Why Do Dogs Lick Their Lips When You Pet Them?

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Dogs licking their lips when petted is a behavior that can be both endearing and perplexing.

Why do they do it? Is it a sign of affection or anxiety? How can you get them to stop if it’s becoming a problem? And why do dogs lick their lips when you pet them?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the science behind why dogs lick their lips and offer some tips on how to deal with this behavior.

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Reasons Why My Dog Licks His Lips When I Pet Him?

Reasons Why My Dog Licks His Lips When I Pet Him?

Dogs often lick their lips when they are feeling happy, excited, or nervous.

When you pet your dog, the feel of your hand against their skin feels good to them.

They might be trying to show submission by licking their lips in an effort to please you more.

It could also be a sign of excitement, as dogs often lick their lips when they are excited or nervous.

Knowing what this behavior means can help you understand your dog better and sniff out potential issues.

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1. Thirsty or dehydrated

If you’ve been gone for a while or if it’s hot out, your dog might be dehydrated.

Your dog’s tongue is dry and he licks his lips to moisten them and make them more comfortable, similar to how you would wet your own lips if they were dry or chapped.

In dogs, lip smacking, or simply a more pronounced and noisy form of lip licking, is a typical sign of dehydration.

Other signs include sunken eyes, dry or sticky gums, and a lack of skin suppleness.

Dehydration can be caused by hot, humid weather, strenuous exercise, or a combination of the two.

Move your dog indoors to a cooler area and offer them some fresh water if you suspect dehydration.

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2. Feeling excited or happy

They are probably feeling excited or happy.

Sometimes when you pet your dog, he will start licking his lips because it feels good to him and makes him feel warm and fuzzy inside.

This can also happen when you’re playing with your dog and giving him a treat.

3. Very relaxed

I’m not sure about you but each time I give my dog a belly rub, she gets so comfortable that her tongue sticks out and sometimes she licks it.

This is a sign that your dog is very relaxed and is just enjoying the moment.

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4. Seeking attention

Dogs are very social animals, and they tend to seek out attention from humans when they are feeling lonely or bored.

If your dog licks his lips when you pet him, it might be because he’s trying to get your attention.

He might be doing this because he wants you to pet him more or play with him or give him some treats.

5. Finished eating 

This behavior is similar to us cleaning our mouths after eating!

And especially so after having a delicious meal as it is trying to get every single drop of flavor by licking its lips.

6. Sending you a submissive message

This frequently happens when your dog is guilty of something and you are reprimanding it.

The thing is, when you are scolding it, it perceives the action as a threat (since it does not understand your words), and licks its lips as a way of telling you that it is submissive

7. Showing love and affection

When my dog licks his lips, he is often doing it to show me that he loves me.

The lip licking usually occurs after I pet him for a few minutes and it is often followed by an intense stare into my eyes.

This behavior is common in dogs who are rewarded for good behavior or show affection to their owner.

8. Stress and anxiety

You can tell when your dog is feeling this way by looking at his overall body language and facial expressions.

Dogs that are stressed or uncomfortable will usually have their ears back, tails down, and they will avoid making direct eye contact with you.

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9. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD affects about 2% of dogs according to some studies.

However, there are no definitive numbers because many owners do not recognize signs until later stages of development when obsessive behaviors become problematic for them and their pets.

Sporting and herding breeds are more predisposed to this condition.

10. Neurological disorders such as focal seizures

Focal seizures are a type of seizure that occurs in one part of the brain.

They can cause involuntary movements, changes in behavior, or strange sensations.

Focal seizures are also called partial seizures because they only affect a small area of the brain.

11. Cognitive Dysfunction 

Dogs who have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), a condition related to dementia in humans, may lick their lips.

It affects elderly and geriatric dogs, and your veterinarian will only identify it after ruling out all other potential reasons for lip licking.

House soiling, altered sleep-wake patterns, pacing, vocalization, and bewilderment are further CDS symptoms.

12. Presence of a foreign object

If your dog licks his lips when you pet him, it’s possible that he has a foreign object in his mouth.

If this is the case, he may also paw at his mouth as if trying to get something out of it.

You should check your dog’s teeth and gums for any small objects such as bones, rawhides, or even pieces of the toys it’s been chewing on that may be causing the licking behavior.

13. Nausea

Dogs who are going to vomit may suddenly begin to lick their lips excessively.

Even if feeling queasy does not result in vomiting, they may lick their lips at this time.

If your dog does experience stomach discomfort, it can be due to something they consumed or an overeating incident.

Drooling, vomiting, a decrease in appetite, or a sudden want to eat a lot of grass are some additional signs of nausea.

To relieve nausea, you might need to feed your dog a bland diet and plenty of water.

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14. Experiencing pain

Dogs will occasionally lick their lips to show that they are in pain.

If so, you must handle your dog carefully because it can become aggressive when they are in pain.

Look out for other telltale signs such as excessive whining or barking, limping, sensitivity to touch, lethargy, and panting.

15. Oral ulcers

Dogs can develop these ulcers for a variety of reasons, but they’re almost always caused by stress or trauma to the mouth.

