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:

I Found a Hard Lump on My Dog — What is It?

Pet owners may pet or groom their dog to suddenly feel a hard lump on their dog that they have not felt before. This can cause concern, and in some cases, downright panic.  A lump also referred to as a mass, growth, bump or tumor, can occur anywhere on the body and come in all shapes and sizes. Some hard lumps on dogs can be benign and others malignant.  In this article, will review the possible causes for hard lumps on dogs and offer recommendations for what you should do.

There are many ways to describe a skin lump on a dog. The size, shape, texture, color, location, depth, and rate of growth are all characteristics that can help determine what kind of lump it is and what level of concern you should have.

Ways to describe a hard lump on a dog include:

  • Size- Dog lumps can range from very small and huge. In fact – some tumors, such as lipomas (also known as fatty tumor) in dogs can weigh several pounds.  Learn more about What Small Bumps on Dogs Can Mean and What Large Bumps on Dogs Can Mean.
  • Shape – Some dog lumps can be regular and others can be irregular. For example, most lipomas are round in shape.
  • Texture – Some dog lumps are firm and some are soft. Some tumors can have both components with part being soft and part firm.  Lumps that are commonly soft are fatty tumors. Learn more about Fatty Cysts in Dogs.
  • Color – Some hard dog lumps are under the skin and have only the color of the skin and other skin lumps on the skin can white, red (if inflamed), or pigmented brown or black. Learn more about What Does a Black Lump on a Dog’s Skin Mean? 
  • Location – Lumps can occur anywhere on the body. Most lumps that pet owners feel are on the skin, however, lumps can also occur on organs such as on the liver, spleen, and/or kidney. Skin lumps in dogs can grow on top of the head, neck, chest, body wall, axillae, legs, tail and just about anywhere else.  Hard lumps that involve the mammary chain (breast) are one of the tumors of concern and should be evaluated immediately.
  • Depth – Skin lumps can be on the skin (such as a mole or skin tag) or they can be under the skin. Lumps that are under the skin can be attached or moveable.
  • Rate of growth – Lumps in dogs can grow at varying rates. Some lumps grow very quickly, even over days or weeks, and some grow very slowly over months to years. Histiocytomas and Mast Cell Tumors are two types of fast-growing tumors. Fatty tumors tend to grow slowly.
  • Other – Some skin lumps can be ulcerated or even become infected. This can result from trauma to the mass, poor blood supply to the tumor causing necrosis of the tumor or be associated with certain types of cancer. Histiocytomas or Mast Cell Tumor can be itchy to some dogs.

These tumor characteristics can help guide your veterinarian as to what the hard lump on your dog may be. For example, many dogs get fatty tumors that can occur anywhere but are soft and commonly attached to the body wall. Fatty tumors are rarely firm and are uncommon on certain locations such as on top of the head. A large tumor that involves the mammary chain (breast) can be suggestive of cancer.

Another factor that is commonly considered when evaluating the cause and concern for a tumor is the age of the dog.  Some hard lumps are more common in young dogs such as Histiocytomas. While young dogs (under three years of age) are more likely to get histiocytomas (especially on the face and extremities), they can happen to dogs of any age in just about any location. Other types of tumors are more common in an older dog such as mast cell tumors, lipomas, skin cancer tumors, and breast cancer.

What is this Hard Lump on My Dog?

Most dog owners worry that a hard lump could be skin cancer. Skin cancer in dogs encompasses a broad category of tumors that includes any uncontrolled growth of cells of the skin or associated structures such as glands, hair follicles and supportive tissues (fat and connective tissue). The skin is the most common site of cancer in dogs. Skin cancer frequently occurs in dogs between 6 to 14 years of age but can occur at any age.

Symptoms and Causes of Nausea in Dogs

Nausea in dogs is a very common problem. This symptom can occur by itself but is also very common just prior to the act of vomiting. In humans, nausea is also referred to as “feeling sick to your stomach” or “queasy” and is associated with a feeling of discomfort and unease in the stomach. In dogs, nausea is harder to define since dogs can’t tell you they are “sick to their stomach.” In many occasions, it is unclear that there is an issue until the dog vomits.

The most common symptoms of nausea in dogs are lack of appetite, licking, restlessness, and drooling. Nausea can make some dogs restless during which time they will pace and appear unable to get comfortable. This is common just prior to vomiting. Other dogs with nausea will lie in the same spot drooling.

Overview of Canine Nausea

Nausea is a nonspecific symptom, which means there are many different possible causes. Common reasons for canine nausea include eating too fast or overeating, changes in diet, eating something indigestible or spoiled, licking something with an unpleasant taste (such as cleaning chemicals or topical flea prevention products), motion sickness, side effects of some medications, and any disease or condition that would cause vomiting.

