Dog Licking Lips – Why Is Your Dog Constantly Doing It?

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Have you ever wondered why your dog licks its lips? If so, you are about to discover the main reasons behind this action. Read on and discover what actually lip licking means and how you should address it.

Dog licking lips is often seen, regardless of the dog’s breed, size, age or even sex. Therefore, you have probably asked yourself more than once why your dogs keep on licking its lips, right? Like with everything that’s dog-related, this can be something that doggies just do, or on another hand, it can be a sign of an underlying health problem.

What Does It Mean When a Dog Keeps Licking Its Lips?

There is no just one answer to this question. Different dogs, specific reasons behind it. Some dog owners believe that their dog may lick their lips just because they are dry or even sunburned. This belief is connected with humans reasons of licking lips because those are the most common reasons why we do it.

However, although it may be a reason for dogs to do it as well, they have different needs and different reasons for their actions. There is a number of reasons why dogs lick their lips.

All in, reasons for this action may be connected with behavior directly or due to medical causes.

Behavioral Causes of Dog Licking Lips

Dogs just do it. Sometimes it’s just that simple. Some dogs will lick their lips when they feel that their lips are dry, or simply because something is stuck near their lip or between their teeth. Also, lip licking is often connected with food and anticipation of serving that delicious food. In addition, it can be connected with the anticipation of snacks as well.

Anxiety is a common behavior in dog that can inspire them to lick their lips frequently. Some dogs will lick their lips when they are afraid of certain things or just scared in general.

Dogs are masters of body-language communication and therefore some scientist believes that they use this gesture as simple ‘appeasement gesture.’ An appeasement gesture is a form of behavior which indicates a calming signal. Another calming signal in dogs is yawning. This is often seen when two random and unfamiliar dogs meet for the first time. You may notice how the dog avoids direct eye contact and lick his lips. This is the dog’s way to communicate, Hello – I don’t want a fight.

Medical Causes of Dog Licking Lips

There is a number of reasons that may be connected with lip licking. Problems for this can be minor or bigger, and eventually extremely serious. Some of the medical causes can include:

  1. Sour Tastes: Although dogs are known for eating anything, there are certain tastes that are too much even for their stomach. If your dog licks something that’s unpleasant or in any way sour according to his measures, they will lick their lips. Common reasons for this action may include a different food or licking some chemical, including cleaners and soaps. If you notice that your dog is licking its lips for a period of time and aggressively, including drooling and foaming at the mouth, there are slight chances that your dog touched something that is not good whatsoever. The reason for these actions is usually poisonous toads that may be toxic. Canine’s toad toxicity in house is not so absurd
  2. Dehydration: It’s common for dogs that are sick and won’t eat to suffer from fluid loss due to often and intense vomiting or/and diarhhea. Strong dehydration can cause a dog to lick their lips
  3. Traumatic experience: Any kind of trauma can cause lip licking. By trauma, we mean on physical trauma, including any cut size, abrasion, puncture or any other kind of trauma. Some wounds can even become infected with an itch, causing your dog to rub and scratch their face and lick their lips
  4. Foreign bodies: Foreign bodies inside of your dog’s stomach are not unusual . Our canine buddies are known for loving to taste everything, and sometimes they swallow something – things like toys, sticks and even bones. Occasionally, even a plant. Anything lodges can lead to excessive lip licking
  5. Bites: Just like humans, dogs can be irritated when they have any wound or bite around their lips. Any type of bite can cause dog lip licking, including spider bites, mosquitos bites, wasp or bee sting, and horse flies. Snakebites can also occur around the face and mouth, and cause enormous pain, lip licking and pain
  6. Dental disease: Dogs are prone to dental diseases, and one of the first signs of these issues is actually a lip licking. As dental disease progress, bacteria can create gum disease a.k.a periodontal disease, that eventually can lead to tooth loss. Another clear sign of the dental disease is a foul odor from a dog’s mouth. In addition, red inflamed gums are present.
  7. Oral ulcers: Oral ulcers are an outcome of many different oral infections, dental disease, or even systematic infections such as kidney disease.
  8. Seizures: Seizures are often a clear sign that your canine buddy is fighting some underlying health issues. Canine seizures can result in numerous types of behaviors. There are dogs that will lie on their sides, while on the other side there are dogs with partial seizures that can result in a more indirect sign of a seizure such as intense lip licking.
  9. Nausea: A very common sign of nausea in dogs is actually lip licking. Dogs with nausea have a tendency of intense lip licking to easier their troubles. Lip licking happens just prior to the act of vomiting. Some dogs will eat grass in this moment of distress.

What to Do If Your Dog is Licking His Lips

Lip licking is primarily considered to be a submissive gesture that has the power to prevent aggression from escalating. Although its primary function, it’s still an open sign that dog is stressed and even uncomfortable with the situation.

Good to know: If you dogs lick its lips while you are yelling at him its a clear sign that he wants you to stop.

Also, lip licking doesn’t mean that your dog won’t become aggressive or defensive if the behavior continues. Therefore, if you see a dog (especially an unknown dog) licking its lips, simply back off. This distance will help him get an additional space so he can feel once again more comfortable. At the same time, it will save you from unnecessary dog bite who think that he needs to defend himself.

If your dog licks its lips at the vets or in a friend’s pet-owned house it means that the place makes him nervous. If that’s the case try to redirect him in a positive manner. What to do exactly? Ask your dog to do a trick and afterward reward him. Avoid by any means comforting your dog when he is afraid because this would just reinforce his anxiety or fear.

If you notice a lip-licking during your training session, the best way would be to wrap up training as soon as possible. But not before you ask your dog to do something and get its award. Make sure to organize your training session differently next time by breaking it down in shorter segments. By doing so you will inspire your dog to learn faster. These actions are sometimes known as shaping behaviors.

But, if there is no obvious reason for your dogs lip-licking or any obvious threat and no food around, you need to investigate further. Maybe there is something other in your dog’s environment which makes him nervous, and uneasy. Also, bear in mind that there even may be a certain health problem like nausea or some kind of oral discomfort. If you are not sure what’s behind lip-licking actions, take your dog to the vet for a check-up.

Lip Licking Complications

Some dogs have this strong habit of licking their bodies so intensively that they can create mild or stronger injury. Obsessive licking can lead to a condition that’s known as a ‘lick granuloma.’ There are some extreme cases when dogs managed to literally lick themselves out, removing their entire hair and all of their fur. If you notice that your dog intensively licks just one spot, or you have simply noticed a thinner layer of fur at one point, you should react. In opposite, this can lead to severe steps. Having a lick granuloma puts them at high risk for other infections.

Therefore, if you have any reason, no matter how small or big it could be, to believe that your canine buddy is going through any form of physical distress you should react and contact the vet. Also, if you notice any raw spots around dogs lips and anywhere actually, take them to the vet as soon as possible, because in most cases lip licking is happening due to some underlying and often serious reason.

This is especially important if your dog usually doesn’t lick their lips, but they do it suddenly for an extended period of time.


A dog licking their lips is usually a sign of submission, and its often a dog’s way of trying to prevent a potentially dangerous situation. Also, if you or someone yells at your pet, their first move might be to lick their lips in order to stop yelling. And if it happens, just move or tell the person to step back for some time.

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. 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.

However, if your dog continues to lip licking the reason could be rather physical than behavioral. Make sure that you take your pet to the vet for a thorough check.