What is an Emergency Vet?

Pet owners commonly wonder what is an emergency vet and what would happen if they had to take their pet to an emergency vet clinic. First, let’s look at what is an emergency vet?

An emergency vet is a veterinarian that focuses their work on veterinary emergencies. Some emergency vets work full time at an emergency clinic while, others do emergency work at their hospitals nights and weekends, and some work emergency shifts as a second job.

In addition to veterinarians that focus their work on emergencies, there are veterinarians that specialize in emergency and critical care. This means that after completing veterinary school, they continue training for 4 to 5 years to obtain this specialized degree. Veterinarians that are board-certified in emergency and critical care commonly have the initials DACVECC after their DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) degree. DACVECC means Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care. For example, a veterinarian that is board certified in veterinary emergency and critical care would be John Smith, DVM, DACVECC.

How Do You See an Emergency Vet?

There are two common ways pet owners have their pets emergencies treated.

The first is that your family veterinarian takes calls and emergencies on weekends and nights. Occasionally a veterinarian may also do house calls however the most common practice is for dog and cat owners to take their pet to the veterinary hospital.

The second way pet owners have their pet’s emergencies treated is through a veterinary emergency hospital. Most large cities have one or several veterinary emergency clinics. Some emergency clinics operate just nights and weekends (basically they are open when the regular vet clinics close) and others are open 24/7/365. Some emergencies clinics are associated with specialty hospitals that offer expertise in cardiology, dermatology, surgery, internal medicine, oncology, avian and exotic, anesthesiology, radiology, critical care, rehabilitation, dentistry, and more.

What are Common Dogs and Cats Emergencies?

There are literally thousands of reasons dogs and cats can end up at emergency vet clinics. They can range from being hit by a car, lacerations, ingestion of toxins, as well as common problems such as itching, ear infections, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea.

The most common reasons dogs present to emergency rooms are as follows:

The most common reasons cats present to emergency rooms are as follows:

What is the Best Way to See an Emergency Vet?

The best way to see an emergency vet will depend on you, your pets needs, and what services your family vet offers. In many cases, the least expensive way to have your pet treated is by your family veterinarian.

Some veterinary clinics do not provide emergency services and refer all their after-hour calls to a local emergency clinic, some see emergencies on an outpatient basis, and others provide 24/7 emergency care and have the staffing to support pets all night. Veterinary clinics that see emergencies on an outpatient basis may refer serious or life-threatening problems to a 24-hour facility that has an around-the-clock nursing staff to monitor and care for your dog or cat.

If your family vet is closed or your pet needs more intensive 24-hour care than your veterinarian can provide, the best option may be to go to an emergency vet clinic.

Do you wonder when you should go to or call the emergency vet? Go to: When Should You Call the Emergency Vet Hotline? This article identifies the most common emergency situations including a list of foods and toxins that should prompt a call.

How Do Emergency Vet Clinics Work?

An emergency vet clinic operates similarly to human emergency rooms and urgent care clinics. You don’t need an appointment and can go any hours they are open.

Emergency vet clinics practice triage. Triage is a method that identifies the most critical patients to ensure they receive attention and treatment the soonest in an effort to save the most lives. This means that a dog hit by a car that is having trouble breathing and bleeding will get priority over a dog that has been limping for two days. Learn more about the Day in the Life of an Emergency Veterinarian.

What Should You Expect from an Emergency Vet?

If your dog or cat is severely ill or injured, it is ideal to call ahead and let the veterinary staff know you are coming and provide any information you have about your pet’s condition. For example, if your dog is having trouble breathing, they will likely prepare by setting up an oxygen cage in advance. They may also organize an intravenous (IV) fluid set up that will allow them to quickly insert an IV and deliver life-saving fluid therapy and drug treatments.

The #2 Reason Cats Go To The Emergency Room – Do You Know What It Is?

The number one reason cat owners take their cats to the animal emergency room is for vomiting.

Can you guess what the second reason is?

It’s when a cat is not eating. The “not eating”, also known by the medical term “anorexia”, is often accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and/or lethargy. A cat who won’t eat is a common symptom and can be caused by many different diseases. For example, refusing to eat can be caused by a viral infection, various toxins, cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, liver problems and just about anything else.

Because not eating is so common, it is likely that it will affect your cat at one time or another. This article will cover tips on how to plan for, treat, and prevent this problem in your cat.

What to Do if Your Cat is Not Eating

  1. This is basic but important. Make sure you know where your local emergency room is or how your vet deals with an emergency. Keep this information (phone number, hours, address and directions) handy.
  2. Next, make sure you know your cat’s medical history and any medications he is on. If possible, have copies of any important information.
  3. Observe your cat for all abnormalities, food changes, toxins, and more. Make sure you carefully observe your cat when he is not eating. If you have to take your cat to your vet or to an after-hours or emergency clinic, they will want to know when the last time your cat ate, and if his lack of appetite is associated with any other symptom such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, collapse, trouble breathing…or anything else. Monitor the litter box and make sure he is urinating okay and observe the bowel movements for abnormalities such as diarrhea, evidence of blood, or worms. Check the trash to ensure that he has not been exposed to any toxins or other objects. Note if there has been any change in your cat’s diet or new treats. If your cat is on medication, has his medication changed recently? If your cat goes outdoors, keep him where you can keep an eye on him.
  4. Encourage your cat to eat. You can offer fresh food and fresh water. Some cats respond to “fresh food” from the bag or a new bag. Canned foods, especially fish flavors, pouched food, new and different dry foods, chicken baby food, and/or canned tuna will stimulate some cats to eat. If the problem is minor — a cat may eat well and quickly be back to normal. If the cat doesn’t’ eat or still acts lethargic, the problem may be more serious. If you are worried, the best recommendation is to have the cat evaluated by a veterinarian.
  5. Talk to your vet. If you call a veterinary clinic, you may hear some advice. If your cat is acting sick or you are concerned, the recommendation is always to bring the cat in for evaluation.
  6. There is no good way to “prevent” the lack of appetite unless you can prevent the underlying cause. To keep your cat safest, prevent exposure of your cat to trash, table scraps, and other foreign objects that they may be inclined to chew on. Buy only safe toys and ensure your cat does not ingest on any objects around that house which he could swallow (such as thread, yarn, ribbon, or strings) that he would be unable to digest causing a possible obstruction. Make any food changes gradually and over several days.

