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Why Dogs Sometimes Lick their Lips Excessively

Updated on October 26, 2015
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Adrienne Farricelli is a former veterinary hospital assistant and now a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant and author of dog books.

Why is my dog licking his lips and drooling?
Why is my dog licking his lips and drooling?

One day, out of nowhere, your dog starts licking his lips, as if he had some peanut butter on his nose. At first it looks like heis just momentarily annoyed or distracted by something, but as time goes by the licking persists and your dog starts looking uncomfortable.

Perhaps your dog will also try to lick the carpet or the floor, or lick the air, as if in an attempt to get rid of something. He may be drooling, too, more than usual. Concerned, you take a look at your dog's nose, gums and teeth. All seems normal. Yet the behavior continues. You take your dog out, and he starts to frantically eat grass, almost like a cow. So what is going on?

Of course, dogs may drool for obvious reasons: for example, if they see food, or they are a breed prone to drooling. Or a dog sometimes licks his lips to try to calm himself: for example, if he is anxious about something you are doing.

But lip-licking and drooling may also be caused by abnormal medical conditions.

Possible Medical Causes of Lip-Licking and Drooling

Your Dog May Be Nauseous

In some cases, dogs lick their lips because they are nauseous. The nausea makes them drool, they may lick their lips to get rid of excessive saliva, and they may eat grass, a natural way to make themselves vomit. Drooling may mean your dog ate something that didn’t agree with his stomach, or worse, something toxic.

Your Dog May Have a Case of Bloat

If the dog drools, paces nervously, and retches, but nothing comes out, the dog should be seen by a vet immediately as this can be a symptom of bloat. Bloat is an enlarged stomach, caused by food, fluid, or gas, that can come on suddenly and is seen mostly in deep-chested dog breeds. It can be dangerous, even fatal, if not treated by a vet.

Your Dog May Have Oral Discomfort

Something wrong in a dog’s mouth can cause oral pain and discomfort. Owners should check for signs of tooth decay, periodontal disease, objects embedded in the mouth, or swollen salivary glands.

In particular, owners should look under the dog's jawline or under the dog's tongue for swelling. These are the locations of the salivary glands. If such areas appear swollen then this may be an indication of accumulated fluid in the surrounding tissues, known as a sialocele. This condition needs to be seen by a vet promptly. An owner may be able to inspect the teeth, tongue, and gums, but it can be difficult to see the larynx. A vet may have to sedate the pet so he or she can see over the soft palate.

Your Dog May Have Swallowed a Foxtail

Foxtails are awns (spiky grass seeds), known to cause a lot of trouble in dogs. These seeds have been known to travel up the dog's nose, into the ears, between the toes, and even into the lungs. If your dog swallowed a foxtail, very likely she will appear panicky, swallowing frequently, licking her lips a lot, and eating anything she finds on the ground (grass or leaves, for example). She may also lick the floor, people, or walls for comfort.

If you think your dog swallowed a foxtail, see a vet immediately. The vet will determine the best way to remove the foxtail, which may require sedation, depending on where the seed is.

Seed of a foxtail from Northern California
Seed of a foxtail from Northern California

Your Dog May Have Had a Partial (Focal) Seizure

In some cases, dogs may develop partial seizures. A dog having a partial seizure may be conscious and responsive, but may lick the air and snap, as if catching imaginary flies.

Your Dog May Suffer From Pica

Finally, a condition known as pica (compulsive eating of non-food items) can be a possibility if a dog licks floors, carpets, or walls, or shows interest in eating foreign objects.

When to See a Vet

If you think your dog may have eaten something toxic, for example if he is nauseous or eating grass, report this to your veterinarian. Vomiting up some toxic substances, such as caustics, may cause more harm than good.

A dog that licks its lips and seems very uncomfortable, and does not seem to be getting better, should be seen by a vet promptly, especially when this happens for no obvious reason. If this behavior is due to something toxic your dog was exposed to, or to bloat, immediate treatment can really make a difference.

If you have reason to think your dog is licking his lips due to something stuck in the throat, it may help to give him several “meatballs” made of bread, or mashed potatoes mixed with water and bran.

If your dog has diarrhea or vomiting, see my other article on when and whether to treat a dog’s upset stomach at home.

