Does Pet Death or Euthanasia Teach Kids a Life Lesson? The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out

A client caught me off guard last week. While giving their dog a routine examination the owner said, “Doc, do you think it is good for kids to be there when a pet dies?” It can seem like an odd question but it’s one I’ve heard before. Today I want to talk about what effect this “life lesson” could really have on children.

Before I go any further, let me introduce myself for those of you that don’t know me. I’m the Irreverent Veterinarian and I give you my honest opinion of issues in the animal care world. Some might say that I’m honest to a fault. I speak my mind and I won’t sweet-talk you or sugarcoat the truth. I tell it like it is – to you, the drug companies, the pet product manufacturers, professional breeders and pet owners. Some of what I say can be controversial, but that doesn’t stop me—it can be hard to hear the truth.

So back to the topic – is it a good idea for kids to witness a pet die, either naturally or through euthanasia? Well, every situation is different and in my opinion, it really depends on the child. Even then, it can be a very traumatic lesson indeed.

For example, when I was just out of veterinary school one of my first duties was to euthanize a very old dog. The owner had a 3-year-old and insisted that her child be present during the procedure. I was hesitant but the parent knows best, right? The owner explained what was happening by telling the little girl that their dog was “going to sleep.” Two weeks later the client called me for help; her daughter was now crying and crying when it was bedtime because she didn’t want to “go to sleep” and never wake up. I felt so bad for the little girl and for her mother too.

In hindsight, it is clear that the little girl was too young to understand what was happening and should not have been present. In general, I think kids under the age of 12 can find death and euthanasia disturbing even if they understand the concept. (Some vets say 14 years is a better age.) This will depend on the child’s maturity level as well. No matter what age you decide is right, I think an honest and open discussion is the best approach. It’s best not to use words like “going to sleep”; even though it can be difficult to talk about a beloved pet’s death so frankly, unclear wording can confuse children.

What age do you think is appropriate to allow a child to witness euthanasia? I want to know what you think. Send us your comments @ timo@petplace.com.

My Final Thoughts on Whether Pet Death or Euthanasia Teaches Kids Life Lessons

I think that seeing all phases of life and death can help a child understand the world and prepare them for the future. The first time that they encounter death can be very upsetting, especially if it involves a pet that they love very much.

Does witnessing death, particularly euthanasia, help children? Depending on how it’s presented as well as their age and maturity, I think it can. I don’t think it should be the first time that they discuss or encounter death but it’s not a perfect world and things don’t always happen as we want.

I definitely don’t think that very young children should be in the room when an animal dies though. It’s just too upsetting for them and they often don’t really understand what’s happening. Some people think that kids can only understand death by seeing it happen but I totally disagree. If you believe that do you think all kids should be marched through prison so they can understand crime and punishment? It just doesn’t seem right.

Tell us your thoughts. Did you witness a pet’s death as a child or as a parent? Take our poll. If you have comments please leave them below in the article.

If you are struggling to find the best way to discuss euthanasia with your child, www.petplace.com has articles, which can help. We have been the #1 leader in pet health information for over 20 years now with over 11,000 articles.

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Zinc Deficiency (Zinc Responsive Dermatosis) in Dogs

Overview of Zinc Deficiency in Dogs

Zinc deficiency in dogs can cause hair loss and skin problems. Zinc is an essential mineral required for the production of over 300 enzymes necessary for various bodily functions including healthy skin and hair, normal immune function, normal thyroid function, wound healing, and normal sexual function.

Zinc should be a normal component of a dog’s diet. The absence of zinc in the diet can cause various abnormalities affecting the skin, metabolic function and immune function. Zinc deficiency causes the condition called zinc responsive dermatosis.

Zinc isn’t readily or easily absorbed by intestine of dogs. It is estimated that only 5 to 40% of ingested zinc is absorbed in normal dogs.

Causes of Zinc Deficiency in Dogs

Causes and risk factors for canine zinc deficiency include:

  • Young puppies and dogs fed a diet deficient in zinc.
  • Diets rich in calcium prevent normal zinc absorption. Calcium binds with zinc, which prevents absorption.
  • Dog breeds such as the Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamute have a genetic inability to absorb zinc properly. Zinc deficiency has also been reported in Bull Terriers, Labrador Retrievers,
  • Doberman Pinschers, Standard Poodles, German Shepherd dogs, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Beagles, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Great Danes.
  • Diets excessively high in zinc prevent normal zinc absorption.
  • Diets with low levels of total fat and essential fatty acids affect zinc absorption
  • Plants contain a substance called phytate which hampers the absorption of zinc. Diets that are high in fiber (plant-based) can cause zinc deficiency.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease can cause abnormal absorption of zinc.