What Does it Cost to Take a Cat That is Not Eating to the Vet?

How much will it cost to see the vet if your cat is not eating? Because there are so many possible causes, most veterinarians will recommend some basic blood work and possibly a urinalysis to help determine the possible underlying cause. Additionally, radiographs (X-rays) may also be recommended.

The prices at different clinics around the country vary but without treatment, the emergency fee, blood work, and X-rays can range from $425.00 to about $800.00. Again, this does not include any treatment. Depending on what the tests reveal and the underlying cause for the not eating, various treatments may be recommended. Fluid therapy may be recommended for dehydration, and other treatments may be recommended to treat additional symptoms.

Unfortunately, cats can be expensive and this can be a substantial expense for some cat owners. If you don’t have pet insurance – how often can you afford to do this? How many times could you afford to cover cat emergencies out of pocket like this? How about even more costly emergencies? Have you looked into pet insurance yet? If you have not done so, take a minute and find out how pet insurance can save you money.

When Should You Call the Emergency Vet Hotline?

It can be very scary when your pet has a medical problem or emergency and your veterinarian is closed. Maybe it is a holiday, after-hours, or a weekend. Many pet owners want to know when they should call the emergency vet hotline. On one hand you don’t want to call too soon and bother them but on the other hand, you don’t want to wait too long. Here are tips to help you decide when to call.

First, what is an emergency? As an emergency veterinarian, I tell my clients an emergency is literally anything that causes you concern about your pet. You know your dog and cat best. You know when there is something wrong. If you are worried about something, then call. I’d rather pet owners’ call and ask. Maybe I can alleviate their concerns over the phone. Or maybe I can get the pet in sooner and more effectively treat the pet’s problem or even save their life.

The 3 Most Common Reasons Dog and Cat Owners Call the Emergency Vet Hotline

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of emergencies that can occur to dogs and cats. The links in the articles below can help you understand more about these common problems and what the problems may cost. The most common emergencies are as follows:

52 Reasons to Call the Emergency Vet Hotline

It is important to know when to call the emergency vet hotline. Below are reasons to call.

Toxins, Insecticides and Medications Ingestion

A big category of reasons to call is a pet that eats something they shouldn’t. Some items are extremely dangerous and toxic when ingested. Some items can be fatal. Some toxins can be effectively treated if your veterinarian knows about them immediately.

Call the emergency vet hotline if your pet ingests any of the following toxins or medications:

  • Rat Poison of any kind or baits such as Metaldehyde (common snail and slug bait). These can be extremely dangerous. If you catch it early, you vet may induce vomiting.
  • Ingestion of any kind of cleaning chemicals such as Bathroom Cleaners, Bleach, Lysol and Other Corrosives.
  • Ingestion of Antifreeze can cause kidney failure and be life-threatening.
  • Any over-the-counter medications such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen (Advil), Naproxen, or Acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • All prescription human medications including blood pressure medications, amphetamines (commonly used diet pills or mood elevators), estrogen medications, and more.
  • Nicotine. Nicotine can be toxic. It is found in a variety of sources, primarily cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, nicotine gum, and nicotine patches.
  • Exposure to Illicit drugs such as Cocaine, Ecstasy, Heroin, Marijuana and any other.
  • Ingestion of vitamins. Some vitamins can be toxic in high doses.
  • Ant traps are generally not toxic but the plastic can cause a foreign body problem. Call to be sure.
  • Licking or eating Potpourri. The liquid variety can be very caustic and be extremely dangerous.
  • Lead can be toxic.
  • Ingestion of coins can not only cause a foreign body and get stuck in the gastrointestinal tract but some coins contain zinc and can cause life-threatening zinc toxicity.
  • Exposure to insecticides that were not prescribed for your specific pet such as carbamate insecticides, organophosphate insecticides, and/or pyrethrin and permethrin insecticides. Amitraz is an insecticide used in some brands of dog tick collars and topical solutions that can also be toxic. Using dog products on cats can be highly toxic and deadly.
  • Overdoses of a pet’s regular medication can be dangerous such as ivermectin, carprofen (Rimadyl) or any other medication. Flavored medications can be especially attractive to dogs.

Just as it is important to know what is toxic, this article is also helpful to know what is nontoxic. Go to: Non-toxic Items Commonly Eaten by Dogs.

Dangerous Food Ingestion

Call the emergency vet hotline if your pet ingests any of the following foods:

  • Chocolate ingestion. Some types of chocolate are more toxic than others.
  • Corncobs can become lodged in the intestine and require surgery to remove.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Grape and Raisins.
  • Bread dough.
  • Food with mold.
  • Onions.
  • Bones can be dangerous to dogs.
  • Chewing gum or other baked goods that contain xylitol.
  • Peanut butter that contains xylitol.

Learn more about dangerous foods in this very good article.

Trauma and Accidents

The following problems can be life-threatening. Please call your veterinarian or veterinary emergency hotline if your pet suffers from any of the following:

  • Hit by a moving vehicle such
  • Bite wounds
  • Lacerations or punctures
  • Exposure to heat such as closed in car or sun

Things that Can’t be Digested

Ingestion of anything plastic, metal, rock or fabric density that cannot be digested can become lodged in the stomach or intestines.

