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?
The best approach is to have your dog examined by your veterinarian. They will likely want to examine the skin around the nose, lips, gums, teeth, and perform a complete oral examination. They will also want a detailed history of your dog’s eating patterns, breathing patterns, overall appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, history of sneezing or coughing, and any weight loss or gain.
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