Dog licking their lips.

Is Your Dog Licking Their Lips? This Could Be Why

Some pet owners believe that their dog may lick their lips because they are dry or sunburned and, though there’s the potential for this and it’s a common human behavior, it could be indicative of a larger issue in pets.

Causes of Dog Licking Lips

Here are some possible causes for lip licking in dogs, broken into behavioral and medical causes.

Behavioral Causes of Dog Licking Lips

Some dogs lick their lips for normal behavioral reasons and others lick due to underlying anxiety.

Medical Causes of Dog Licking Lips

Dogs lick their lips due to a variety of health problems.

Causes may include:

What to Do if You See Your Dog Licking Their Lips

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

  1. The most important thing is to try to determine if lip-licking behavior is an expression 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 or in an uncomfortable situation, give them some space and back off. If a child or other person is making your dog nervous, remove them from close proximity to your animal. Some behaviorists recommend that you redirect the lip licking behavior by offering a toy. On the other hand, it may be best to avoid giving a dog with this behavior special attention, so as to not reinforce their anxiety or fear.
  2. If your dog is licking their lips during training, it is possible they are worried or confused about the process. Consider giving your dog a task that they clearly understand and when successful, offer a reward. You can also think of other ways to communicate your message or stop for the day. Restart the training another day when your dog is refreshed.
  3. It is important to determine if the lip licking is due to a medical problem. New and excessive licking is concerning and it should be your first priority to find the underlying cause. The best approach is to have your dog checked by a veterinarian. They will likely want to examine the skin around the face, lips, gums, and teeth, and conduct a complete examination of the oral cavity. It is also possible that a dog is licking another part of their body, which can be a sign of a local skin problem, allergy, pain, or anxiety. Your vet will also want a detailed history of your dog’s skin issues, eating patterns, overall appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, energy level, and any history of weight loss or gain.
  4. Another option, if applicable, is recording your dog’s behavior. Showing the footage to your veterinarian may help them determine the issue and begin treatment sooner.

Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face and Lips?

Dogs will lick people for a variety of reasons. In nature, after a dog has puppies, the female will immediately lick them to stimulate their breathing and to clean off bodily fluids and blood. As puppies grow, their mother will lick them to stimulate urination and defecation until they can eliminate on their own. Dogs also lick themselves to remove odors that can make them vulnerable to predators or alternatively alert their prey of their presence.

A dog might lick our lips because they smell and sense something that we have been eating or as a way of getting attention. Most people react in a certain way when dogs lick their face and, therefore, many dogs lick faces to get attention and to cause a reaction. Licking can also be a sign of respect or deference to humans.

While many pet owners want to believe that face licking is an indication of love, the general consensus by behaviorists is that they don’t believe dogs express feeling by licking or “kissing.” Learn more about this in Do Dogs Lick to Show Love?

Is it Safe to Allow Your Dog to Lick Your Lips?

Licking brings up that age-old adage, “A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a humans.” This, unfortunately, is not the case. A dog’s mouth is generally very dirty and full of bacteria. In fact, it is estimated that a dog can have over 600 types of bacteria in their mouths. This is not unexpected, if you consider that dogs may eat dead animals, lick the ground, eat feces, clean up the litter box, clean their bottoms, and much more.

Most diseases are species specific, making it unlikely to get a disease from a dog lick or kiss. However, there are exceptions. For example, dogs that eat a raw meat diet are at risk of salmonella infection, which can be spread from a dog to a human. Dog bites can also transmit rabies.

Daily tooth brushing and regular dental cleaning can help keep your dog’s mouth clean and decrease the bacterial count. Good oral hygiene can also decrease the risk of dental disease. It is ideal to begin brushing your dog’s teeth as a puppy so they acclimate to the process.

While it is unlikely that you will contract a disease from doggie kisses, it may not be the clean and loving experience that you’re hoping for.