Dangerous Symptoms

The following symptoms can be life-threatening and can quickly lead to death. Please call your veterinarian or veterinary emergency hotline if you see the following problems with your pet:

  1. Unproductive vomiting or retching
  2. Seizures
  3. Trouble breathing
  4. New onset coughing
  5. Lethargy
  6. Trouble walking
  7. Inability to use the back legs or walk
  8. Falling over to one side
  9. Pale mucous membranes
  10. Straining to urinate or nonproductive urinations
  11. Straining to defecate
  12. Blood in the urine
  13. Blood in the vomit
  14. Blood in the feces
  15. Open wounds such as lacerations
  16. Vomiting and diarrhea
  17. Disorientation or other changes in mental awareness
  18. Pain
  19. Lameness or trouble walking
  20. Fever
  21. Hives or swellings
  22. Decreased appetite or anorexia
  23. Excessive itching

What Number Do You Call for the Emergency Vet Hotline

The best number to call when you have a dog or cat emergency is your veterinarian. If your vet is available or open, they may see you immediately. If not, their answering machine generally guides you to the best place to go in your area.

My Dog Is Constantly Licking His Nose

Have you ever wondered why your dog may lick his nose? There are numerous reasons why dogs may lick their noses and some can have serious health consequences. Below we will review causes for dogs to constantly lick their nose.

Causes of Dog Constantly Licking Nose

Below are some possible causes for dogs licking their noses:

Behavioral Causes of a Dog Constantly Licking His Nose

  • Normal behavior
    • Dogs rely on their amazing sense of smell and will lick their nose to keep it moist. The increased moisture can allow dogs to better pick up scents.
    • Some dogs will lick their noses when there is something on their nose. For example, a dog presented because pinesap was on his nose and it felt funny/sticky so he was constantly licking his nose.
  • Behavioral reasons
    • Some dogs will lick their lips or noses when they are confused or anxious. For example, some dogs with storm phobias may lick their noses when they are nervous.
    • Some dogs will lick their noses due to a behavioral problem such as a compulsive disorder. Compulsive behaviors are repetitive sequences of behavior that are fairly consistent in their presentation. They do not appear to serve any obvious purpose, although some argue that they function to reduce a dog’s stress level. Some compulsive behaviors appear to be triggered by anxiety or stress. Compulsive behaviors may be time consuming, may result in physical injury to the dog, may significantly impair the dog’s ability to function normally, and may impair the dog’s relationship with his owner. Learn more about Compulsive Behavior in Dogs.

Medical Causes of a Dog Constantly Licking His Nose

Health problems can lead to a dog constantly licking their noses and may vary from minor issues to very serious problems. Nose licking is most concerning when the nose licking is new, excessive, or when it is associated with nasal discharge or blood.

Possible causes of nose licking include:

  • Trauma. Any trauma that results in a cut, puncture, abrasion, or injury to the nose area can feel funny and can cause a dog to scratch, rub or lick his nose. Skin trauma such as cuts and punctures can become infected, which can itch and cause a dog to lick their nose and rub their face. It is also possible to notice a scab, puncture, abrasion, discharge and/or a foul odor from an infected wound.
  • Bites or stings. Any type of bite to the face or around the nose can cause dog nose licking. Bites may include insect bites from spiders, horse flies, mosquitos, and/or a bee or wasp sting. Snakebites can also occur around the face and mouth and cause pain, swelling, discharge, and/or nose licking.
  • Foreign body. Dogs with something caught in their nose will often lick their noses, rub their noses, sneeze, and/or have nasal discharge that may include blood. For example, a plant awn or grass blade can get inside the nose and cause these symptoms.
    Dental disease. Signs of dental disease in dogs may include not eating, a foul odor to the mouth (halitosis), inflamed red gums, tartar, and sometimes drooling, lip licking and/or nose licking. As dental disease advances, plaque turns to tartar and bacteria can create gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) and tooth loss. As dental disease progresses, in very severe cases, teeth can abscess up through the skin into the cheek and sometimes can extend into the nasal cavity.
  • Nasal infections. Dogs can develop bacterial or fungal infections of the nose that can lead to nasal discharge. A natural response to dealing with a runny nose for dogs is to lick their noses. Some dogs will also sneeze and will sound congested when they breathe. Sinus infections can also cause nasal discharge and nose licking.
  • Nasal tumors. Cancer can occur anywhere in a dog’s body including the nose. Signs of a nasal tumor most often is sneezing and/or nasal discharge. Sometimes the discharge is bloody as the tumor progresses.
  • Seizures. Canine seizures can result in different types of behaviors or movements. Some dogs that have seizures will lie on their sides paddling their legs as with full grand-mal seizures. Other dogs with partial seizures can result in more subtle signs of a seizure such as lip licking or nose licking.
  • Nasal discharge. Dogs can have a nasal discharge from in infection but it can also be due to a bloody nose. The medical term for a bloody nose is epistaxis. This can be caused by ingestion of rat poison, foreign bodies, nasal tumors, and infections. Learn more about sneezing and nasal discharge in dogs.
  • Nausea. A very common sign of nausea in dogs is lip licking and some dogs will also lick their noses. Dogs with nausea will often hypersalivate, drool, lick their lips and these behaviors are sometimes followed by swallowing. This commonly occurs just prior to the act of vomiting. Some dogs may also eat grass when they are nauseated. Learn more about nausea in dogs and vomiting in dogs.

What to Do if You See Dog Constantly Licking Nose

The first thing to do if your dog is constantly licking his or her nose is to look at the nose and around the nose. It is important to determine if the dog nose licking is due to a medical problem. Is there a nosebleed? Is there sneezing? Is there nasal discharge? Is there anything caught in the hair around the nose? Is there an injury such as a puncture?

My Dog Keeps Licking The Air — What Does That Mean?

Have you ever wondered why your dog keeps licking air? There are numerous reasons why dogs may lick the air and some can have serious health consequences. This article contains information for dog owners looking into why their dog keeps licking air.

