Dog Mouth Smacking

icon May 5, 2024

Dog mouth smacking is a behavior that might seem curious or even concerning to pet owners. Understanding why dogs smack their mouths can provide insights into their health, needs, and emotions. This article explores the reasons behind this behavior, how to interpret it, and when it might be a sign of a problem needing veterinary attention.

Why is My Dog Smacking His Mouth:

1. Taste and Anticipation of Food

One of the most benign reasons for mouth smacking is the anticipation of food. Dogs might smack their mouths when they smell or see their favorite treats or meals, driven by their strong sense of smell and a natural response to the anticipation of eating.

2. Exploring Their Environment

Dogs use their mouths much like humans use their hands, to explore and interact with their environment. Smacking could be part of their way of processing smells and tastes from their surroundings.

3. Oral Discomfort or Dental Issues

Mouth smacking can also indicate oral discomfort or dental issues such as tooth decay, gum disease, or the presence of a foreign object in the mouth. Regular dental check-ups are crucial to prevent these problems.

4. Nausea or Digestive Discomfort

Just like humans, when dogs feel nauseous, they might smack their mouths. Other digestive issues, such as acid reflux or gastrointestinal discomfort, can also lead to this behavior.

5. Dehydration and Dry Mouth

When a dog is dehydrated, it may smack its lips to wet its gums. A good way to assess for dehydration is to lift the skin over the dog's shoulder blades and back. If it immediately springs back, then your dog is still well-hydrated. If there is a delay, check your dog's gums. If they are dry and tacky, then your dog is dehydrated. Depending upon the severity of the problem, they will need to be hydrated either orally, subcutaneously, or intravenously.

6. Gastrointestinal Diseases

A disease in the gastrointestinal tract such as infections, heartburn, gastritis, gastric torsion, and many others can be the cause of licking and smacking. In the process, there are other accompanying symptoms:

  • Flatulence
  • Vomiting (sometimes bloody)
  • Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
  • Intestinal sluggishness
  • Drink less water
  • Frequent grass eating
  • Abdominal pain

If you observe these symptoms, do not hesitate and make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Describe the situation to him very precisely. This will allow him to assess the acute condition of your dog and take immediate action.

If the licking is mild heartburn or gastrointestinal distress, you can reach into your medicine cabinet to alleviate the discomfort. Whether it's mild or severe, it's still important to see a vet.

7. Nervous System Disorder or Seizure

If your dog ingested something toxic, it might affect its nervous system. This can lead a dog to lick its lips excessively. For example, if a dog ingests any part of a poisonous toad, the dog may immediately start to drool, lick his lips, and foam at the mouth. In some cases, even exposure to bitter-tasting substances can make a dog lick their lips over and over. Finally, some types of partial or simple seizures can lead a dog to excessive lip-licking.

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When to Consult a Veterinarian?

While occasional mouth smacking is generally not a cause for concern, certain signs should prompt a consultation with a veterinarian:

  • Persistent or excessive mouth-smacking
  • Accompanied by other symptoms, such as drooling, loss of appetite, or behavioral changes
  • Signs of oral discomfort, such as pawing at the mouth or reluctance to eat
  • Any behavior that deviates significantly from your dog's normal behavior pattern

How to Minimize Lip-smacking?

1. Identify Stressors:

Observe your dog's environment and daily routine to identify potential stressors. Minimize exposure to situations that may be causing anxiety, and provide a safe and comfortable space for your dog.

2. Provide Enrichment:

Engage your dog in mental and physical enrichment activities to keep them stimulated and reduce stress. Puzzle toys, interactive play, and regular exercise can be beneficial.

3. Positive Reinforcement:

Reinforce calm and relaxed behaviors with positive reinforcement. Reward your dog for exhibiting calm behavior rather than focusing on the lip-smacking.

4. Consult a Professional:

If the behavior persists or if you're unsure about the underlying cause, consider consulting with a professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist for personalized guidance.Dog licking lips in meadow

How Do I Clean My Dog's Mouth?

Cleaning your dog's mouth is an important part of their overall health routine. Just like humans, dogs can suffer from dental problems, such as plaque buildup, gum disease, and bad breath. Regular cleaning can help prevent these issues, and decrease the situation of dog mouth smacking. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean your dog’s mouth effectively:

1. Start Early and Go Slow

If possible, introduce your dog to mouth cleaning when they're a puppy. This helps them get used to the process. If your dog is older, it's never too late to start, but go slow and be patient. Let them sniff and taste the toothpaste (make sure it’s dog-specific) and gradually get used to having something in their mouth.

2. Choose the Right Tools

Use a toothbrush designed for dogs or a fingerbrush. Dog-specific toothpaste is a must, as human toothpaste can be toxic to dogs. To keep your pet’s teeth healthy at all times, we recommend the following convenient products:

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3. Create a Positive Environment

Make sure the experience is as pleasant as possible for your dog. Choose a quiet time and place. You might want to have some treats on hand to reward them for good behavior. Speak in a calm, reassuring voice throughout the process.

4. Gently Brush Their Teeth

Lift your dog's lips to expose their teeth and gums. Using the dog's toothbrush or finger brush, gently brush their teeth in a circular motion. Focus on the outer surfaces of the teeth where plaque tends to accumulate. Be gentle around the gum line to avoid causing irritation.

5. Don’t Forget the Back Teeth and Tongue

Plaque and tartar tend to build up more on the back teeth. Make sure to gently brush these areas as well. If your dog allows, gently brush their tongue, as it can harbor bacteria leading to bad breath.

6. Finish on a Positive Note

End each cleaning session with lots of praise and some treats. This positive reinforcement can make your dog more receptive to teeth-cleaning sessions in the future.

7. Consistency is Key

Ideally, you should brush your dog's teeth daily, but if that's not possible, aim for a few times a week. Consistency is more important than frequency, so try to incorporate it into your routine.


Understanding the reasons behind mouth smacking can help dog owners better care for their pets. While many causes are benign, staying alert to the context and frequency of this behavior is key to ensuring your dog's health and well-being. Regular veterinary check-ups and attentive observation of your pet's habits and behaviors are essential components of responsible dog ownership. If in doubt, always err on the side of caution and consult a professional to ensure your furry friend stays healthy and happy.

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