It is concerning to see your dog swallowing and excessively licking their lips. The sight can raise feelings of worry, confusion, and even panic as you try to understand what’s going on with your dog.
Is it a sign of discomfort or pain? Is something stuck in their throat? Or is it a behavioral issue? The uncertainty can be overwhelming, leaving you feeling helpless and unsure of how to help your dog.
However, with a little bit of knowledge and observation, you can better understand your dog’s behavior and provide the appropriate care they need.
Let’s delve into the reasons behind dog swallowing and licking lips, what to do, and when to seek help.
Here’s why dog swallowing and licking lips happens
Swallowing and licking lips in dogs are symptoms that sometimes appear together due to pain, nausea, stress, oral pain, hunger or thirst, illness, and medications. To determine the cause of your dog’s swallowing and licking of lips, it’s important to pay attention to their body language and the surrounding environment to help you understand their behavior.
Swallowing and licking lips in dogs
Swallowing and licking lips in dogs is a behavior that can indicate various things from medical issues and behavioral problems.
When a dog swallows, it means that they are moving food or saliva from their mouth to their stomach by contracting the muscles in their throat.
Swallowing is a normal part of eating and drinking, and dogs may also swallow saliva or other substances they encounter.
A dog’s swallowing can also be due to a variety of reasons including ingestion of foreign objects, illness, or behavioral problems.
Lip licking in dogs is a natural instinct and common behavior in dogs which they do for a variety of reasons including grooming, communication, showing affection, exploration, and as a soothing mechanism.
While swallowing and licking are normal behaviors in dogs, they can also be a sign of underlying health issues or behavioral problems.
Is it normal for dogs to swallow and lick their lips?
Swallowing and licking lips is normal behavior for dogs, but when they appear at the same time, they can be a sign of an underlying problem.
It is therefore important to pay attention to your dog’s behavior and also watch out for any concerning symptoms or changes in their behavior to determine if the behavior is normal or if it indicates an underlying issue that requires medical attention.
Causes of dog swallowing and licking lips
Also, when dogs experience pain, they may engage in a variety of behaviors to indicate their discomfort. One of these behaviors is swallowing and lip licking, which is a common sign of anxiety or stress in dogs.
Swallowing and lip licking are often seen in dogs who are in pain because it helps to soothe them and relieve stress.
Studies have shown that when a dog licks its lips, it releases endorphins, which send a cascade of positive feelings through their bodies that help them feel calmer and more relaxed.
Additionally, lip licking helps to distract a dog from the pain and redirect its attention to something else.
Nausea in dogs is a feeling of discomfort and unease in the stomach. It can be caused by a variety of factors such as an upset stomach, motion sickness, infections, dietary changes, certain medications, or more serious underlying health conditions.
If your dog is experiencing nausea due to digestive issues or illness, they may swallow and lick their lips excessively as a way to soothe themselves.
Other symptoms that may appear alongside nausea include vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, whining, pacing, and lethargy.
Anxiety or Stress
Anxiety in dogs is a state of fear caused by a variety of environmental factors. A dog may swallow and lick their lips when they are anxious, stressed, or fearful.
This behavior is often accompanied by other signs of anxiety such as pacing, panting, whining, trembling, and hiding.
Identifying the source of your dog’s anxiety and providing them with a safe and comfortable environment can help reduce their stress levels.
If your dog’s anxiety is severe or persistent, veterinary care is required to determine the best course of treatment and management.
A dog may also swallow and lick their lips excessively if they are experiencing pain in their mouth, teeth, or gums.
Oral pain in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, including dental disease, infections, tooth fractures, foreign objects stuck in the mouth, oral tumors, and trauma to the mouth or teeth.
Other signs of oral pain may include drooling, reluctance to eat or drink, and pawing at the mouth.
Hunger or Thirst
Hunger or thirst also can cause a dog to swallow and lick their lips as a way to indicate their needs. Other signs of hunger or thirst include pacing, whining, and restlessness.
This behavior is normal and common, especially around meal times or when they expect to be served food or a treat.
Certain medical conditions such as kidney disease, liver disease, and diabetes can cause a dog to display excessive lip-licking and swallowing.
Other symptoms of an underlying medical problem may include lethargy, increased thirst or urination, weight loss, among other symptoms.
Certain medications can cause swallowing and lip licking in dogs as a side effect because they may have a bitter or unpleasant taste, cause nausea or upset stomach, or create a dry mouth sensation.
Medications with a bitter taste can cause a dog to lick its lips in an attempt to get rid of the taste.
In cases where medications cause a dry mouth sensation, a dog may swallow and lick its lips in an attempt to moisten its mouth.
If you notice that your dog is swallowing and licking its lips excessively after taking medication, it is important to consult with your veterinarian to determine if there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
Your veterinarian may also adjust the dosage or prescribe a different medication to alleviate this side effect.
Dog swallowing and licking lips: What to do and when to seek help
The best course of action when your dog is excessively swallowing and licking their lips depends on the underlying cause of the behavior. Here is what you should do:
Observe your dog’s behavior
First, pay attention to when your dog is showing this behavior and what other symptoms they may be experiencing. Take note of any triggers that seem to cause the behavior.
Make sure that your dog’s basic needs are met which includes ensuring they have enough food, and water, and not exposed to environments that cause fear.
If your dog’s behavior is related to a specific trigger, such as car rides or loud noises, minimize their exposure to those triggers as much as possible.
Consider using desensitization techniques or counter-conditioning training to help your dog become more comfortable with those triggers over time.
If your dog is swallowing and licking their lips due to anxiety or stress, provide them with a calm and safe environment. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if medication or behavior modification training is necessary.
Consult with your veterinarian
If you are unable to identify the potential cause of your dog’s swallowing and licking of lips or if the behavior persists, consult with your veterinarian. This is because the behavior can be due to an underlying health 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 also should be consulted regarding your dog’s swallowing and licking of lips when:
The behavior is new or sudden: If your dog’s swallowing and licking lips are sudden or out of character, it could be a sign that there’s an underlying medical issue.
The behavior is accompanied by other signs of illness: If your dog is exhibiting other signs of illness or discomfort, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or restlessness, seek veterinary care.
The behavior is persistent: Also talk to your veterinarian if the behavior continues despite your efforts to address it.
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 swallowing and licking lips
Excessive swallowing and licking of the lips in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors. While occasional lip licking is normal for dogs, persistent licking alongside other symptoms require veterinary attention.
If you notice your dog showing this behavior suddenly, frequently or for extended periods of time, consult with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.
By addressing the underlying cause of the behavior and providing appropriate care, you can help ensure that your dog remains healthy and happy.