Some dogs are bigger lickers than others. Some dogs will lick their owner’s hands, lick faces, floors, their lips, and lap up every last morsel in their dishes while other dogs don’t lick as much. Some dogs will also lick the air.

Causes of Dog Keeps Licking Air

Below are some possible causes for dogs licking the air:

Behavioral Causes of a Dog Who Keeps Licking Air

  • Normal behavior
    • Dogs may lick the air when you scratch them in a place they generally can’t reach. This may mimic the sensation they get when licking or scratching themselves.
    • Flehmen response. This response can appear like a dog that is licking air. The typical flehmen response consists of the dog pushing up and curling back the upper lip and wrinkling their nose to expose the vomeronasal organ (also known as the Jacobson’s organ). This allows them to take in the full smell. Dogs most often do this response when they smell different odors such as urine, blood or feces.
    • Some dogs lick just because they like to. Some dogs will lick floors, faces, hands, legs and even the air. The sensation of licking may give some dogs comfort in some way.
  • Behavioral reasons
    • Some dogs will lick the air when they are confused or anxious. For example, some dogs with storm phobias may lick the air when they are nervous.
    • Some dogs will lick the air due to a behavioral problem such as a compulsive disorder. Compulsive behaviors are repetitive sequences of behavior that are fairly consistent in their presentation. They do not appear to serve any obvious purpose, although some argue that they function to reduce a dog’s stress level. Learn more about Compulsive Behavior in Dogs.

Medical Causes of a Dog Who Keeps Licking Air

Various health problems can cause a dog to constantly lick the air and can vary from minor issues to very serious issues. Air licking is most concerning when the air licking is new, excessive, persistent, or is associated with other symptoms such as seizures.

  • Seizures. Canine seizures can result in different types of behaviors or movements from the seizure. Some dogs that have seizures will lie on their sides paddling their legs as with full grand-mal seizures. Other dogs with partial seizures can result in more subtle signs that appear as lip licking, nose licking or air licking. Some dogs will actually look like they are trying to catch a bug. This can be caused by a partial seizure.
  • Nausea. Dogs with nausea may drool, lick their lips, or they may lick the air. This may occur just prior to the act of vomiting. Some dogs may also eat grass when they are nauseated. Learn more about nausea in dogs and vomiting in dogs.
  • Pain. Some dogs may lick the air when they experience pain. Pain can originate from the gastrointestinal tract such as the stomach or intestines. Possible problems causing gastrointestinal pain include a gastrointestinal foreign body, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcers of the stomach or intestine, or other causes of pain. Other signs of gastrointestinal problems are decreased appetite, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
  • Trauma. Any cut, puncture, abrasion or other trauma to the nose, face or mouth area can feel funny to your dog and can cause a dog to scratch, rub or lick his nose or lick at the air. Some dogs will also rub at their faces. It is also possible to notice a scab, puncture, abrasion or discharge and a foul odor if a wound becomes infected.
  • Foreign body. Some dogs with something stuck in their mouths may lick at the air or paw at the mouth. Common foreign bodies that occur in the mouth are bones and sticks.
  • Dental disease. A sign of dental disease in dogs can be not eating, a foul odor to the mouth (halitosis), and sometimes drooling, and licking the air, lips or their noses. As dental disease advances, plaque turns to tartar and bacteria can create gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) and tooth loss. As dental disease progresses, in very severe cases, teeth can abscess causing pain and the desire to lick. Signs of dental disease in dogs may include red inflamed gum, severe tartar, and pain.
  • Bites and stings. Any type of bite to the face or around the nose can cause a dog to lick the air as they try to comfort themselves. Bites may include those from insects such as spiders, horse flies, mosquitos, and/or a bee or wasp sting.
  • Skin problems. Skin problems that cause a dog to itch can cause them to lick the air when they are scratching themselves or when you scratch your dog. Dogs with allergies may also have ear infections or lick their paws. Most dogs with skin infections will have red inflamed skin.

What to Do if You See Dog Licking the Air

The best approach to a dog that is licking the air is to have your dog examined by your veterinarian. Because this behavior may not be constant, if possible, obtain a video of your dog’s behavior. Log how often it happens and for how long.

My Dog Keeps Licking and Swallowing

Have you ever wondered why your dog may lick and swallow? There are numerous reasons and some can have serious health consequences. This article contains information for dog owners looking into why their dog keeps licking and swallowing.

Some dogs tend to lick their lips more than others and most pet owners worry when the licking becomes excessive or is a new behavior. Dog licking and swallowing can be a symptom of a medical problem, behavioral problem, or a normal behavioral communication tool.

Causes of Dog Licking and Swallowing

Below are some possible causes for lip licking and swallowing in dogs:

Behavioral Causes of Dog Licking and Swallowing

  • Behavioral reasons
    • Some dogs will lick their lips when they are confused or maybe even a little frustrated. As a behavior, some behaviorists refer to dog lip licking as an “appeasement gesture”. Dogs will use their body to communicate they are the stressed or frightened. An appeasement gesture is a behavior that acts as a calming signal. Other appeasement gestures are yawning. An example of when a dog may lick his lips would be when a dog approaches another dog. The approached dog may avoid direct eye contact and lick his lips. This communicates to the other dog as to say, “Hi – I don’t want to fight”.
    • Dogs can lick lips if they are frustrated. For example, if a dog is being trained that doesn’t understand what is expected of them, they may lick their lips.
  • Normal behavior
    • Some dogs will lick their lips when their lips feel dry, a bug hits their lip or face, or something is stuck near their lip such as a piece of food or a blade of grass. The lip licking can be followed by swallowing.
    • Another normal cause for lip licking is when a dog is about ready to eat or anticipates eating. A normal physiologic response in anticipation of food is for the salivary glands to flow. This commonly causes lip licking followed by swallowing.

Medical causes of Dog Licking and Swallowing

The causes of dog licking and swallowing can be caused by various problems that vary from minor to serious. The most common problems involve issues related to nausea or oral pain.