"Fly Catching" Behavior, Possibly Due to a Partial Seizure




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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 months ago from USA

      See your vet please, so to rule out any medication conditions.

    • Irk dame 4 months ago

      I have a Rottweiler always licking floods carpets or anything he can get to! What is going on ??

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 6 months ago from USA

      Drooling when seeing food is totally normal and so is drooling when she is sniffing around as this helps her gather information of the smells. But licking all the time out of these contexts, is not normal. If she is eating grass too, there are chances she has an upset stomach. Not bad idea to check with your vet and see if she has some sort of digestive issue.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 6 months ago from USA

      There can be chances there is something in the environment that is making your dog's tongue irritated. Does she lick carpets or rugs? Does it look like this? Any malocclusions (teeth than don't align well and cause biting the tongue?) Also would suggest a biopsy if your vet didn't suggest so already.

    • Harold Hogue 6 months ago

      My dog has a dry mouth off and on, had to have 15 teeth pulled, no bad breath, has red spots on her tongue that look like little islands, raw on top, licks her tongue in and out ever so often, she is a chi. mixed about 12lbs, has been on antib. eor three weeks nno improvement, vet does not know what it is. looked at tongue in dogs found one that looked like hers but it just end up being a picture and no info. Any suggestions other than another vet.?

    • Jayson 6 months ago

      Hi we have a 4 and a half year old black Lab mix. She is 1/4 pit and 3/4 lab but looks completely lab. Well she does the whole licking of her chops all the time as if she had peanut butter in her mouth and it's very annoying!! I know when she has anxiety so she does it more then just when she has that. She does drool but more so if we are eating and she is staring at the food or when she is smelling for a place to potty and she does not do it during this time. She also eats grass like a grazing cow. She always had huge wet spots on the furniture where she picks that spot so much and she only does that when we are not home and she licks us a lot ....does anyone know why or how to stop the excessive licking of her chops.....Thanks

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 7 months ago from USA

      Does it happen only after meals?

    • Alwayselvis1 8 months ago

      Great informative article and do enjoy reading different dog owners' experiences. Mine is a 7 year young poodle. He also has started licking his lips approx. 3 months ago. Vet determined heavy plaque buildup, so dental cleaning and 3 bottom front teeth extractions were necessary. Also advised his tongue would slightly protrude afterwards because of extractions. It did and does. After 4 weeks of recuperation and behavior monitoring, he is still licking his lips! Mouth hair is trimmed and no observation of swelling. Still wringing my hands...Do you have any thoughts?

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 8 months ago from USA

      Hello Peggy, was this what your dog was found to have?

    • peggy 8 months ago

      It could be from allergies on his tongue itching him .

    • Kate 8 months ago

      Thank you for the article, I have been going through this with my ten year old Weimaraner since she was a pup. I am currently sitting up with her due to the excessive drooling and licking. I will try the bland diet and fast. I am very interested in the slippery elm since she has frequent tummy troubles. I have her on a senior diet high grade kibble that we recently switched to. I transitioned her like you are supposed to but I am hoping that this upset tummy is due to the recent food switch. Thanks again and it's nice to know that there are others out there who have experienced this too.

    • Alwayselvis1 8 months ago

      Great article..After observing this behavior w/my 4 yr old poodle, took him in to vet..sure enough, he is scheduled to have some extensive cleaning done tomorrow!

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 9 months ago from USA

      See your vet can be a digestive issue or some type of pain.

    • D Hickman 9 months ago

      I have a three year old York ie. He's been perfect until around nine last night when he's started trembling, slight licking of lips & he'llonly drink water off my fingers & he usually drinks well. His temperature is normal (39)& his nose is wet. He has what I call a vacant look on his face i just know he's not right what do you suggest?

    • Our jack Russell licks her lips at night when he is on our bed settling in to sleep. I think it is some sort of pack like behaviour. He apply and loved and it is 11 months ago

      Our jack Russell licks her lips at night when she is on our bed settling down for the night. She is a happy well balanced dog and I think it is probably pack behaviour.