Nausea in dogs can be caused by disorders of the gastrointestinal system (stomach and/or intestines) or it can be secondary to a disease from a different system cancer, acute kidney failure, chronic kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, or various infectious diseases. The variety of causes can make finding the root cause of nausea a challenge.

At one time or another, your dog may have episodes of vomiting before which he probably had a period of nausea. Vomiting may be a sign of a very minor problem or it may be a sign of something very serious.

**An occasional, isolated episode of nausea with or without vomiting is usually normal and not a reason for major concern.**

The severity or concurrence of other signs will determine whether specific diagnostic tests are recommended. Important considerations include the duration and frequency of the nausea, so it is important to monitor these things. If your dog vomits once then eats normally with no further vomiting, or has a normal bowel movement and is acting playful, then the problem may resolve on its own. If the nausea and vomiting continues after your dog eats, if your dog acts lethargic, or doesn’t want to eat, then medical attention is warranted. Learn more about what you can do at home for the vomiting dog.

Canine Nausea – What to Watch For:

Common signs of nausea in dogs may include:

Other signs that can be associated with nausea may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Dry heaving (this can be associated with an emergency condition called “bloat”).
  • Dehydration (persistent vomiting can lead to dehydration)
  • Abnormal behavior or physical abnormalities associated with prolonged vomiting such as the presence of lethargy (reluctance to move), abdominal pain, lack of appetite, diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting or other physical abnormalities.

Diagnosis of Nausea in Dogs

Optimal therapy for any serious or persistent medical condition depends on establishing the correct diagnosis. There are numerous potential causes of nausea and before any treatment can be recommended, it is important to identify the underlying cause. Tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination, including abdominal palpation. Medical history will most likely include questions regarding the following: exposure to trash; vaccination history; diet; appetite; general health; associated vomiting and character of vomitus (frequency, progression, presence of blood duration of vomiting); weight loss; past medical problems; medication history and presence of other gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhea.
  • Your veterinarian may recommend a number of laboratory tests which may include a complete blood count (CBC), a serum biochemical panel, and a urinalysis.
  • Fecal examination (to determine presence of parasites or blood)
  • Plain radiography (X-rays) or contrast X-rays (X-rays performed after your dog is given a contrast material such as barium or aqueous iodine) which can help to determine the cause of the vomiting.
  • Ultrasonography is an imaging technique that allows visualization of abdominal structures by recording reflection (echoes) of inaudible sound waves to determine the size and shape of abdominal organs, it can also detect changes in the consistency or texture of organs.
  • Endoscopy may be useful for diagnosis or to remove certain foreign bodies in the stomach. This technology can also be used for examination of the stomach and a portion of the intestine and to obtain biopsies of abnormal areas noted during the exam.

Treatment of Nausea in Dogs

Common treatments for canine nausea may include one or more of the following:

  • Eliminate the predisposing cause (e.g. exposure to trash, change in diet, stop any medications that may be contributing to the nausea, etc.) can help. Patients who eat too quickly or overeat can be treated by feeding small portions at a time or by using feeders designed to slow eating.
  • An acute episode of nausea with or without vomiting in a playful dog, in the absence of other physical abnormalities, may be treated symptomatically without hospitalization (outpatient treatment). This may consist of subcutaneous fluids, injectable antiemetics (drugs used to control nausea and vomiting), and a follow-up appointment if the symptoms are not resolved immediately.  A drug commonly used to treat nausea is Maropitant (commonly known by the brand name Cerenia).  This drug comes in both injectable and oral forms. Many times a dog is given an injection and sent home with the oral pills.
  • Dogs with abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy or any other physical abnormality may be treated with hospitalization. Therapy may include intravenous fluid administration, 24-hour monitoring, and drug treatment. This is often combined with diagnostic testing to determine the cause of the vomiting.
  • Sick dogs may require referral to an emergency or 24-hour hospital that offers care around the clock.

Home Care and Prevention of Nausea in Dogs

Follow-up with your veterinarian for [[AWT|5679|re-examinations]] of your dog as recommended and administer any medications they prescribe. If your dog experiences an inadequate response to previous medical measures, a further workup may be indicated to determine the underlying cause of the nausea.

