My Dog Keeps Licking His Lips and Swallowing

icon May 14, 2024

Dogs communicate in various ways, and one common behavior that owners often observe is excessive lip licking and swallowing. While occasional lip licking is normal, persistent or excessive licking followed by swallowing could indicate an underlying issue that requires attention. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the potential reasons behind this behavior and offer insights into how to address it.

Understanding Normal Lip Licking Behavior:

Lip licking is a natural behavior in dogs and serves multiple purposes. It can be a sign of appeasement or submission, a way to clean their lips after eating, or simply a response to a tasty treat. Additionally, dogs may lick their lips in anticipation of food or when they're feeling anxious or stressed. In most cases, occasional lip licking is nothing to worry about and is considered a normal part of canine behavior.

Potential Causes of Excessive Lip Licking and Swallowing:

While occasional lip licking is normal, persistent or excessive licking followed by swallowing could be indicative of an underlying issue. Here are some potential causes to consider:

1. Nausea or Digestive Issues:

One common reason dogs may lick their lips excessively is nausea or gastrointestinal discomfort. Dogs may lick their lips in an attempt to alleviate nausea or to clear excess saliva caused by an upset stomach. If your dog is experiencing digestive issues such as gastritis, gastroenteritis, or pancreatitis, they may exhibit this behavior along with other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy.

2. Dental Problems:

Dental issues, such as gum disease, tooth decay, or oral infections, can cause discomfort or pain, leading to excessive lip licking and swallowing. Dogs may lick their lips as a way to soothe sore gums or to dislodge food particles stuck between their teeth. If your dog's lip licking is accompanied by reluctance to eat, pawing at the mouth, or bad breath, it could indicate a dental problem that requires veterinary attention.

3. Stress or Anxiety:

Dogs may lick their lips excessively when they're feeling stressed, anxious, or nervous. This behavior is often seen in situations that trigger fear or discomfort, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, visits to the veterinarian, or being left alone for extended periods. Lip licking, along with other stress-related behaviors like panting, pacing, or trembling, can be a sign that your dog is feeling overwhelmed and needs reassurance or a calming environment.

4. Allergies:

Allergies to food, environmental factors, or parasites can cause itchiness and discomfort in dogs, leading to excessive licking and swallowing. Food allergies, in particular, may manifest as lip licking along with other symptoms like itching, redness, or inflammation of the skin, ears, or paws. Environmental allergens such as pollen, mold, or dust mites can also trigger allergic reactions that result in skin irritation and compulsive licking.

5. Medical Conditions:

Certain medical conditions, such as acid reflux, esophagitis, or megaesophagus, can cause discomfort or irritation in the throat or esophagus, prompting dogs to lick their lips and swallow frequently. Additionally, neurological disorders or abnormalities may affect the coordination of swallowing muscles, leading to abnormal licking and swallowing patterns.

6. Behavioral Issues:

In some cases, excessive lip licking and swallowing may be a learned behavior or a compulsive habit developed over time. Dogs may engage in this behavior as a form of self-soothing or as a way to seek attention or food rewards from their owners. If the behavior becomes compulsive or interferes with your dog's quality of life, behavioral modification techniques or professional guidance may be necessary to address the underlying issue.

Observation and Consultation with a Veterinarian:

If your dog is exhibiting persistent or concerning lip licking and swallowing behavior, it's essential to observe their overall health and behavior closely. Keep track of any accompanying symptoms, changes in appetite, water intake, or bowel movements, as these can provide valuable clues about the underlying cause.

Schedule a thorough examination with your veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions or underlying health issues. Your vet may perform diagnostic tests such as bloodwork, urinalysis, imaging studies, or endoscopy to identify any underlying medical problems contributing to your dog's symptoms.

Treatment and Management Strategies:

The appropriate treatment for excessive lip licking and swallowing will depend on the underlying cause identified by your veterinarian. Treatment options may include:

Depending on the diagnosis, your veterinarian may prescribe medications to alleviate symptoms such as nausea, pain, inflammation, or anxiety.

Dietary Changes:
If food allergies or sensitivities are suspected, your vet may recommend switching to a hypoallergenic diet or eliminating potential allergens from your dog's food.

Dental Care:
Treatment for dental issues may involve professional dental cleaning, tooth extraction, or other dental procedures to address oral health problems.

Environmental Management:
Creating a calm and stress-free environment for your dog can help reduce anxiety-related lip licking. Provide your dog with a comfortable, safe space where they can retreat during stressful situations.

Behavior Modification:
Working with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can help address underlying behavioral issues contributing to compulsive lip licking. Positive reinforcement techniques and desensitization exercises may be used to modify your dog's behavior.


Excessive lip licking and swallowing in dogs can be a sign of underlying medical, dental, or behavioral issues that require attention. By understanding the potential causes of this behavior and seeking timely veterinary care, you can help identify and address any underlying health issues affecting your dog's well-being. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can help your dog feel more comfortable and improve their overall quality of life. Remember to consult with your veterinarian for personalized guidance and recommendations tailored to your dog's specific needs.

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