Dogs display a number of unusual behaviors and as a dog owner, you have probably experienced some at one point. One of these behaviors is drooling and lip licking.
It is quite concerning to see your dog drooling and licking its lips excessively and particularly distressing if you’re not sure what’s causing the behavior.
We’ll go over the various reasons why dog drooling and lip licking happen, tips for addressing this behavior, and when to seek help.
Here’s why dog drooling and licking lips happens
Dog drooling and licking lips happen due to nausea, illness, excitement, dental problems, hunger or thirst, allergy, stress, and the presence of an irritant or foreign object in the mouth. Drooling and lip licking can also be normal, non-medical behavior.
Dog drooling and licking lips in dogs
Drooling and lip licking in dogs are characterized by a dog drooling and licking their lips at the same time. This can occur due to underlying medical or behavioral reasons.
Drooling is the excessive production of saliva in a dog’s mouth, which can result in the saliva dripping from its mouth. It is a natural behavior in dogs and can be triggered by various reasons such as anticipation of food, nausea, excitement, stress, or anxiety.
However, excessive drooling can also be a sign of an underlying health issue such as dental problems, heatstroke, or digestive issues.
Licking their lips is also a common behavior in dogs, which serves different purposes including grooming of the face, as a sign of affection to their owners, self-soothing behavior to cope with pain, stress, or anxiety, and as a sign of illness, such as dental problems or gastrointestinal issues.
Drooling and licking lips are normal behaviors in dogs, but if occur at the same time, and are excessive or accompanied by other symptoms they can be a sign of an underlying health problem.
Causes of drooling and licking of lips
Nausea is a common cause of drooling and lip licking in dogs. When a dog is feeling nauseous, their salivary glands produce more saliva than usual as a natural response. This leads to excessive drooling and lip licking.
Other signs of a dog that is nauseous include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
Nausea in dogs can be caused by eating something that is toxic or spoilt, infection or disease, eating too fast or overeating, certain medications, and motion sickness.
Dog drooling and lip licking also occur because of illness. When a dog is sick, their body may produce more saliva than usual as a natural response to the illness.
A dog licking its lips is a sign of a dog in pain. When dogs are in pain, they may experience anxiety, stress, and discomfort, and the licking of their lips is done as a self-soothing behavior that helps them cope with these feelings.
While drooling and licking lips occurring at the same time is a sign of illness and pain in dogs, not all dogs will show these signs and some may not show any signs at all.
Excitement is another possible cause of drooling and lip licking in dogs. Dogs drool and lick their lips when they are excited or stimulated by something they find enjoyable, such as the sight or smell of food, the presence of their favorite person or toy, or an opportunity to play or go for a walk.
This behavior is normal, and a non-medical response to things that excite them.
If your dog is drooling and licking their lips when they are excited or stimulated, the response to this includes:
- Providing your dog with plenty of opportunities to engage in activities they enjoy, such as playing with toys, going for walks, or participating in training or obedience exercises.
- Use positive reinforcement techniques to reward your dog for calm, appropriate behavior.
- If your dog becomes overly excited or stimulated, try to redirect their attention to a more appropriate activity or behavior.
Dogs with dental problems will also drool and lick their lips excessively. This is due to the pain or discomfort in their mouth or teeth which leads to excessive salivation and licking of the lips as a way of trying to relieve the discomfort.
Dental problems in dogs can be caused by tooth decay, gum disease, infections, or trauma.
Other signs of dental problems to look for include, bad breath, swelling or redness in the gums, bleeding gums, discolored teeth, difficulty chewing or swallowing, and loss of appetite and energy.
Hunger or thirst
Hunger and thirst are common causes of drooling and lip licking in dogs. When a dog is hungry or thirsty, their salivary glands produce more saliva than usual in anticipation of food or water.
This leads to excessive drooling and lip licking.
Other signs that show that a dog may be hungry or thirsty, include pawing at their food bowl or water dish, whining, persistent barking, and clingy behavior by following you around the house.