  • Treatment for nausea is dependent on the cause. Symptomatic therapy of an episode of nausea and vomiting includes withholding food and water for 3 to 4 hours. If your dog has not vomited by the end of this time, offer water a few tablespoons at a time. Continue to offer small amounts of water every 20 minutes or so until your dog is hydrated.
  • After the small increments of water are offered, gradually offer an easily digestible food. Small frequent feedings of a bland digestible diet such as Hill’s Prescription Diet I/D, Iams Recovery Diet, Provision EN, or Waltham Low Fat are usually recommended. Homemade diets of boiled rice or potatoes (as the carbohydrate source) and lean hamburger, skinless chicken or low-fat cottage cheese as a protein source are also recommended. Here are instructions on how to make a bland diet at home.
  • Medications to reduce stomach acid may be recommended. A common and safe medication commonly used at home is famotidine (Pepcid). For dosage and medication information, go to the Drug Library article on Pepcid.
  • Gradually return your dog to regular food over 1 or 2 days. If vomiting continues at any time or you note the onset of other symptoms, call your veterinarian promptly.
  • If your dog is not eating, acts lethargic, vomiting starts or continues, or any of the other physical abnormalities mentioned above begin, it is important to see your veterinarian. Your dog needs your help and the professional care your veterinarian can provide. If your dog is having the clinical signs mentioned above, expect your veterinarian to perform some diagnostic tests and make treatment recommendations. These recommendations will be dependent upon the severity and nature of the clinical signs.

Prevention of nausea in dogs is aimed at minimizing your dog’s exposure to trash (bones, food products), foreign material (socks, strings, etc.) or toxins. Walk your dog on a leash to minimize exposure to foreign material that may be located outside. Monitor your dog’s appetite and general health as well. If your dog is overeating, feed smaller and more frequent meals to prevent further nausea.

Here’s What to do After Your Dog Has a Seizure

Seizures in dogs can be scary to watch and seem to last forever.  Seizures cause involuntary contractions of muscles due to the sudden and excessive firing of nerves in the brain.  How a seizure looks in dogs can vary from dog to dog. Signs can range from falling over to one side, padding of all limbs, teeth chattering, foaming at the mouth, barking or vocalizations, urinating, and/or defecating. Some dogs will have focal seizures that cause abnormal muscle movements in one group of muscles such as facial twitching.  Clients commonly call veterinary hospitals wondering about dog seizures and what to do after.

First, let’s talk about the components of a seizure. This will help you understand what to expect and what to do after a seizure.

There are three phases of a dog seizure:

  1. Aura Phase. The first phase of a seizure is the Aura phase. Some dogs have this and others don’t. Certain signs of an impending seizure may be evident, such as restlessness, whining, shaking, salivation, wandering, hiding or some dogs will seek affection. These signs may persist from seconds to days in duration and may or may not be apparent to you. Some dogs will run to you or seem “needy” just prior to a seizure.
  2. Ictal Phase. During the ictal phase of a seizure, the actual seizure occurs. The seizure may last from seconds or minutes. The typical generalized seizure looks like this: your dog falls on his side and begins paddling and chomping his jaws. Some owners will notice dog teeth chattering. They may drool, foam at the mouth, urinate and move their bowels. They may bark or vocalize. Dogs are unaware of their surroundings during this time.
  3. Post-ictial Phase. This phase of a seizure occurs immediately after the seizure. Dogs will appear confused and disoriented and may wander or pace. Some dogs will be temporarily blind and may run into objects. The typical post ictal dog will wander around aimlessly, be unsteady on their feet, may stumble over to their water dish and overdrink and/or overeat, drool, and seem generally confused. This phase may last a few minutes to hours.

What To Do and NOT to Do if Your Dog Has a Seizure

Clients commonly want to know what do and what not to do if a dog has a seizure. Seizures can be really scary and often seem to last forever when it is only a few minutes. Clients commonly ask if their dog will die from a seizure. Learn more about the risk of death in Can a Dog Die From a Seizure?

In general, the recommendations on what to do when your pet is having a seizure are:

  • Don’t panic. Even though it is really scary, understand that your dog is unconscious and not in pain. He is not aware that he is seizing.  He is not aware you are there and may react in fear, including to bite.
  • Be safe. Pets do not swallow their tongues. Do NOT put your hand or any other object in your dogs’ mouth. This is how many pet owners get bit.
  • Remove kids and pets. Keep children and other pets (both cats and dogs) away from seizing pets. They are often scared and their reactions can be unpredictable. There have been reports of attacks to both seizing dogs and people during this stressful and confusing time to the other household pets.
  • Time the seizure. Look at your watch and time the seizure. Seizures often seem like they are taking forever but may only be seconds.
  • Protect your pet. Seizuring pets can thrash and hurt themselves. Protect your dog from water, stairs, and sharp objects. We generally recommend pulling your dog gently toward the center of the room by the back legs. Many dogs may urinate or defecate. If you have a towel handy, place this under their back end.
  • Observe the seizure. Notice how your pet behaves and moves during the seizure. Is there padding of all legs or just the front? Is there chomping? Foaming? Does your dog urinate or defecate?
  • Comfort your pet. Stay with your dog but away from his/her mouth. You may calm your dog by speaking softly and petting your dog.
  • Be ready to go. If the seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, call your veterinarian or veterinary emergency clinic immediately. If you have any questions – call your vet. They can help guide you on if you should come in or if any treatments are recommended.