A serious infection, caustic chemicals, dental disease, and even hot food can cause oral ulcers in dogs.

16. Dental issues

A dog who licks his lips frequently and excessively may have tooth decay or gum disease.

This can lead to bad breath, which is one of the first symptoms of gum disease, according to the ASPCA.

If your dog’s teeth are in good shape and he has no signs of gingivitis or other oral health problems, you probably don’t need to worry about it.

However, if your dog licks his lips more often than usual and seems to have difficulty chewing or swallowing food, this could be a sign of a dental problem.

17. Underlying medical issues

There could be other underlying medical issues that are causing this behavior in your dog, including allergies.

Sometimes, these are much more difficult to detect so it’s a good idea to take your dog to the vet and get it tested.

Before doing so, you should ask yourself if there have been any changes in your dog’s diet and environment that can cause it.

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Why Do Dogs Smack Their Lips? 

Humans occasionally lick and slap their lips in anticipation of meals. Dogs frequently behave in the same way.

Dogs do, however, occasionally smack their lips even though food does not appear to be around.

Stress is the main factor in lip-smacking in dogs.

For some reason, licking their lips is a calming action for dogs; you’ll frequently witness this behavior while you’re reprimanding the dog or if they are confronting something frightening, such as a rainstorm or loud noise.

When To Be Concerned About Dog Licking Its Lips

Licking is a natural, instinctual behavior in dogs. It’s their way of cleaning themselves, and they do it when they’re dirty or to get food off their face.

A dog who licks his lips frequently may just be doing what comes naturally to him, but there are other reasons why a dog might lick his lips that you should be concerned about.

If your dog has a habit of licking its lips or tongue excessively all the time and especially if she does so when she’s not eating or drinking, then it could be a sign that something isn’t right.

Perhaps she has an infection in her mouth or throat that makes her feel uncomfortable or painful.

A vet will be able to tell you if this is the case and prescribe antibiotics if necessary.

What to Do if Your Dog Is Licking His Lips?

Check for an underlying medical condition

If your dog is licking his lips, it’s important to make sure that he doesn’t have an underlying medical condition.

There are a number of reasons that a dog might lick his lips, but if the behavior continues after it’s been diagnosed as a simple habit or vice versa, you should seek professional help.

Evaluate your dog’s behavior and appearance

Are there any other signs that something might be wrong

  • Is he panting excessively?
  • Does he seem lethargic?
  • Does his gait seem off balance?
  • Do his eyes appear sunken in or watery?

These are all useful to help you determine if there is a need to see the vet.

What to Do if Your Dog Is Licking His Lips

How To Get Your Dog To Stop Licking Their Lips

Frankly speaking, this behavior is generally harmless and is a natural thing for dogs to do.

If you feel that it is becoming excessive, the first thing you should do is to offer it water (in case of dehydration), and check inside its mouth for sores, ulcers, and anything lodged between its teeth.

Also, you need to be very mindful if there is any change in its environment that can cause stress and anxiety.

This can be anything minor from changing its bed to a new member joining the family.

Beyond the above points, you might want to bring your dog to the vet if you deem the linking to be excessive to check for any potential illnesses.

Is It Harmful To Let Your Dog Lick Their Lips?

When your dog licks their lips excessively, it could be a sign of illness or stress.

For example, if your dog is sick, it might lick its lips in an attempt to fight off the infection.

Alternatively, if your dog is stressed out it might lick its lips in an effort to calm down.

If you notice your dog licking their lips excessively, it’s best to take them to see a vet for evaluation.

Do you know why dogs stare at the floor?

What To Do If You Think Your Dog’s Lip Licking Is Due To Anxiety

Dogs lick their lips for many reasons, but one of the most common is anxiety.

If you think your dog is licking its lips excessively due to anxiety, there are a few things you can do to help them feel more comfortable.

Firstly, it will be helpful to try and identify the source of their anxiety.

Consider the things that have changed in the environment: new members in the family, new pets, noisy construction sites, frequent thunderstorms, etc.

Once you know the root of their anxiety, you can start to address it in a way that is appropriate for your dog.

For example, if they’re anxious about being left alone, you might need to crate them when you leave the house.

Alternatively, if they’re anxious about thunderstorms or other loud noises, treats and toys that make noise might work best for them.

You may also help them by trying natural remedies like CBD oil or calming supplements designed to reduce anxiety.

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Other techniques that may work include behavioral therapy and training exercises that focus on reducing your dog’s exposure to situations or stimuli that cause anxiety.

In addition, patience and consistency are key when dealing with anxiety in dogs.

It’s important not to give up on them too quickly; instead, try and provide reassurance and support as needed over time.

If you’re unable to find an appropriate treatment for your dog with traditional methods, then you may need to visit the veterinarian for further diagnosis and treatment.

In Conclusion: Why Do Dogs Lick Their Lips When You Pet Them?

In most cases, this interesting behavior should go away soon enough and not become something you need to worry about.

Of course, you need to keep your eyes open for when it becomes excessive.

The tips in this post will help you figure out what to do first, and when you need a vet to step in.

Be sure to check out other dog behavior articles on our site such as the following:

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Daily Dog Drama!

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