    • Shady zeyara 13 months ago

      I just baught a rottweiler he is licking himself extensively it looks like he is trying to get sth on its face by tongue from sides of the mouse specially it is his first day here should i be concerned and if no when should i go to the vet

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 14 months ago from USA

      There are some dogs who perform behaviors that get attention, but the only way to know what is going on for sure if having your dog see the vet to exclude medical issues. Always worth it to give the benefit of doubt. Also, worth trying may be recording his behavior when he is in another room away from you. Then, watch the recording, if he still does it in your absence, it's likely not done to get your attention.

    • Pitlover 14 months ago

      How can I stop this annoying Lip Smacking?? My dog has food and my dog has water. He is not dehydrated, not drooling, not seizing nor is he suffering from diarrhea. He does chew on everything from shoes and styrofoam cups to his now wooden dog house. Maybe something is stuck in his gums but maybe not because at this time I am kinda convinced he is simply doing it annoy the crap out of me because he stops when I look at him then I move he continues and we do the look and not look dance until I have enough.

    • john 15 months ago

      Hi I have a 15 weeks old german shepherd and 3 days ago he started excessively liking his lips, and always sniffing the ground I don't know why. He haven't vomit or anything.

    • A. 24 months ago

      If she's licking this can be due to nausea or it could be a form of seizure (fly biting seizure) . You will have to take her to the vet, especially considering her age. It's important to find out if this was triggered by some undiagnosed medical condition. Seizures can often be triggered by underlying conditions. It's better off stressing her out a bit seeing the vet than not knowing what is going on and from your description this seems quite concerning. Here's a person with a similar issue:

    • Jess 24 months ago

      I recently adopted my dog from a shelter. All I know of that she's a terrier cross but don't know what she's crossed with. She's about 11 but the shelter wasn't sure. Recentlt she seemed to have had a small seizure or something. She was lying down on our bed getting ready to sleep then she sat up straight and tilted her head right back and appeared to be locked into this position. Since this she won't really eat the food in her bowl but will eat with we give her treats and she's xontinually locking her lips and occasionally will lick her own bed or the back of my legs. Can you please help. I don't want to stress her out taking her to the vets as she really doesn't like it there.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      Mine do too, they'll lick their lips when food is getting ready or they know we are about to do some fun training. They also drool when they are getting nauseous.

    • bodylevive profile image

      bodylevive 2 years ago from Loachapoka, Alabama

      The only time my dog licks his lips is when he sees treats and food in our hand. He knows that he's about to get something good or something he likes.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

      I really think you should see your vet for this, a bone splinter may be caught in the mouth or throat. Sometimes feeding some bread may take the item down, but if it has been since yesterday it sounds like something is embedded. There may also be a blockage, please see your vet. Here is an article about eating chicken bones:

    • Rosa Cajamarca 3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      Hello. I am very worried. My dog is a Chihuahua mixed with another.breed. Yesterday we were having dinner and he accidentally ate a small chicken bone. Since yesterday night he is like bothered. He keeps licking his hand and his mouth like he has something stuck. He was also trying remove something with his paws. What can I Do?

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

      Time for a vet visit, she sounds like she has pain somewhere if she won't allow you to touch her. Your vet may have to run some tests, but at least you can go to the root of the problem and take it taken care of, best wishes!

    • sophie 3 years ago

      i have a bullmastiff and in the last hour she has been licking her lips repetitively... her nose is white and shes been sick, she has eaten her sick and had licked the concrete floor in the garden plus her sleeping bag, i have tried to touch her throat to check for swelling but she keeps pushing me away... apart from this she is fit and well, and has been all day ???

    • smith 4 years ago

      Stress can cause licking of lips.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      I hope he gets better, sounds like nausea, but yes, have him seen if it continues. My girl gets better when I feed her a chunk of bread.

    • Frances 4 years ago

      Middle of the night, I'm up studying and I hear one of my dogs licking his dog bed obsessively. He's half-lab/half-pit, not entirely sure since he was a pound-puppy ;)

      Now that I've checked on him, he's dripping saliva a little but when I rubbed his belly he burped, which according to everything I've read about Bloat, would not happen. I tried checking his teeth but he shook my hands away. I will monitor him through the night since I'll be up anyway... if it gets worse I'm headed to the Vet.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      I think your vet is your best source to answer these questions. Ut helps at times to ask the opinion of another vet if one vet is unable to provide satisfactory answers. The drooling could be a dental problem, nausea, her liver issues or more.