What to Watch For

Signs of zinc deficiency in dogs may include:

  • Hair loss (Alopecia)
  • Scaling and crusting skin lesions around the face, head, legs, and pads of the feet
  • Red or swollen footpads
  • Thickened crusted footpads
  • Fissures (cracks) on the nose and/or footpads

Severely affected dogs may display:

  • Generalized lymph node enlargement
  • Lack of appetite (anorexia)
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Stunted growth in puppies
  • Increased incidence of infection such as pneumonia or infections around the eyes and mouth

Diagnosis of Zinc Deficiency in Dogs

Diagnosis of zinc deficiency is often made based on the clinical signs and history. Other diagnostic possibilities may include:

  • Zinc levels can be measured but are often unreliable based on various laboratory procedures. Zinc blood levels less than 0.8 ppm is suggestive of zinc deficiency although Zinc blood levels can be affected by age and other illnesses making them difficult to interpret.
  • A skin biopsy submitted for histopathology may reveal classing signs of zinc deficiency including skin changes suggestive of zinc deficiency but is not considered diagnostic.
  • Response to therapy with zinc supplementation is one informal way zinc deficiency is sometimes confirmed.

Treatment of Zinc Deficiency in Dogs

  • Treatment is focused on daily zinc supplementation. Normal growing puppies require approximately 60 mg to 150 mg of zinc per pound of body weight (120 mg to 300 mg of zinc per kilogram) depending on the activity level of the dog. Working dogs require higher levels of supplementation. Supplementation should include up to 500 mg/pound (1000 mg/kg) of zinc for zinc deficient dogs. Breeds at risk should be supplemented with zinc.
  • Normal sources of zinc include meat and fish products. Grains are low in zinc such as corn and soybean. For example, a meal of rice has only 10 to 12 mg/lb of zinc while a meat meal contains 50 mg/lb and a fish meal contains approximately 75 mg/lb of zinc.
  • Zinc is available in many forms including an injectable version that can be given intravenously (IV) and oral supplements. Forms may include zinc sulfate (oral and IV), zinc methionine (oral), and zinc gluconate (oral). Common dosage recommendations for dogs may include:
  • Zinc sulfate oral: 5 mg/pound once daily (10 mg/kg)
  • Zinc methionine oral: 0.8 mg/pound daily (2 mg/kg)
  • Zinc gluconate: 0.75 mg/pound daily (1.7 mg/kg)
  • Some veterinarians recommend crushing tablets and mixing with food to encourage dogs to eat it well and minimize stomach upset which can occur with zinc administration.
  • Treats supplemented with zinc are also available such as dog treat by Zinpro (by Lincoln Biotech) which contains zinc methionine.
  • In addition to zinc supplementation, some dogs with infections may require antibiotic.
  • Therapeutic baths with shampoos to help remove crusts may be recommended. Examples of keratolytic shampoos include those with ingredients of sulfur and/or salicylic acid.
  • Some cases that do not respond to initial supplementation and above treatments may also need oral steroid therapy which can help increase absorption of zinc.

