Our dogs are doing a lot of things we simply don’t understand. They’re eating their own poop. They love to roll in the mud. They stick their noses to things that are alive and not alive. They smack their lips.
Does your dog do that last one excessively? Here are some of the possible reasons why your dog smacks her lips and what you could do to help her.
Why Is Your Dog Smacking Her Lips?
1. Your dog might be hungry
Normally, when she’s hungry, your dog would lick or smack her lips. So, when you’re showing her a treat or you’re preparing her meal, you’ll notice she’s smacking her lips a lot and her tongue is moving from side to side.
Anticipating food makes her drool and smacking her lips prevents the drool from dribbling all over the floor.
If she stops her lip-smacking after eating, then the behavior is quite normal and there is no cause for alarm.
2. Your dog might have problems inside her mouth
Since lip-smacking is an oral habit, something could bother the mouth of your dog. By smacking her lips, she might try to alleviate the discomfort.
Check inside her mouth if your dog allows you to do it. See if there’s a little sliver wood stuck on her gums or mouth sides. She may have tooth decay. She may be infected with gingivitis or gum.
Saliva is very much associated with lip-smacking. So check under your dog’s tongue the salivary glands and the flesh under her jawline. So if the salivary glands or jawline of your dog are swollen, then the lip-smacking behavior will most likely be contracted.
The name of this swelling is sialocele. This results in too much pooling of the saliva in one part of the mouth and not normal flowing. Your dog licks and smacks her lips to make other parts of the mouth move the saliva.
If these areas are very red and swollen, bring your dog to the vet.
3. Your dog might have an upset stomach or other digestion problems
Does your dog smack her lips then swallow or gulps a lot? Then she might be feeling nauseous. But this nausea might be a symptom of an underlying problem.
She could find it difficult to digest her food. Maybe she’d eat something that irritated her stomach. Bile may be building up in her stomach too much. Because of acid reflux, she may have an inflamed esophagus (esophagitis).
If she frantically eats grass when you let her out then there is a high chance that she is nauseous.
Whatever the cause may be, the symptoms will usually culminate with vomiting. Sometimes the vomit is colored yellow. This means bile trouble.
Normally, after vomiting, the smacking action should end. If the vomiting usually takes place at night, this could be avoided by a light midnight snack.
But if the vomiting repeats within 24 hours, then bring your dog to the vet.
4. Your dog might be bloated
This is related to the condition discussed above but it needs a special mention.
Bloating expands the stomach Gas, gastric fluid, and food that does not agree with your dog’s stomach can cause this condition. It can happen all of a sudden. Deep chest dogs like Great Danes, Great Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, and Standard Poodles are more likely to develop a bloat case.
You may think your dog will just be able to fart and the bloat will go away. But bloating can be fatal to some breeds, so check up your dog by the vet, especially if bloating persists for a couple of days.
5. Your dog might be in pain
The conduct of lip-smacking might be a subtle warning or reaction to the physical pain of your pet. When you touch a certain part of her body, should she scream or yelp? She’s limping? Should she prefer a certain foot or a part of her stomach?
The exact location of your dog’s pain is typically difficult to identify, particularly when the pain comes from within. Your dog may have liver or kidney disease. Again, it requires a trip to the vet.
6. Your dog might be dehydrated
Your dog might be dehydrated. She will smack her lips to wet her gums.
The dehydration effects may come from various factors. Perhaps the weather is too cold. Your pet may have a heatstroke. She could just have had a rigorous physical exercise or activity She might have liver or kidney disease as a medical condition.
Lift the skin near the shoulder blades of your dog and check her gums to see if dehydration is the cause. If the skin is in a snap returns to its normal position and its gums shine, the pet is still hydrated. If the skin slowly sinks back as if it has lost its elasticity and the gums are tacky and dry then your dog is extremely dehydrated.
7. Your dog might have eaten something toxic
Your pet may have eaten something poisonous to her. Ingestion doesn’t just mean eating it. She might have licked something toxic. Poisonous stuff is one of the things you should be careful about.
As you know, your dog is very inquisitive. She will want to smell and taste anything interesting. But she might mistake a poisonous toad for a stone or a poisonous mushroom as a treat.
