It never fails: You’ve settled in for the evening to watch a nice movie and during the quiet spots, you hear it…” smack… smack… smack.” It’s your dog, and once again, they’re licking their lips and they won’t stop. You check them out, and everything seems okay. But then, minutes later, they start right back up again.
What’s going on? Why does your pup lick their lips so much?
There are a lot of potential reasons why dogs continually smack and lick their mouths. Here are just a few of them, as well as information on whether or not you should consider taking your pooch to the vet.
The occasional lip smack is nothing to worry about. It’s perfectly natural. But, if the behavior happens on a regular basis, then your dog might have something wrong with their mouth. Your pup might have a swollen gland or tooth decay. Or your dog might even have something stuck in their mouth.1
Look for any signs of swelling under the tongue or along the jawline. If either of these areas is swollen, that will be an indication fluid has accumulated in the salivary glands. Get your dog to the vet as soon as you can if this is the case. The reason is that this is a problem known as a sialocele. While painless, it could lead to a potentially serious infection.2
Dogs sometimes drool excessively when they have an upset stomach. If your pup is experiencing nausea, they might start licking their lips in order to remove some of that extra saliva. If your dog is nauseous, they might also eat grass in order to vomit.
Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach becomes enlarged due to gas, the accumulation of fluid, or food. Symptoms of bloat typically come on suddenly. Bloat is an extremely urgent situation that can be fatal if not promptly treated. If your dog is licking their lips, drooling, retching, and pacing nervously, get them to the vet as quickly as possible.3
Many times, dogs lick their lips, not for a medical reason, but a behavioral one. Lip smacking can be a calming mechanism for dogs in response to a stressful situation. If you scold your dog for having an accident in the house, for example, they might look away from you and begin licking their lips. This is your pet’s way of telling you that they’re not a threat.4
Dogs might also lick their lips if they’re confused or frustrated. This often happens during training sessions, if the dog isn’t grasping what the trainer is trying to teach them.5
Complications of Excessive Licking
Some dogs lick their bodies so much that they cause injury. Obsessive licking can lead to a condition known as a “lick granuloma.” In extreme cases, dogs may literally lick themselves raw, removing all of their fur and causing severe lesions. Having a lick granuloma also puts them at risk for infection.6
When to See the Vet
If you have any reason to believe your dog is experiencing physical distress, or if you notice raw spots around their lips or anywhere else they’ve been licking, take them to the vet as soon as you can. This will be especially important if your dog normally doesn’t lick their lips but is suddenly doing it for an extended period of time.
Should You Let Your Dog Lick Your Face?
When you get a wet, loving dog lick right on your face, you probably don’t think about it a whole lot. But if you have an immune deficiency, you might want to try and avoid this type of encounter in the future.
The reason is that dogs’ mouths typically contain dangerous bacteria known as capnocytophaga canimorsus. This bacterium can, in rare cases, result in blood poisoning.7
Wrapping it Up
Most of the time, a dog licking their lips is a sign of submission. It’s often a dog’s way of trying to prevent a threatening situation from escalating.8 If, for example, someone is yelling at your pet, they might first lick their lips in order to get the yelling to stop. But if this passive behavior doesn’t solve the problem, your pup could potentially become defensive. The best thing to do when you see a dog licking their lips will be to give the dog some space so that they can feel more relaxed.
If your dog continues to lip smack, even though there’s no apparent threat, the reason could be physical rather than behavioral. Take your pet to the vet, so they can be thoroughly checked out.