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Why Do Dogs Lick Their Lips? 8 Vet-Verified Reasons and Facts

Written by: Adam Mann

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Dogster Team

Rotweiller sitting looking at the camera licking its lips

Why Do Dogs Lick Their Lips? 8 Vet-Verified Reasons and Facts

VET APPROVED

Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs are interesting creatures in so many ways, and their behaviors are often how they communicate with us. So, what does it mean when they keep licking their lips?

The truth is that dogs lick their lips for several reasons. Sometimes, it’s nothing serious, and other times, it warrants an immediate trip to the vet. It’s vital to determine the cause, which is why we discuss everything that you need to know here!

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The 8 Reasons Dogs Lick Their Lips

1. Dental Problems

vet checking dog teeth
Image Credit: Tsuguliev, Shutterstock

One of the most common reasons your dog suddenly can’t stop licking their lips is that they have a dental problem. Dental issues can cause pain and inflammation, which can lead to the increased production of saliva. So, your dog may lick their lips more often as a way to keep from drooling.

If this is the reason your dog can’t stop licking their lips, you’ll need to contact your veterinarian for a checkup. Your dog might need medication and a professional cleaning to get them healthy again. An injury in their mouth can also cause dental pain, and if that is the case, take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.


2. Anxiety

Your dog licking their lips may be a sign that they are anxious or stressed. Many things can cause anxiety and stress in dogs, and the best treatment is finding the cause and trying to decrease it. You can also try to desensitize your dog to the stressor by exposing them in small doses and offering praise and comfort until they become more comfortable with it. For example, having visitors may make your dog anxious, so start by having people they know come over, praise and reward them for calm behavior, and then work up to having not-so-familiar people visit.

It can also help if you redirect them to something positive, such as a toy, to help calm them down. If your dog struggles with severe anxiety, your vet can prescribe calming medications and discuss how you can alleviate the stress.


3. Nausea

Boston Terrier dog drooling and dribbling
Image Credit: Sue Thatcher, Shutterstock

Nausea can increase the amount of saliva produced in the mouth, causing a dog to lick their lips or even drool. Other common signs include excessive swallowing, not eating or starting to eat and then turning away, whining or crying, and having a hunched posture.

If you suspect that your dog is feeling nauseated, try to find the underlying reason. It may be from motion sickness if they’ve been in a car, due to ingesting a toxin, or from an illness. If your dog is nauseated for longer than 24 hours or you see any other signs, like vomiting or diarrhea, see your vet.


4. Something in Their Mouth

You know how you can’t stand the feeling when there’s something stuck between your teeth? The same can be true for your dog. If they have a foreign object stuck in their mouth, they may try to do everything they can to get it out.

If you can safely examine their mouth, do so to see if there’s an object you can remove. However, unless it’s something minor, like a seed stuck in their teeth, it’s better to take them to the vet’s office to have it removed.


5. Dehydration

Thirsty dog drinking water from plastic bottle in owner hands
Image Credit: Zhuravleva Katia, Shutterstock

Dehydration can occur if your dog hasn’t had enough to drink or has been losing a lot of fluid from panting, vomiting, or diarrhea. Your dog may lick their lips to spread moisture. Minor dehydration is usually easy to address and fix, as long as it’s not related to another health issue. Giving your dog water will hydrate them, but if they also have diarrhea or other concerning signs, a veterinary visit may be in order.

Your dog should always have access to fresh and clean water. This ensures they get enough throughout the day when they need it because it doesn’t take long for dehydration to lead to other medical problems, which can be fatal.


6. Allergies

Like humans, dogs can have seasonal allergies. They could have allergies to something in their environment or in their food, and the correct course of action will depend on what they’re allergic to. Lip licking may be their way of responding to the irritation around their mouth or nose.

You might need to switch up their diet, provide medication, or change the detergent you use to clean the cover on their dog bed, but your first step should be to visit your vet to help you figure out what they’re allergic to.


7. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Black French bulldog paw licking tongue
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

Dogs can develop certain behaviors out of boredom, anxiety, or compulsion. Excessive lip licking may be one of those behaviors. If you can find the underlying cause, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, try to fix it. This may mean giving them more exercise or mental stimulation or relieving their anxiety.

In some cases, you may not find the reason, but as long as they aren’t causing themselves any harm, their lip licking may just be another quirky part of your dog. Always check with your vet first, though.


8. Attention-Seeking Behavior

If your dog has started to pick up on the fact that you start paying more attention to them when they lick their lips, they could start exhibiting this behavior simply to get your attention.

The best thing you can do if you think this is the case is to ignore the behavior but ensure that you rule out all other potential causes before you start ignoring it. The last thing you want is to think that they just want attention when there’s really an underlying medical condition you need to address!

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When to Seek Medical Attention

Just because your pup licks their lips a few times doesn’t mean you need to rush them straight to the vet. However, it does mean you should take a little time to figure out what’s going on.

Lip licking can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, and in this situation, it can be critical to get them to the vet as soon as possible. But if the behavior stops after a few minutes and you don’t see any other signs, it’s usually not anything you need to worry about.

If the behavior is new and sudden and you can’t figure out what’s going on, take them to the vet. They might’ve eaten something they shouldn’t have or have another serious medical issue going on. When in doubt, play it safe and take them to the vet!

male veterinarian examining labrador retriever dog at vet clinic
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

You know your dog better than anybody. So, if you suspect that there’s something wrong, there probably is. Trust your gut, and if you think there’s a problem, take your pet to a vet.

But if they’ve always licked their lips and they’re happy, it could just be something they enjoy doing, and there’s nothing to worry about!


Featured Image Credit: Viktoria Rak, Shutterstock

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