  • Foreign body. A common cause of lip licking followed by swallowing is a foreign body. Some dogs can get something caught in their mouth, also known as a “foreign body”, that causes pain and discomfort, which commonly causes lip licking followed by swallowing. Dogs with a foreign body may also shake their heads and paw at their mouths. Common items that can be caught in the mouth can be a bone, rawhide, toy, or stick. Another cause can be a plant awn getting caught in the mouth such as a foxtail.
  • Dental disease. A sign of dental disease in dogs can be lip licking and swallowing. As dental disease advances, plaque turns to tartar. The build-up of tartar both above and below the gum line can gradually produce an environment for bacteria to grow that is destructive to the periodontal tissues (also known as periodontal disease). As dental disease progresses, dog owners may notice a foul odor from their dog’s mouth, significant accumulations of tartar, red inflamed gums, and in advanced cases they can see food and hair wrapped around infected teeth.
  • Nausea. One of the most common signs of lip licking followed by swallowing is nausea. Dogs with nausea will often hypersalivate which results in lip licking naturally followed by swallowing the saliva. Nausea commonly occurs just prior to the act of vomiting. Some dogs may drool and eat grass when they are nauseated. Learn more about nausea in dogs and vomiting in dogs.
  • Oral ulcers. Oral ulcerations can cause pain, lip licking, drooling and/or excessive swallowing. Ulcers can develop from oral infections, dental disease, systemic infections such as kidney disease or from ingestion of caustic substances. Caustic products that may cause oral ulcers include ingestion or oral exposure to laundry or dishwasher detergent pod toxicity or liquid potpourri.
  • Unpleasant tastes. Dogs that lick something different or unpleasant can develop a funny taste in their mouth and lick their lips. Common causes can be from licking or eating a different food, cleaning chemicals such as Windex® or Dawn®, or by licking poisonous toads such as the Marine or Cane toad and Sonoran Desert toad. Signs of toad venom toxicity include drooling, lip licking, and foaming at the mouth. Signs can progress quickly. Learn more about Toad venom toxicity.
  • Bites. Any type of bite to the face or around the lips can cause dog lip licking followed by swallowing. Bites can be from insects such as spiders, horse flies, mosquitos, and/or a bee or wasp stings. Snakebites can also occur around the face and mouth and cause pain, swelling, discharge, and/or lip licking.

What to Do if You See Dog Licking and Swallowing

The first thing to do if your dog is licking his or her lips and swallowing is to look at this relative to the behavior and determine if there is an underlying medical problem. Two important points include:

  • Evaluate your dog’s behavior. Is your dog nervous? Anxious? Fearful? Try to determine if the lip licking and swallowing is a message of anxiety. If your dog is cornered, in a situation that you believe may make him or her or uncomfortable, then give your dog some space. If a child or other person is making your dog nervous, remove them from close proximity to the dog. You can displace this behavior by offering your dog a toy, playing a game or going for a walk as an option. However, it is recommend that you avoid giving a dog with this behavior special attention if this is a behavioral message so as not to reinforce his anxiety or fear.
  • It is important to determine if the dog lip licking and swallowing is due to a medical problem. The best approach is to have your dog examined by your veterinarian. They will likely want to examine the skin around the face, lips, gums, teeth, and do a complete oral examination. They will look for any foreign body in the mouth, dental disease, and an oral ulceration. They will also want a detailed history of your dog’s eating patterns, food change, exposure to trash or toxins, overall appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and weight loss.

SPECIAL NOTE: If your dog is trying to vomit unsuccessfully – this could be a medical emergency called “bloat.” Please see your veterinarian immediately.

My Dog Keeps Licking His Lips — What’s Happening?

Have you ever wondered why your dog may lick his lips and then keep licking his lips? This article contains information for dog owners looking into why their dog is constantly licking their lips to the point it may seem to be excessive.

In general, some dogs tend to be bigger “lickers” than others. Some dogs lick their lips as well as their owner’s faces, hands, floors, doors and more. Some dogs will lick their bowls for seconds even after they are empty while other dogs walk away and don’t lick at all. There are dogs that also will even lick the air. On the other hand, some dogs rarely lick.

Licking and lip licking can be normal in some circumstances. Dogs will do it when they are bored, nervous, anxious, have something on their face or lips, or even when they have a dental problem or oral pain. The problem is when the lip licking becomes excessive or is caused by a medical problem.

What is Licking and Why Do Dogs Lick?

Let’s look at licking in general. Why do dogs lick?

  • Licking is a natural part of life starting with puppies being licked by their mothers when they are born. The licking stimulates breathing immediately after birth, removes fluids and blood, and creates a bond.
  • Licking is a normal part of grooming. The tongues of dogs are rough and licking helps to remove dirt and germs from their skin, fur and feet. It also helps dogs clean themselves after urinating and defecating in some cases. Minimizing odors is a natural protective instinct.
  • Licking can be a natural way to comfort oneself. For example, if we hurt our wrist, we may rub it. Dogs may lick at a wound or a sore area in an attempt to comfort that area. Physiologically, it may also increase circulation and aid wound healing if the licking is not excessive.
  • Licking can also be a way of getting attention. If a dog is licking your face for example, pet owners will often react. Depending on your response, you may be giving your dog positive reinforcement that encourages continued licking.
  • Other dogs lick…just because they like to. Some dogs enjoy the sensation of licking and find comfort in the sensation.

When is Licking a Problem?

Dogs that just like to lick and are not hurting anything may not be a problem. Some pet owners don’t mind. However, licking is a problem when it is excessive and causes harm or appears to be uncontrollable such as from a seizure disorder.

Below are some problems that can develop from or be from excessive licking.

