in dogs.
- Oral discomfort: Swollen salivary glands and tooth decay can be signs of hidden severe conditions in a dog's mouth (such as oral ulcers, dental diseases, and mouth infections) and can lead to severe lip licking.
- Trauma: Cuts or punctures to the lips cause licking or scratching when infected and itchy.
- Seizures: Canine seizures exhibit different behavioural changes in dogs. While dogs with full grand-mal seizures will lie on their sides, dogs with partial seizures tend to lip uncontrollably.
- Foreign bodies: Foxtails (type of grass), bones, sticks, rawhides, or toys can prompt dogs to lick their lips when they get caught in their mouth.
- Unpleasant tastes: when a dog lice something new or unpleasant, the funny taste remains in their mouth, resulting in frequent lip licking.
Why is my dog licking a lot all of a sudden?
Dogs vary in licking; some do it less while others overdo it. When a dog starts licking a lot, suddenly, it automatically means something is wrong.
When a dog is restless (pants, salivates, yawns) and licking lips, it is likely anxious and fearful.
Also, when a dog licks its lips and sneezes, it may be a sign that it is bothered by allergies and irritants such as pollen, dust, cleaning chemicals, laundry detergents, flea medications, and mold.
In most unlikely cases, dogs lick their lips at night. This is mostly harmless as the dog may just be dreaming about food.
Moreover, when it becomes constant, it could be a matter of instinct to help the dog be calm, or it could mean an irregular or poor diet.
If a dog is licking its lips and swallowing, it signifies nauseousness that makes it drool.
The licking and swallowing help dogs get rid of the saliva. Some dogs may start eating grass to make them vomit.
What can you give dogs for licking?
Determining the underlying cause for your dog's lip-licking should be the prime thing to do, especially if it is a new behaviour.
Below are some basics on what to do when your dog keeps licking their lips:
- When your dog keeps licking its lips during training, try to give them a task they can understand and possibly give a reward when successful.
- When in social settings and your dog can't stop licking its lips, it is best to try and give them time to relax because they may be anxious.
- In instances when you're making food, and your dog keeps licking their lips, it is no situation to worry about as they want a tasty treat or are hoping you'll drop something on the floor for them.
- When a dog continuously licks its lip when there is no food nor a clear threat around, it is better to keep a watchful eye around them, for there may be something that makes them uneasy.
If you want to help a dog who licks for attention to stop licking, you can use the giving negative reinforcement technique.
You are to withdraw your attention from it whenever it starts licking its lips.
Another way is to schedule play time to prevent boredom. A dog owner should prioritise dog walks at least twice daily and scheduling playtime.
A dog licking its lips uncomfortable should send red flags to the owner, and a vet should be consulted immediately.
Examination by a veterinarian who would take a close look at the skin around the lips, face, teeth, and gums to rule out potential reasons for a dog's excessive licking of the lips is key.
As a dog owner, it is your job to get to the bottom of any condition troubling your dog and ensure that all tables are turned for good health.