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Why Does My Dog Keep Licking Their Lips? Find out Why Dogs Lick Their Lips

Written by Steph McCulloch


Discover why dogs lick their lips and if it's something to be concerned about. Learn about the possible health issues associated with your dog licking its lips.
A grey dog licking its lips


Does your dog keep licking his lips? Are you sitting there wondering why and if it could be a sign of something more serious? Don’t fret as we're here to settle the score.

'Why does my dog keep licking his lips?' is one of the most commonly asked questions by pet owners in a pickle. Whilst it could be a sign of a medical issue, usually, excessive licking is not a reason to panic and is often just a canine quirk.

If you haven’t noticed by now, dogs are a bit strange and sometimes they just do weird things without explanation. However, we're here to clear up all your concerns so you and your pooch can get back to the important stuff like snuggling on the sofa and watching Christmas movies.

Why is my dog constantly licking their lips?

Dogs can't speak so they communicate non-verbally through lots of body language signals and vocalisations such as barking and howling. Whilst most of these non-verbal communications can be easy to read, some of them are a bit trickier such as lip licking.

As a general rule of thumb, dogs sometimes lick their lips as a sign of anxiety. So it could mean they're uncomfortable in a certain situation and are trying to soothe themselves.

However, it can also be a sign of submission - in other words, a weird little way for your dog to tell you that they're not a threat and you're the boss. Sometimes, dogs lick their lips when they’ve been told off. Think of it as their way of saying, 'sorry, I chewed your shoes'.

You may notice your dog licking their lips when they meet another dog or person with whom they feel threatened by - most notably the vet or groomer. But to be honest, we don't blame them, we'd be scared of those guys if we were dogs too.

What does it mean if my dog is licking and sneezing?

a black and white dog laying down licking its lips

Dogs usually sneeze for two reasons; allergies or when playing. If your dog is sneezing a lot, this could be a sign of an allergy. Like humans, dogs can have allergies to their environment as well as to their food.

Allergy-related sneezing is usually accompanied by other signs such as watery eyes, licking itchy fur, and scratching. If you have noticed these things in your pup, a trip to the vet will help you rule out potential allergies and source effective treatment.

If your dog isn't facing an allergy, they may just be sneezing in a goofy way. When dogs play with others, they can sneeze as a sign of happiness. This also tells the dog they're playing with that things are cool and they're not a threat.

Watching a severe sneezing episode in a dog can be scary for any pet parent so it's best to get it checked out as soon as possible. Apart from allergies, your pooch could have a foreign body stuck up their nose like a grass seed or part of a stick. This is super uncomfortable for any dog so it's best to seek veterinary care pronto.

What does it mean if my dog keeps licking the air?

A brown dog with a large tongue licking its own face

Whilst licking the air can seem a bit…strange, it doesn’t have to be an immediate cause for concern. Dogs lick the air for all sorts of weird and wacky reasons, for example:

  • To smell things they’re really interested in, like that roast chicken you’ve just cooked

  • To tell you that they’re feeling anxious

  • To try and get over an upset tum without any assistance 

Did you know that a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than yours? Well, now you do. This is because they have a special organ located in their nasal cavity called Jacobson’s organ. This allows them to smell a lot of things, especially when they flare their nostrils and lick the air.

Licking is also a sign of submission, as mentioned above. It can also show you that your dog feels anxious and intimidated. If your dog feels threatened when you approach, it’s helpful to avoid eye contact and speak in a softer voice to help ease their stress.

If you’ve noticed your dog seems stressed lately and is excessively licking the air, anti-anxiety medication or supplements can help them to get back to their old selves.

Whilst licking the air is usually a treatable problem, it could be a sign of something more serious such as dental issues or nausea.

If your dog has a sore tooth or aching gums, they may be licking the air to combat the pain. Just like us, dogs need to look after their teeth too so it’s always important to keep up with dental hygiene routines.

