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My Dog Keeps Licking Lips: Our Vet Shares 3 Tips to Help

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Dog licking its lips

There are many times that I see dogs in my vet clinic that are constantly licking their lips, the floor or even the air. This is usually indicative that there is something wrong going on in their mouth or they are nauseated. 

What is lip licking in dogs?

Many dogs will lick their lips for no reason. Lip licking is when your dog is licking their lips just like they do after they have finished eating but they continue to do this sometimes for hours.  

This can be because they are bored, have mouth issues, or feel nauseous. Your dog does not have the ability to put their paws in their mouth and move things around like we can so if there is a piece of food that is stuck they may also excessively lick their lips.  

When should you be concerned?

chihuahua licking lips
A cute Chihuahua mixed breed dog wearing a red collar with tongue out licking lips

If your dog is just licking their lips just a few times an hour their probably isn’t anything to worry about. Some dogs will constantly lick their lips for hours and hours without stopping. Then it is time to investigate to figure out what is causing this. 

5 Common causes of lip licking in dogs

  1. Dental disease

Dogs with dental issues may have tartar and plaque build up on their gums.

periodontal disease

This can cause pain and inflammation around the teeth and gums. As this progresses they can have tooth root and gum infection. Most dogs with dental disease will have some of the following signs:

  • Bad breath
  • Licking lips
  • Pawing at their mouth
  • Red and inflamed gums

In severe cases of gum disease, your dog can develop an infection in their mouth. This infection and also enter your dog’s bloodstream and cause issues with your dog’s heart and kidneys. 


WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]


If your dog has dental disease, you may need professional teeth cleaning at your vet. Some dogs with milder signs can be treated at home. You can get a toothbrush and toothpaste from the pet store and brush your dog’s teeth. There are also dental treats and water additives that can be added to your dog’s diet to help.

If your dog is not eating due to severe dental issues, it is best to not even attempt at-home treatment and just see your vet. They will most likely need antibiotics to clear the infection. The cost of dental treatment can range from $200 to over $1,000+ depending on what needs to be done to treat your dog’s dental disease. 

  1. Nausea

Many dogs when they are nauseated will lick their lips. They may also drool or vomit. The nausea can be due to a few different reasons such as gastroenteritis or pancreatitis. Usually, after a few days dog who a nauseated will be much better. If your dog has nausea, it is best to withhold food for 4 to 6 hours then slowly introduce bland food into their diet. If your dog continues to vomit and seem nauseated, it would be best to see your vet. They can help determine what is going on with your do and start treatment so that they can feel much better. The cost of this treatment can be $200 to over $1,000. 

  1. Toxin exposure

If your dog has eaten something toxic such as chemicals, medications or toxic plants, they may lick their lips a lot. They are often also foaming and the mouth and showing neurological signs. The first thing you should do if you think that your dog ate something toxic is to quickly rinse their mouth. Then you should see a vet right away. Many times your vet can induce vomiting and start emergency treatment for these toxins to help prevent your dog from absorbing the toxins. The cost for treating dogs who have been exposed to something toxic is $400 to over 1,000 depending on what they got into and how severe the signs are in your dog. 

  1. Something stuck in their mouth

Dogs love to chew on sticks and other chew toys. I have commonly seen these get stuck across the roof of their mouth. Many dogs are often drooling and pawing at their mouths. Some dogs will have issues eating and often drop their food. Your dog may also have issues fully closing their mouths. If you think that there is something stuck in their mouth you can often look in there and find the issue. If your dog is cooperative you can gently remove this at home. If your dog will not sit still you may need to see your vet. They can lightly sedate your dog and remove whatever is stuck in their mouth. Depending on the temperament of your dog seeing your vet for them to remove the foreign object can be $100 to $500+/

3 steps you can take at home now to help your dog

If your dog is licking their lips, it is best to try to figure out why they are acting like this. Many times looking in your dog’s mouth, examining their teeth, and seeing if you find anything that they may have gotten into will help your figure out why your dog is licking their lips. If your dog is otherwise eating and drinking and acting normal, you can just monitor them. These are some things you can do to help your dog who is licking their lips. 

  1. Wash their mouth:

Ok… perhaps not with the garden hose. But some dogs can benefit from you washing their mouth out with water. Using a syringe you can SLOWLY put water in their mouth to help remove anything that may be stuck in their mouth. 

2. Offer them a bland diet

bland diet for dog with chicken and rice

If your dog also seems nauseated, a bland diet can help settle their stomachs and stop them from licking their lips. 

3. Give them a toy to play with

dog chewing on toy

Some dogs are bored and will lick their lips. You can give them a toy to play with or a chew stick to help keep them entertained. 

Diagnosing dogs with lip licking issues

How is lip licking in dogs diagnosed?