References for Zinc Deficiency in Dogs

  • Bloomberg, M.; Taylor, R.; Dee, J. Canine Sports Medicine, and Surgery. W. B. Saunders. Philadelphia, PA; 1998.
  • Campbell GA & Crow D (2010) Severe zinc responsive dermatosis in a litter of Pharaoh Hounds. J Vet Diagn Invest 22(4):663-666
  • Colombini S (1999) Canine zinc-responsive dermatosis. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 29(6):1373-1383
  • Colombini S & Dunstan RW (1997) Zinc-responsive dermatosis in northern-breed dogs: 17 cases (1990-1996). J Am Vet Med Assoc 211(4):451-453
  • Griffin, C.; Kwochka, K.; Macdonald, J. Current Veterinary Dermatology. Mosby Publications. Linn, MO; 1993.
  • Hall J (2005) Diagnostic dermatology. Zinc responsive dermatosis. Can Vet J 46(6):555-557
  • Kearns K et al (2000) Zinc-responsive dermatosis in a red wolf (canis rufus). J Zoo Wildl Med 31(2):255-258
  • Kunkle GA (1980) Zinc in veterinary medicine. Int J Dermatol 19:30–31
  • Lewis, L.; Morris, M. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. Mark Morris Assoc. Topeka, KS; 1984.
  • Peters J et al (2003) Hereditary nasal parakeratosis in Labrador retrievers: 11 new cases and a retrospective study on the presence of accumulations of serum (‘serum lakes’) in the epidermis of parakeratotic dermatoses and inflamed nasal plana of dogs. Vet Dermatol 14(4):197-203
  • Senter DA et al (2002) Intracorneal vacuoles in skin diseases with parakeratotic hyperkeratosis in the dog: a retrospective light-microscopy study of 111 cases (1973-2000). Vet Dermatol 13(1):43-47
  • Sousa CA et al (1988) Dermatosis associated with feeding generic dog food: 13 cases (1981-1982). J Am Vet Med Assoc 192(5):676-680
  • van den Broek AH & Stafford WL (1988) Diagnostic value of zinc concentrations in serum, leucocytes and hair of dogs with zinc-responsive dermatosis. Res Vet Sci 44(1):41-44
  • White SD et al (2001) Zinc-responsive dermatosis in dogs: 41 cases and literature review. Vet Dermatol 12(2):101-109

Common Pit Bull Health Problems

In general, the pit bull usually lives for about 11 to 13 years. The breed is generally healthy, especially when they are fed a healthy diet, but they can have certain pit bull health problems.

If you’re thinking of getting a pit bull, you’ll want to consider pit bull health problems. All dogs can develop genetic health problems. It’s the same with people – you have the potential to inherit a particular disease or condition. But just because the dog has the potential to develop these genetic health problems, that doesn’t mean that he necessarily will.

The American Pit Bull Terrier can develop genetic health problems that include hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, allergies and demodectic mange. Make sure the breeder can provide documentation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHip) that both of your puppy’s parents have hips that were rated in good condition. The breeder should also provide an OFA health certification for thyroid.

The American Staffordshire Terrier can develop genetic health problems that include hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, allergies, demodectic mange, cerebellar ataxia and heart disease. Before you buy an American Staffordshire Terrier, make sure that the breeders can provide documentation from OFA or PennHip that both of your puppy’s parents have hips that were rated in good condition. The breeder should also provide an OFA evaluation by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist, an OFA thyroid evaluation from an approved laboratory and an OptiGen DNA test for cerebellar ataxia.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier can develop genetic health problems that include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, juvenile cataracts, and allergies. These dogs can also suffer from a metabolic disorder known as L-2-Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria. Before you buy a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, make sure that the breeders can provide documentation from OFA or PennHip that both of your puppy’s parents have hips that were rated in good condition. The breeder should also provide you with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) documentation that shows their breeding dogs have had their eyes tested and are free from inherited juvenile cataracts. As for L-2-Hydroxyglutaric Aciduria, there is a DNA test that tells breeders if a dog is a carrier of this condition. Do not buy a dog from a breeder that cannot provide written documentation that the parents do not have this condition.

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases seen in dogs. It is a hereditary defect of the joint between the hip and hind legs. Dogs with hip dysplasia may experience pain or discomfort and have an uneven gait. They may display difficulty or reluctance in rising, jumping, running and climbing. Sometimes this condition is treated with surgery and it is managed through proper weight management. To learn more about hip dysplasia, go to Hip Dysplasia in Dogs.

The pit bull is also prone to heart disease. This includes aortic stenosis (narrowing of the left ventricle and the aorta), irregular heart rhythm or a heart murmur. Your veterinarian can diagnose an irregular heartbeat or a heart murmur by listening to your dog’s heart. If the condition is more severe, your pit bull may require further testing including an echocardiogram or a chest x-ray. Treatment for this condition includes diet control and medication. Check out this recipe for homemade dog food for dogs with heart disease.

It’s good to be aware of these pit bull health problems. Many of these conditions are not detectable in a puppy and it can be hard to determine whether the puppy will have these health problems or not. That’s why you must find a reputable breeder and you must ask for independent certification that the dog’s parents have been screened for these pit bull health problems. If a breeder tells you that their dogs don’t need health certifications for any reason, do not buy your puppy from this breeder.