Your dog could also have a piece of food stuck in their teeth and be trying to work it out with their tongue, just like we would. The best thing to do is to check for any debris from treats or chews. Giving your pup a chew that can splinter could result in the need for immediate surgery so always do your research!

Some dogs also lick the air when struggling with sickness. Whilst we all feel a bit nauseous from time to time, excessively licking the air can be a sign of more serious gastrointestinal issues.

If your dog is vomiting, has diarrhoea, or has a decreased appetite, this could be a sign of a wide range of gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome or pancreatitis. It could also be a sign of compulsive behaviour so it’s always best to seek advice directly from your vet.

My dog keeps licking their lips and swallowing - what does it mean?

Licking lips and swallowing is as completely normal in dogs as it is in humans! Some dogs will lick their lips to hydrate them when they feel dry, others may lick their lips when they have something stuck there like a blade of grass or a piece of rogue food from dinnertime.

If your dog knows exactly when it’s time to eat, they may be anticipating their din-dins causing their salivary glands to go wild - leading to lip licking and swallowing.

Just like chews and food can get stuck in the mouth and cause dogs to lick the air, the same issue can also cause them to lick their lips and repeatedly swallow.

Excessive lip-licking and swallowing are also associated with dental disease. Dental and gum disease can be dangerous for any dog. It can also quickly advance causing plaque on the teeth to turn to tartar.

This tartar then builds up in the mouth and produces a breeding ground for bacteria. This bacteria is very destructive to the periodontal tissue in the mouth causing a nasty smell (worse than morning breath) and lots of licking.

Periodontal disease, tooth decay and the associated bacterial infection can be serious issues for a dog, so be sure to notify your vet if you notice any of the common symptoms.

Licking and swallowing can also happen if your dog has licked something they weren’t meant to such as cleaning products or other toxic substances. If your dog ingests a toxic chemical don’t delay, seek immediate veterinary attention.

It’s not just chemical products that can be toxic to dogs but toads too! Poisoning from toads occurs when a dog licks or eats a toad. Symptoms of toad poisoning include hypersalivation, foaming of the mouth, and excessive licking

A dog licking its own face

Why does my dog keep burping and licking their lips?

Whilst you might be unable to think of a dog burping, believe us, they do. They often burp and lick their lips when they feel stressed or anxious. Just like us humans bite our nails and show physical stress symptoms - dogs do too.

If your dog keeps burping and licking their lips, it may be worth having a little think and asking yourself the following:

  • Are they in a new place or environment that could be considered stressful?

  • Have they been shouted at by you or someone else?

  • Have they been left alone and feel anxious about it?

Excessive burping and licking of the lips is also a symptom of nausea. If your dog has an upset stomach, they're likely to produce increased saliva causing them to lick and burp more than usual.

Again, if your pooch is showing signs of being poorly we recommend a trip to the vet asap.


Sometimes dogs have off days, just like us, and feel stressed out. Licking can be one of the many ways they soothe themselves and most of the time it's absolutely nothing to worry about.

Whilst a dog licking their lips is usually harmless, doing it excessively could be one of the signs of illness or something more serious so it's always worth gathering a professional opinion.

Whether they're licking themselves, the air, or burping more frequently, your vet will be able to offer their expert opinion and help your pup with immediate effect.

If you're a Waggel member, you get access to a 24/7 online video vet to help you answer some of the more tricky health questions.

Finding the correct medical care and understanding some of the most common reasons for certain behaviours or signs of injury is important for all responsible pet owners so if you're not a Waggel member yet, you can learn everything you need to know about pet insurance here.

Waggel Pet Insurance

Need more help? You're in luck if you're a Waggel Pet Insurance member. Along with our excellent coverage, we offer access to a 24/7 online vet to answer all your sticky questions, especially if you need grooming assistance.

Not a member? Why not get a quote now and cover your furry friend for a range of illnesses, all while enjoying our amazing perks and rewards.

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