Wound Problems

Wounds can cause dogs to lick. A wound can be infected and itch or a dog may instinctively want to keep the wound clean. A little is okay, but excessive licking can prevent wounds from healing. If a wound is treated with sutures, some dogs will lick out the sutures. Wounds around the face and mouth can cause excessive lip licking.

Lick Granuloma From Excessive Licking

Some dogs can create a wound by licking the same spot over and over. They can often create a lesion referred to as a lick granuloma or “acral lick dermatitis”. This compulsive repetitive behavior might be done out of boredom or anxiety. For some dogs, licking can comfort them in a similar way that sucking one’s thumb can comfort a child. The most common area for a lick granuloma to occur is on the front legs. Some dogs will lay and lick the same spot on their legs for hours.

Uncontrollable Lip Licking

Some dogs can suffer from a seizure disorder that appears as chomping at the mouth, biting at the air or even excessive and uncontrollable lip licking. This is most often a “focal seizure”. Learn more about Seizures in Dogs.

Oral Problems

Dogs that are nauseated or dehydrated can excessively lick their lips. Medical problems of dental disease, oral infections, suffering from trauma in or around the mouth, or having something stuck in their mouth (such as a stick or bone) can also have excessive lip licking. Dogs that lick the floor that has cleaning chemicals or soap can have a funny taste that can cause dogs to lick their lips.

How to Stop Your Dog From Lip Licking

The most important thing to do if your dog is excessively licking and it is a new behavior is to determine the underlying cause.

If your dog is licking excessively at a paw or wound, you can help to stop your dog from licking by using an e-collar. It is also important to understand why a pet is licking at the paw. Is there a wound? Is it infected? Does it hurt? Or is it a compulsive behavioral issue? But when a dog is licking its lips, an e-collar won’t work.

Is Your Dog Licking His Lips? This Could Be Why

Have you ever wondered why your dog may lick his lips? There are numerous reasons for dog licking lips and some may have serious health consequences. This article contains information for dog owners looking into why their dogs may be licking their lips.

Causes of Dog Licking Lips

Some pet owners believe their dogs may lick their lips because they may be dry or sunburned because those are reasons people may lick their lips. This may be true however, there are different and more common reasons for dogs to lick their lips.

In general, some dogs tend to lick their lips more than others. The biggest concern is when the lip licking becomes excessive or is a new behavior. Lip licking in dogs can be a symptom of a health problem or a communication tool. Below are some possible causes for lip licking in dogs:

Behavioral Causes of Dog Licking Lips

  • Normal behavior. Some dogs will licks their lips when their lips feel dry, a bug hits their lip or face, or something is stuck near their lip such as a piece of food or a blade of grass. Another normal cause for lip licking is when a dog is about ready to eat or anticipates eating. A normal physiologic response is for their salivary glands to get flowing and they often lick their lips as they anticipate their snack.
  • Anxiety. Some dogs will lick their lips when they are confused or maybe even a little frustrated. For example, if a dog is being trained, he or she may lick their lips when they are baffled about their training and unsure about what is expected of them. Some behaviorists refer to dog lip licking as an “appeasement gesture”. An appeasement gesture is a behavior that acts as a calming signal. Dogs will use their body to communicate that they are the stressed or frightened. Other appeasement gestures are yawning. A classic use of lip licking will be when a dog is approached by another dog. A dog may then avoid direct eye contact and lick his lips. This communicates to the other dog to say, “Hi – I don’t want to fight”.

Medical Causes of Dog Licking Lips

Various health problems can cause lip licking. Some problems can be minor issues and others are more serious. Causes may include:

  • Unpleasant tastes. Dogs that lick something different or unpleasant can develop a funny taste in their mouth and lick their lips. Common causes can be from licking or eating a different food or from licking a cleaning chemical such as Windex®, various soaps, or other cleaners. Some cleaners can not only be unpleasant but can also be caustic resulting in oral ulcerations. Poisonous toads such as the Marine or Cane toad and Sonoran Desert toad can be toxic. Symptoms of toad venom toxicity include drooling, lip licking, and foaming at the mouth. Signs can progress quickly. Learn more about canine toad toxicity.
  • Dehydration. Some dogs that are sick and not eating or drinking or are suffering from fluid losses from vomiting and/or diarrhea can become dehydrated. This can cause a dog to lick their lips.
  • Trauma. Any cut, puncture, abrasion or other trauma to the lip area can feel funny and can cause lip licking. Some wounds can become infected which itch, causing dogs to rub or scratch their faces and/or lick their lips. It is also possible to notice a discharge or a foul odor from infected wounds.
  • Bites. Any type of bite to the face or around the lips can cause dog lip licking. This includes insect bites from spiders, horse flies, mosquitos, and/or a bee or wasp sting. Snakebites can also occur around the face and mouth and cause pain, swelling, discharge, and/or lip licking.
  • Foreign body. Dogs with something caught in their mouth, also known as a “foreign body”, can have excessive lip licking. Items commonly caught in the mouth are bones, rawhides, toys, and sticks. Plants, such as foxtails, can also become lodged in the mouth and cause lip licking.
  • Dental disease. A sign of dental disease in dogs can be lip licking. As dental disease advances, plaque turns to tartar and bacteria can create gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) and tooth loss. As dental disease progresses, most dog owners notice a foul odor from their dog’s mouth and can see red inflamed gums.
  • Nausea. A very common sign of nausea in dogs is lip licking. Dogs with nausea will often hypersalivate which results in lip licking. This commonly occurs just prior to the act of vomiting. Some dogs may also eat grass when they are nauseated. Learn more about nausea in dogs and vomiting in dogs.
  • Oral ulcers. Oral ulcerations can develop from oral infections, dental disease, systemic infections such as kidney disease, and from ingestion of caustic substances. Examples of caustic products include laundry or dishwasher detergent pods or liquid potpourri. These both can seem appealing to pets based on texture or smell, and oral exposure can cause severe mouth and esophageal burns.
  • Seizures. Canine seizures can result in different types of behaviors or movements. Some dogs will lie on their sides with full grand-mal seizures while other dogs with partial seizures can result in more subtle signs of a seizure such as lip licking.