To learn more about pit bulls, go to All About Pit Bull Breeds.

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:

Fatty Cysts in Dogs

Pet parents common ask questions about fatty cysts in dogs. Fatty Tumors, also known as lipomas or fatty cysts, are amongst the most common tumors that occur in dogs. Most fatty tumors are under the skin, in a space referred to as the subcutaneous space, which lies between the skin and muscle. The skin over the mass is generally normal in appearance.

Fatty tumors are generally soft although can be firm if they develop under deeper tissue layers. They can be movable or attached and are generally round in shape. Fatty tumors can vary in size but can grow to become very large. Some can be the size of an egg and others as big as a basketball. Some fatty tumors can be over 14 pounds in weight when surgically removed. Fatty tumors generally grow slowly. Dogs that tend to get one fatty tumor will tend to get more as they age.

Figure legend: Fatty cyst from a dog. This fatty cyst, also known as a fatty tumor or lipoma, was surgically removed from the body wall of an 8-year-old Labrador Retriever. This fatty cyst weighed 8 ½ pounds.

Fatty tumors are most common in middle-aged to older dogs. Fatty tumors can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on the chest and abdominal walls, legs, and armpits (axillae). They are more common in overweight dogs and occur about twice as often in female as compared to male dogs.  They can occur in any breed but are most common in Labrador Retrievers, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, Weimaraners, miniature schnauzers and Doberman pinschers. Lipomas can also occur in cats but are much less frequent.

How to Determine if the Mass on Your Dog is a Fatty Cyst

If your dog has a lump or mass, the best way to help determine the underlying cause is a fatty cyst to see your veterinarian. They have the experience to help you identify the type of tumor and provide recommendations for treatment or additional care. Your veterinarian may provide the following:

A complete examination. Your vet will look at your dog’s eyes, ears, listen to the heart and lungs, and feel the abdomen to evaluate the size and shape of the kidneys, spleen, intestines, bladder, and liver.

  • Examine the skin lump. Your vet will evaluate the skin mass noting the size, shape, depth, consistency, location, color, and more. They will also feel for additional lumps, which can be common in some dogs that develop fatty tumors. Most fatty tumors develop around the neck or over the body wall such as the rib cage or abdomen but can occur anywhere on the body.  The skin over the lump is generally completely normal without any sign of infection or pigmentation.
  • Provide recommendations. Based on the location of the tumor, size, ulcerations, and signs of infections, your vet will provide a recommendation as to the best approach to the fatty cyst.  They may recommend to evaluate the mass with a Fine needle aspirate (FNA), Biopsy, or recommend mass removal (often called “lumpectomy”).  Most times a fine needle aspiration can diagnose a fatty cyst on a dog.

Treatment of Fatty Cysts on Your Dog

No treatment is required for most fatty cysts. Fatty tumors are not malignant but can grow so large that they interfere with function or can break open and become infected. For example, they can occur in the armpit causing difficulty in a dogs ability to walk.  Some tumors can occur on the abdomen or chest way making it uncomfortable for a dog to lie down. Other tumors can become ulcerated and infected. In these cases, surgical removal is recommended to optimize comfort.

Figure legend: This fatty cyst was surgically removed and is sitting on the surgery table on the left. As you can see, it looks like a big ball of fat. This fatty cyst was removed from the right inguinal region in this 10-year-old Golden retriever. It was interfering with how this dog was walking and therefore was removed.

Other Types of Cysts

Some pet owners may confuse a fatty tumor with a sebaceous cyst. A sebaceous cyst is a small sac containing an accumulation of secretions produced by the sebaceous glands. They can appear as small bumps that break open and drain a thick white to yellow cheesy substance. Some pet owners may believe this cyst is “fatty” and refer to this as a fatty cyst. Sebaceous cysts are generally small – less than 1 inch in size. For more information – please read sebaceous cysts in dogs.

Other Causes of Large Bumps on Dogs

There are several additional causes of large bumps on dogs besides fatty tumors. Other large bumps in dogs may include:

Small Bumps on Your Dog

Some fatty tumors on dogs are small but many can grow to be very large. Learn more about What Small Bumps on Dogs Can Mean?

What Large Bumps on Dogs Can Mean

Large bumps on dogs are common and can be a concern to pet parents. A skin bump in dogs is also referred to as growth, mass, lump, or tumor. Sometimes large skin bumps are felt during routine grooming or petting at home or can also be found by groomers during bathing and grooming.