    • marisa 4 years ago

      My dog was recently diagnosed with masses in her liver. she has not wanted to drink water so we have been giving her water with some baby food in it which did the trick...until a few days ago when she refused that. She has also stopped eating things she usually likes, she puts her nose to it and pulls away as if it smells bad to her. She will eat other things quite greedily though. Could this be related to her liver issues or is something going on with her sense of taste/smell? She is under a vets care and is currently being hydrated by sub-q. The vets are at a loss also. She also seems to have a wet, drippy mouth sometimes..not "drool" just really watery dripping. Please can anyone help??

    • andrea 5 years ago

      Margaret, the saliva stains should come out with a pet stain remover like woolite pet+oxygen. I have an older pomeranian who licks his paws, people, and the air all the is just a "nervous habit/obsessive compulsive" thing for him because he is insecure. I rescued him at 11 years old and he never left his owners side so he has separation anxiety too.

    • Margaret Someiski 5 years ago

      I need to find something that will take dog spit or saliva out of my carpet. I have two large spots right in the middle of my livingroom. Please let me know if you have heard of anything. Thanks!!!!!! Margaret

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      Could be nausea or something stuck in her throat. Try feeding her a piece of bread and see if it stops.

    • nat 5 years ago

      My cockapoo has been licking her lips in the middle of the night only like she is bored. Could that be or something else? I have enough trouble sleeping and now this. Any suggestions?

    • Diana  5 years ago

      I just recently got a chocolate lab and she has been sick twice since we got her. Not on the same day different times and days. But she keeps licking her lips and i get a bit curious if she's ok or not. Do you have any advice on why she was sick or the licking of her lips? Thanks

    • jobarr profile image

      jobarr 5 years ago

      My miniature dachshund started licking his lips as if he was thirsty one night and he could not sleep. So I got up around 3 in the morning and opened his mouth to check what was wrong and he had string from what it might have been a blanket stuck all up in his front teeth. I took it out, he wagged his tail and went right to sleep. At first I panicked a little and thought about taking him to the vet first thing in the morning. I want to share with you so that if your pet is having the same problem you can try checking his or her mouth first. You might save yourself time and money.


    • D Shatin 6 years ago

      If you think something is right with your dog even after your vet insists everything is fine, get a second or a third opinion and go to an excellent vet who specializes in diagnosis. Go to a highly recommeded facility where you can take your dog to a vet trained and experienced with internal medicine and small animals. Don't wait.

      Good Luck..

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 6 years ago from USA

      you are right to be concerned. It could be caused by many things, it could be a kind of seizure, an obsessive compulsive act,a food allergy,etc. Since it has been going on for a while i think it may help to to exclude cushing's disease and assess if this may be a behavioral problem here is a helpful link of people with the same problem;best wishes!

    • ppgrasshopper 6 years ago

      My cairn constantly licks the air, clothes, bed etc she's 9 and been doing it for a while. I've mentioned it to the vet several times and he's checked her mouth and throat and found nothing. She recently had a throat infection which has cleared, the vet checked around mouth, nose and throat again and found nothing. She still licks... all the time, not quite like the 'fly catching above' but the licking... please help. My instinct is telling me something isn't right, but the vet disagrees.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 6 years ago from USA

      Do you liver in an area where there are foxtails? These are grass awns that typically get stuck in clothes in summertime. If she got on stuck in her throat she may be in discomfort and licking a lot. You can read more about this here:

    • Ruth Ann Schmitt 6 years ago

      My bluetick coonhound recently began licking so much at night she woke me (she sleeps on the bed). I have been watching her for a few days and she seems to be licking her shoulder, chest, and when that stops, just licking her nose over and over. I cannot find any bites or scratches on her to account for this and it almost seems that she can't help herself. As if she had the hiccups, only it is licking instead. Any clues?

    • James 6 years ago

      My dog licks the air continuosly and also licks floors, beds, couchs for no reason. What's that signs of?

    • Sandy 6 years ago

      my dog is starting to do this. he is a rescued dog and i don't know everything about his past. this is bothering me so much.. i don't know what to do.. it seems it's getting worse every day

    • julia  6 years ago

      our dog always does that too but she walks around and licks the carpet and floors and then vomits

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