If the lip-smacking is accompanied by any of the following, then bring her to the vet immediately:
- excessive drooling
- uncommonly red gums
- increased body temperature (hyperthermia)
- constant shaking of the head
- pawing the mouth and face more than usual
- foam at the mouth
- unsteadiness or lack of body coordination
8. Your dog might be having a seizure
Your pet may have a moderate or partial focal seizure. In this scenario, lip-smacking is followed by biting at nothing or licking the air. She may also show listlessness. After an episode, she might also look depressed.
If this happens several times or periodically, then your dog might be suffering from epilepsy or other neurological disorders. Your vet will be able to conduct tests to see if this is your dog’s condition.
9. Your dog might be having allergies
A foxtail is spiky grass seed. It can move into the ear of your dog up its nose, or into the eyes. It might lodge between her toes as well. It’s also one of your dog’s most common causes of allergy. Other allergens might include dust pollen, weeds cleaning chemicals, mold, detergents, or flea medications.
If your dog exhibits the following, then she may be having an allergic reaction to something:
- appears panicky
- constantly licks lips
- swallows or gulps a lot
- eats anything on the ground like leaves or grass
- licks floor, walls, or people more than usual.
If you manage to keep away allergens from your dog and she recovers immediately then you have nothing to worry about. But if the allergy does not subside then bring your dog to the vet.
10. Your dog might be stressed, anxious, or confused
Just like humans, when they are stressed, anxious, or confused, dogs lick their lips. Is your dog really licking her lips rapidly? Then she’s smelling her lips? This means your dog is under pressure, uncomfortable or frightened.
Did you scold your dog for peeing on the couch a few hours ago? Are you visiting the vet for a routine check-up? Are you giving her mixed signals by saying wait and come in one training session?
This conduct is termed a “calming signal”. This behavior is the way the dog sends a message that she feels threatened. If this activity is not tested early, based on these circumstances, your dog may develop a bad habit. In human terms, this could be similar to nail-biting.
What are the solutions to your dog’s lip-smacking behavior?
Before your dog’s behavior becomes a bad habit or before it becomes too severe that it becomes fatal, let’s explore what you can do for her.
1. Provide first aid
If you think the lip-smacking of your dog is due to something in her throat. Give her balls made of mashed potatoes or bread that she can swallow without stunning. This way, the piece could become unstuck. But if she keeps smacking her lips, take her to the vet.
Make her drink plenty of water if your dog is dehydrated. Use a syringe (without a needle) to force water into her if she doesn’t want to drink from her cup. Alternatively, give her broth that is at room temperature. This will hydrate her while supplying the chicken or beef with additional minerals.
If your dog has ingested or licked something toxic, spray your dog’s mouth with water to wash away any toxin remaining on the tongue. Don’t force her to vomit it. This could harm her more than doing her good.
Don’t stop with the application of first aid, though. Bring your dog to the vet.
2. Bring your dog to the vet
Note that the reasons stated above are only possible causes of your dog’s behavior. There may be a combination of conditions that could trigger your dog’s lip-smacking behavior.
First aid solutions also only provide temporary relief. A trip to the vet is always important to give lasting relief to your dog or just to ensure that the underlying medical condition of your dog is properly treated.
Report your observations to the vet. For example, tell your vet if your dog has been nauseous or vomiting for more than 24 hours.
Then your vet will be able to conduct the proper examinations. The results of the tests will either support your conjecture or will tell you a different story.
Also, your vet can perform surgeries or provide medications for your dog.
If the cause is swollen salivary glands or jawline, a surgical drain may be done by your vet to make the swelling go down. Bacteria and other infections usually cause swelling. Your veterinarian will give your dog the right medicine to make the swelling go down.
If your dog swallowed a foxtail, then your vet can find out the best way to find where that pesky thing is hiding and how to get it out of your dog’s body.
If your dog is dehydrated but refuses to drink water, it may need oral hydration, subcutaneous, or intravenous. Your veterinarian might do these procedures properly.
3. If your dog is stressed, anxious, or confused then you need to find the source of what she is feeling.
You may need to change your conduct as well. Don’t scold her when she’s peeing everywhere and swallowing her feces. Train her to prevent this. Scolding her could only escalate the behavior.
If you can’t train her then enroll her in a dog school or engage the services of a dog behaviorist.
Like other dog habits, lip-smacking might be the natural reaction of your dog to something like food. But it might also be a symptom of a serious underlying disease. Being safe is always better than to be sorry when it comes to the safety of your dog. So, keep an eye on your dog and take her to the vet when you see the problem is getting serious.