A large bump in a dog can be anything from a bruise, a benign mass, to a malignant tumor. We will give you some common causes for large bumps in dogs and provide suggestions to help you keep your dog healthy. The biggest concern of pet owners is that the large bump on a dog could be cancer.

Causes of Large Bumps on Dogs

What one person may consider large may be very different from another and may depend on the size of the dog. For example, a 3-inch mass on a 5-pound Chihuahua may be huge relative to the same mass on a 140-pound Mastiff dog. For the purpose of this article, a large bump on a dog is over a couple inches in size.  There are many causes for smaller bumps.

Below are some possible causes for large bumps on dogs:

  • Large scabs – A scab is a rough, dry crust that forms as a protective barrier over a healing cut, laceration, puncture or wound.  Some scabs are small but some can be quite large depending on the underlying cause of the wound. Often clipping hair to evaluate this area can help determine if the problem is a tumor or a healing wound. Learn more about home care of a laceration in dogs.
  • Abscess – An abscess can appear as a large lump. An abscess is a localized pocket of infection that contains pus. Abscesses are caused by bacteria, parasites, or foreign material under the skin and develop quickly. They will generally break open at some point and drain.  Your veterinarian may need to evaluate the lump, lance the abscess in some cases, and provide pain medications and antibiotics. The most common cause for an abscess is an infection caused by a bite wound.
  • Hematoma – A hematoma is a large bruise. Most often this is associated with some trauma such as hit by a car or other type of trauma. Bruising can also occur from abnormal bleeding disorders. Learn more about bruising and bleeding in dogs. Dogs can also get hematomas in their ear flaps from shaking their heads which can be secondary to an ear infection. For more information, please read aural hematomas in dogs.
  • Fatty mass – Fatty tumors, also called lipomas, are amongst the most common bumps that occur in dogs. Fatty tumors generally soft but can be firm if they are under a layer of muscle. They can be movable or attached. They vary in size but can become very big. For example, a Labrador retriever recently had a lipoma surgically removed that was attached to his right rib cage that weighed over 14 pounds and was a little bigger than a basketball. Fatty tumors are not malignant but can grow to become large and interfere with a function such as walking. Learn more about Fatty cysts in dogs.
  • Lymph nodes – Some skin lumps are lymph nodes that can be felt under the skin. A common spot for pet owners to feel large lymph nodes are under the chin around the jawline. These lymph nodes are the “submandibular” lymph nodes. There are different causes of lymph node enlargement that can include anything from local infections to cancer.
  • Benign mass – There are several types of benign skin masses that can become large in dogs.  Some are listed above such as abscesses or fatty tumors. It can be impossible to tell the difference between a benign and a malignant lump without additional testing.
  • Malignant tumor – There are skin tumors that can be malignant. Some can occur in certain areas such as the mammary chain which can be mammary gland tumors.  Tumors of the testicles can also occur.
  • Organ tumors – Tumors of the liver or spleen can occur but generally aren’t obvious by most pet owners. However, some pet owners notice when their dog lays on their side that the abdomen looks distended or appears abnormal. They may even feel an abnormal bump. For more information about a lump that can occur on the spleen or liver – go to Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs.

How to Determine the Cause of a Large Bumps on Dogs

If your dog has a large bump, the best way to help determine the underlying cause is to closely examine the bump. Many times shaving the hair around that area is a big help to allow you to examine the bump and surrounding area. This may be best done with the help of your veterinarian.  Your veterinarian may perform the following:

  • A complete exam. They will want to look at your dog’s eyes, ears, listen to the heart and lungs, and feel the abdomen.
  • Examine the skin bump. Your vet will evaluate the skin bump noting the size, shape, depth, consistency, location, color and more.
  • Provide recommendations. Based on the location of the tumor, size, any signs of infections, your vet will provide recommendations for the best approach to your dog’s skin mass.  They may recommend an additional test to evaluate the mass such as a fine needle aspirate (FNA), biopsy, or mass removal (lumpectomy”).

Common causes of large bumps on dogs include:

Small Lumps on Dogs

Some dogs may have small lumps. Common small tumors include Mast Cell Tumor, Melanomas, and Histiocytomas. Learn more about What Small Bumps on Dogs Can Mean?