What to Do if You See Dog Licking Lips

The first thing to if your dog is licking his or her lips is to look at this relative to the behavior and determine if there is an underlying medical problem.

  1. The most important thing is to try to determine if the dog licking lip behavior is a message of anxiety. Some dogs can lick their lips when they are nervous, which can escalate to aggression. It is important to be safe and ensure those around you are safe. If your dog is cornered, in a situation that you believe may make him or her or uncomfortable, then give your dog some space. Back off. If a child or other person is making your dog nervous, remove them from close proximity to the dog. Some behaviorists recommend that you redirect the dog lip licking behavior by offering a toy. It is recommended that you avoid giving a dog with this behavior special attention so as not to reinforce his anxiety or fear.
  2. If your dog is lip licking during training, it is possible he is worried or confused by what you are training. Consider offering your dog a task that he clearly understands and when successful offer a reward. Consider other ways to communicate your training or stop for the day and begin again another day when your dog is refreshed.
  3. It is important to determine if the dog lip licking is due to a medical problem. The best approach is to have your dog examined by your veterinarian. They will likely want to examine the skin around the face, lips, gums, teeth and a complete oral examination. They will also want a detailed history of your dog eating patterns, overall appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and weight loss.

Additional articles that may be of interest:

Are Pet Wellness Plans More Affordable Than Insurance?

 

Many pet insurance companies and some corporate pet hospitals offer pet “wellness plans”. Below we will look at what is a pet wellness plan, how does it work, how does it compare to a pet insurance policy, what it covers, and if pet wellness plans are affordable.

What is a Pet Wellness Plan?

Wellness Plans, also referred to as Routine Care Plans, are somewhat similar to an insurance policy but can be more accurately compared to a discount membership. Pet Wellness Plans are offered by many pet insurance companies as a policy in itself, more commonly as an add-on to your pet insurance policy, and are also offered by some large corporate veterinary hospitals.

Details of the plans may vary but the principles are the same. They cover things that help optimize pet health such as vaccines, dental cleanings, fecal checks, heartworm tests, heartworm prevention, flea control medications, and more. Wellness plans do NOT cover accidents, illness, and emergency health problems.

How Does a Wellness Plan Compare to an Insurance Policy?

In the table below, we will look at some of the important differences between wellness plans and insurance policies.

 

Wellness Plan* 

Insurance Plan* 

Coverage
Wellness plans may differ from company to company but generally cover very specific wellness care options. They may include any or all of the following: vaccinations or vaccine titers, spaying, and neutering, heartworm prevention, flea control medications, fecal exams, deworming, dental cleaning, nail trimming, anal gland expression, food, and more. Wellness policies do NOT cover if your pet gets sick.Pet insurance covers accidents and illnesses. This includes the appointment, diagnostic tests, treatments including surgery and medications. Basic pet insurance policies do NOT cover vaccinations, nail trims, heartworm prevention, flea control, etc. UNLESS you have an additional Wellness Plan added on to your insurance policy.
Deductible
Wellness plans generally do not require a deductible.Insurance policies have a deductible and begin payout once the deductible is met.
Maximum Coverage
Most wellness plans have a maximum coverage per item or per year depending on your specific plan.Some pet insurance policies have no limits in coverage and others do. For example, Pets Best does not have a max coverage per year with some plans.
Care Providers
Wellness plans that are available through pet insurance companies allow you to seek care at any veterinary clinic that provides the covered wellness services. Wellness plans available through specific veterinary hospitals generally require all wellness care be obtained only through their hospital or their network of hospitals.Pet insurance companies allow you to obtain your veterinary care at any veterinary hospital, emergency clinic, or specialty.

*Please see your provider for details on all products before purchasing any policy or plan.

What Do Pet Wellness Plans Cover?

Pet wellness plans vary with what they cover and don’t cover. Here are items that many wellness plans cover:

  • Annual exams
  • Dental/teeth cleaning
  • Fecal & urinalysis tests
  • Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention
  • Heartworm testing or feline leukemia testing
  • Microchipping
  • Routine blood testing
  • Spaying & neutering
  • Vaccinations or vaccine titers

Pet Wellness Plans are generally affordable and worth the money if you take advantage of the offerings. You need to understand what is covered, maximum payout per item or per year, and consider how you would take advantage to optimize the plan.

Here is an example of the cost and payout for one policy. The premium for Pets Best Essential Wellness Plan that I researched was $16/month which would be cost $192/year. The value of what you get for that money with this particular plan is $305 IF you take advantage of everything that is offered.

Pets Best “Best Wellness” Plan is $26/month and provides an annual benefit of $535. Your cost for this annual plan is $312. If you take advantage of the annual benefit – you have over $223 in savings.

It is important that you take advantage of these savings to optimize your benefit. For example, if they cover dental cleaning up to $150 and you don’t get your pet’s teeth cleaned, then that may not be a good benefit for you.

Most wellness plans cover vaccinations. Some Wellness Plans have limits for the coverage of vaccines up to a certain dollar amount per year or per vaccine. For example, a plan could cover up to $15 for a rabies vaccine. If your clinic charges $20, you will have $5 that will not be covered.

How to Pick a Pet Wellness Plan?

The easiest thing to do is if you have a pet insurance company that offers a wellness plan, look at that first. Consider what you normally spend on “wellness” over the course of a year and then look at the cost of the wellness plan and what it covers. Review the plan options to see what works for you.

Are Pet Wellness Coverage Cheaper than Pet Insurance?

Wellness coverage can cost less or more than pet insurance depending on the company and the coverage. The more coverage, the more expensive the plan.

Does Medicaid Pay for Pets?