Most vets will fully examine your dog’s mouth. They will look for masses in the mouth, dental issues, inflamed gums or something stuck in there. If your dog also seems nauseated they may recommend bloodwork to check for GI  issues, and kidney or liver disease. 

If your dog is licking their lips you can look for a few things at home such as masses, sticks, and inflamed gums. If you see these many times your dog will need to see a vet to help remove them from their mouth. 

How do I know if my dog licking its lips is a medical condition?

Dogs who also have a medical issue causing them to lick their lips will also show other signs and symptoms such as:

  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Not eating
  • Lethargic

If you notice any of these issues along with lip licking it is best for your dog to see your vet. 

Treating lip licking issues in dogs

How do you treat lip licking in dogs?

Sometimes there is nothing that can be done for dogs who lick their lips. Your vet will want to fully examine your dogs mouth to see if they can find a cause of the lip licking. If they do then they can help your treat your dog’s issue. 

Does my dog licking its lips indicate a medical issue?

Your dog licking their lips does not mean that their is a medical issue, but you do need to monitor your dog who is licking their lips for other signs of illness such as vomiting, not eating or excessively drooping. 

Do dogs lick their lips for behavioral reasons?

Lip licking can be a behavioral issue that is mostly seen before eating, when they are anxious or when they are scared. If you cannot find a medical issue for lip licking, look for a behavioral issue that may explain your dog licking their lips.

Costs of treatment

What is the average cost to treat a dog with lip licking problems?

If your dog is licking their lips your vet will fully examine your dog and treat the cause. If your dog is just doing this because of a mild issues like behavior or stick stuck in their mouth the cost will not be as expensive as a dog who has severe dental disease and needs dental cleaning and teeth extracted. The cost can range from $200 to over $1,000. 

What other costs are involved?

There may be some follow up care, antibiotics and other medications that you will need to give to your dog to help prevent these issues from occuring again. 

Are lip-licking treatments covered by insurance or out of pocket?

Many timese these treatments are covered by insurance. It is best to check with your insurance company to make sure it is covered so that you are not surprised by an unexpected veterinary bill.

How fast is the issue solved?

How long does it take for a dog’s lip-licking issues to heal?

Dogs with lip licking due to a medical issue quickly resolve once the medical issue is treated. Most dogs will heal very quickly once the issue causing the lip licking is treated. 

What is the prognosis for treating lip licking in dogs?

Most dogs who are licking their lips will have a good prognosis as long as the underlying issues is treated. Dogs with masses in their mouth causing the lip licking the prognosis will depend on the type of mass growning in the mouth. 

Can you treat lip licking without going to the vet?

You may be able to treat lip licking without seeing a vet. If you can examine your dog and figure out why they are licking their lips. If there is something stuck in their mouth, many times this can easily be removed at home. 

How can a vet help with lip licking?

Your vet will be able to help you determine why your dog is licking their lips and treat their condition. Many times your dog will need help from your vet to treat their lip licking. 

Can I get antibiotics for my dog without seeing a vet?

You can not buy antibiotics over the counter and you will probably have to see your vet for them to prescribe your dog antibiotics. Most vets want to make sure that the antibiotics are needed. Using antibiotics when they are not needs can lead to bacterial resistant infections. 

Prevention

Is there a way to prevent lip licking in dogs?

Lip licking is often cause by dental issues. Making sure that you monitor your dog’s teeth and give them dental chews or brush their teeth will help keep their teeth health. 

How can you prevent lip licking from recurring?

Once you know what caused your dog’s lip licking you can help make sure that this does not happen again such as making sure they are not eating sticks or give them dental treats to help prevent dental disease. 

FAQs

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

Some dogs with nasal allergies and drainage will lick thier lips and sneeze. This can be due to pollen, dust and mites in the air. 

Why do dogs lick their lips when there is no food around?

Some dogs will lick their lips when there is no food usually because they are bored, something is stuck in their mouth or they have dental issues. If your dog is not around any food and licking their lips, start looking in their mouth to see what could be wrong. 

Why won’t my dog stop licking its lips?

There are many reasons that your dog may be licking their lips such as dental disease, something stuck in their mouth or they are smelling food. 

How can you tell if lip licking is affecting your dog?

Most dogs that are lip licking are constantly licking their lips. SOme dogs will lick their lips after they eat as a way to clean their face. If your dog is constantly licking their lips, it is best to start looking in their mouth for a cause of this lip licking. 

Author

  • Dr Sara Ochoa, Veterinarian

    Dr. Ochoa earned her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from St. George University in 2015, and completed her program with excellent scores. She has more than 7 years of experience practicing as a veterinarian for Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital in Whitehouse, TX.

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Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

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