Allergies or irritants
Environmental irritants can cause dog drooling and licking of lips. Some dogs may drool and lick their lips if they are allergic to something in their environment, such as certain plants, chemicals, or materials.
Allergies and irritants also cause a range of symptoms in dogs, including itching and scratching diarrhea, vomiting, itchy ears, sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and swelling of the face, eyelids, and lips.
Anxiety or stress
Anxiety or stress also causes drooling and lip licking in dogs. Some dogs may drool and lick their lips when they are feeling anxious or stressed.
Stress can come from a variety of sources such as a change in their environment or routine, being left alone, new people or pets, loud noises, and other fear-related stressful situations.
Stress and anxiety also cause a variety of symptoms including pacing, loss of appetite, shaking, drooling, yawning, crying, barking, and hiding.
Foreign object in the mouth
The presence of an irritant or foreign object in a dog’s mouth can also cause drooling and lip licking.
If your dog has something stuck in their mouth or throat, they may drool and lick their lips in an effort to remove it which is a natural reflex that helps to clear an irritant.
The different types of foreign objects that can be ingested by a dog that may cause drooling and lip licking in dogs include pieces of food or debris stuck in the teeth or gums, splinters or other sharp objects broken toys, or bones.
If you suspect that your dog may have an irritant or foreign object stuck in their mouth or throat, other signs to look for include:
- Pawing at the mouth or face
- Gagging or coughing
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Different barking sound
Dog drooling and licking lips: What to do and when to seek help
Observe your dog’s behavior
First, pay attention to when your dog is showing the behavior and what other symptoms they may be experiencing. Take note of any triggers that seem to cause the behavior, that is, are they just excited? Do they look distressed? Nauseated? Or sick?
Make sure that your dog’s basic needs are met which includes ensuring they have enough food and water.
If you suspect that your dog may be experiencing anxiety or stress, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate the symptoms:
- Provide a safe and comfortable environment for your dog
- Consult with your veterinarian about medications or other treatment options
If you suspect that your dog may be allergic to something in their environment, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate the symptoms:
- Remove the allergen or irritant from your dog’s environment, if possible
- Use hypoallergenic shampoos and grooming products
- Use air purifiers to help remove allergens from the air
- Consult with your veterinarian about allergy medications or other treatment options
Check for foreign objects that may be stuck in teeth or gums by looking in your dog’s mouth. Seek immediate medical care if they have ingested an object.
Also, check for dental problems and if you suspect that your dog may have dental problems, take them to the veterinarian for a check-up.
Consult with your veterinarian
If you are unable to identify the potential cause of your dog’s drooling and licking of lips or if the behavior persists, consult with your veterinarian. This is because the behavior can be due to an underlying medical condition.
The veterinarian will conduct a full examination, determine the underlying cause and develop a more comprehensive plan to address your dog’s behavior.
If it is a behavioral problem, they will also guide you on ways to stop the behavior and may also recommend an animal behaviorist for training needs.
A veterinarian should also be consulted regarding your dog’s drooling and licking lips when:
The behavior is excessive: If your dog’s drooling and licking lips are sudden or out of character, it could be a sign that there’s an underlying medical issue.
Ingested a foreign object: If you suspect that your dog may have an irritant or foreign object stuck in their mouth or throat.
Additional symptoms: If your dog is showing other signs of illness or discomfort, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or changes in bowel or bladder habits, seek veterinary care.
The behavior is persistent: Also talk to your veterinarian if your dog’s drooling and licking lips continue despite your efforts to address the behavior.
Pre-existing medical conditions: If your dog has pre-existing medical conditions, such as kidney disease or diabetes, that could be causing the behavior, consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of treatment.
Key Takeaway: Dog drooling and licking lips
Drooling and lip licking in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from normal behavior to serious medical conditions.
Therefore it is important to observe your dog’s behavior and consult with your veterinarian if you are unsure of the cause or if the behavior persists despite your efforts to address the problem.
The appropriate treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the drooling and lip licking. Following the treatment plan recommended by your veterinarian and monitoring your dog’s progress can effectively address your dog’s drooling and licking.