Some pet owners ask if Medicaid pays for pets and the associated costs for having a pet. First, let’s review what is Medicaid, what Medicaid covers, and provide some tips on how to pay for your pet bills while on Medicaid.

Medicaid is a Federal-State funded health insurance program for low-income individuals.

What Medicaid Covers

Medicaid provides health coverage for doctor visits, hospital expenses, nursing home care, and home health care for the individual covered.

The question is…does Medicaid pay for pets? The answer is that they do not pay for pet care costs. However, there are special programs to help service dogs. Learn more about these programs.

If Medicaid doesn’t pay for your pet and pet care costs, what are options to help provide the best pet care and cover pet-related costs?

First, before you get a pet – it is important to understand what it costs to own a pet. Here are two good articles – What It Costs to Own a Cat and The Costs Associated with Dog Ownership. It can be expensive to have a pet and pet ownership may not be possible in some situations. Here is another good article to help you understand the dog vet costs – How Much Should You Expect For Dog Vet Costs?

If you already have a pet, what are options for paying for care? Below we will provide some tips on how to save and how to pay for vet bills while on Medicaid.

How Can You Pay For Pet Bills When You’re On Medicaid?

The costs of pet care can add up. Although Medicaid does not pay for your pet’s care, there are options to save money on your pet care. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Look for Low-Cost Routine Care. Your local shelter, rescue group or animal welfare association may offer low-cost sterilization procedures such as spaying and neutering, vaccinations, and other routine care. If your local shelter does not offer routine care, they may know who does. As you look for low-cost care, there are considerations and differences between low-cost care vs. care from your local vet. Learn more in this article – What You Should Know about Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinics vs. Your Local Vet.
  • Vet Schools. Some veterinary schools may be less expensive for some procedures. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a list of accredited veterinary schools. This list can help you find out if there is a school near you.
  • Shop Around for Care. Prices for veterinary care can vary depending on your part of the country and even within the same city. I compared the cost of a Rabies vaccine in 5 different clinics in different parts of the country to find a big range from $14 to $42 for this common vaccine. This shows there are big differences in different parts of the country but there can also be big differences within the same city. Within one small geographic area of Columbus, Ohio there was a range from $15 to $26 for the rabies vaccine.
    Discuss Options with Your Vet. If your pet needs an expensive medical treatment or you’re struggling to cover the cost of care, discuss the situation with your veterinarian. Some vets may offer payment plans or discounts to their steady clients. This is more common in small local clinics. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
  • Pet Charity. There are pet charities around that can help in some situations. Your local veterinary hospital or Humane Society may have a list of organizations available in your area.
  • Save on Pet Meds. You can save money buy asking for a written prescription to take to your local pharmacy. Some antibiotics used for dogs and cats are available at human pharmacies such as Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Target, and your local pharmacy. Some medications are $4.00 at some pharmacies. You can also buy your pet meds online but special care is needed, as not all online pharmacies are trustworthy. You can also ask your vet to price match medications.
  • Look for Special Deals. Some veterinary hospitals offer specials throughout the year that can save you money. For example, February is Pet Dental Month and several veterinary hospitals run specials such as 20% off dental cleanings during the month. Many times you can plan your pet’s care around known offers. Subscribe to your veterinarian’s email list to receive offer notifications.
  • Feed Quality Food & Find a Loyalty Club. Good nutrition is important for health. Pick your pet’s food with care. It is tempting to save money by buying the cheapest or on-sale grocery store brand but that isn’t the best thing for your pet. To help save some money, consider finding a good quality food from your local pet store that has a loyalty club. For example, some stores offer “buy 8 or 10 bags, get one free”.
  • Protect & Practice Pet Safety. One way to save money on pet care costs is to protect your pet from common dangers which can turn into expensive problems. Here are some great ways to protect your pet:
    Spay or neuter. Do this routine surgery when your pet is young and healthy and the surgery is less expensive. Pyometra is a common and life-threatening infection of the uterus that requires surgery that can very expensive to treat when your dog is sick. Pyometra can be prevented with spaying.
  • Vaccinate your pet. Ensure your pet is protected from common infectious diseases that can be expensive to treat.
  • Don’t let your pet roam. Trauma from dog or cat fights or being hit by a car is common and can be very expensive problems to treat. This can be prevented by keeping cats inside or dogs on a leash or in a fenced-in yard.
  • Pet-proof. Keep your home free from toxins and problems such as rat poison and toxic plants such as Easter Lilies.
  • Stick with Pet Food. Stay away from feeding human foods for your pet. There are human foods that can be dangerous and even deadly to pets. Learn more with Dangerous Human Foods. Table scraps can make some pets sick causing vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases pancreatitis. Stick with feeding a high quality pet food – it can save on emergency vet bills.
  • Brush your pet’s teeth daily. Consistent dental care can prevent dental disease and expensive dental procedures.

Learn more about common things pet owners do wrong that can negatively affect their pet’s health and cause problems that require expensive emergency care. Go to: 52 Mistakes Pet Owners Make.

  • Save on Toys. There are some neat things you can do to provide your pets with toys while on a budget. For example, milk top rings and aluminum foil balls are favorites for cats. Learn how to make some of your own toys while on a budget. Go to Favorite Household Toys for the Frugal Cat Lover or Favorite Household Toys for the Frugal Cat Lover.
  • Payment Options. If you have an unexpected expense with your pet, there are options such a Care Credit which can help you pay over time.
  • Pet Insurance. One excellent way to budget your pet care costs while on Medicaid is to consider pet insurance. Pet insurance can help you pay for your veterinary bill and provide the best care while on a budget. Pets Best offers some low monthly premiums with good coverage. See if pet insurance works for you.

Types Of Insurance You Could Look Into

You can look into pet insurance for illness and injuries and/or insurance to cover wellness care. Some pet insurance companies offer both such as Pets Best. Take a minute to see what the coverage would cost. If you are not familiar with pet insurance – learn more with this good article – How Does Pet Insurance Work?