What to Do After a Dog Seizures

The period after the seizure is called the post-ictal period. This can last from minutes to hours. Typically dogs are disoriented, often lethargic, with inappropriate behavior such as stumbling, walking into walls, overdrinking at the water bowl.

Can a Dog Die From a Seizure?

Clients commonly ask if dogs can die from seizures. The answer is yes. The risk largely depends on the underlying cause of the seizure. Seizures that result from head trauma, brain tumors, organ malfunction, toxins, and other serious medical problems are at high risk for dying. Learn more about the possible Causes of Seizures in Dogs.

Seizures caused by epilepsy, which means there is no known underlying cause for the seizures, are at much lower risk of dying from a seizure. Epilepsy most often occurs in young healthy dogs. Even though a seizure is scary and it seems like your dog is in pain or may die, this is unlikely when there is a single seizure event in a young healthy epileptic dog.

Situations that Increase the Risk of Death from Seizures

As identified above, the risk of death from seizures in dogs will be very dependent on the underlying cause. If the cause is from a serious medical problem, the risk of death can be high.

If a seizure occurs once in a young healthy dog with no trauma or toxin exposure, the risk of death is lower.

However, prolonged or recurrent generalized seizures can be life-threatening and increase the risk of your dog dying during or from secondary complications from the seizure. Two multiple seizure events include:

  • Cluster seizures occur when multiple seizures occur in one day.
  • Status epilepticus occurs when there is continuous seizure activity or seizures that reoccur without recovery between seizures.

When either of these multiple seizure situations occurs, there is potential for the body temperature to increase due to the increased muscle activity associated with the padding and muscle movements. Some dogs can quickly increase their body temperatures from normal (which is 100 to 102.5°F [degrees Fahrenheit]) to over 108°F. This produces a potentially life-threatening problem of hyperthermia (high body temperature). This is a form of a Heat stoke.  At temperatures > 109°F critical organ failure can develop.

The elevated body temperature can lead to additional abnormal neurological symptoms such as lethargy, weakness, or coma. Life-threatening secondary complications may include disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), gastrointestinal ulceration, low blood pressure (hypotension), low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), infections, and/or renal failure.

The treatment for hyperthermia from seizure activity focuses on immediately stopping the seizures and decreasing the body temperature. Intravenous (IV) diazepam (valium) is commonly used to stop seizure activity. If that doesn’t work, other injectable drugs such as propofol may be used.  Cooling methods may include a cool water bath, cool fan, and IV fluid therapy. For more information on various cooling methods, please read Heat stoke in Dogs.

Hyperthermia is an emergency and is why if a seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes – you should head to your veterinarian or your closest veterinary emergency clinic.

When To See Your Vet

It is best to see your veterinarian for the following:

  • Any Seizures that lasts longer than 5 minutes
  • When there are more than three seizures in a 24 hour time period
  • Seizures that begin before your pet has completely recovered from the previous seizure
  • Abnormal signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, bleeding or any other concerns develop as or after your dog is recovering from the seizure

How to Help Your Dog if They are Having a Seizure

During a seizure event, the best things you can do are to ensure your safety and your dog’s safety.

The general rules of how to help your dog if he or she is having a seizure include:

  • Be safe. Don’t move your dog unless he in a location where he can be injured during the seizure.  If your dog is near the stairs, gently move him away from the stairs. The safest way to do this is to gently drag your dog by his back legs. If your dog is outside, make sure he is not near the road, sharp objects or bodies of water such as a pond, lake or swimming pool where he could fall in and drown. Again, if he is near anything dangerous, carefully and gently drag your dog by his back legs to an area of safety.
  • Don’t touch your dog’s mouth. There is an old wives tale that a dog will swallow their tongue during a seizure. This is NOT true.  Do not get near your dog’s mouth and don’t put anything your dog’s mouth. Many pet owners get bit from being too close to their dog’s mouths or worrying about them swallowing their tongue during a seizure.
  • Time the Seizure. Check your watch and notice how long the seizure lasts. Many pet owners believe a seizure lasts several minutes when it is only seconds. The seizure event is a stressful time and the actual seizure can seem to last longer than it actually is.
  • Start a Seizure Log. Develop a system or calendar to document this seizure, time of day, length of seizure and anything your dog was doing immediately before the seizure.
  • Call Your Vet. If you have any questions or concerns, please call your veterinarian.  They can help guide you on when you should have your dog evaluated and if treatment or testing is indicated.

Additional Articles of Interest about Canine Seizures:

What it Means When You See Dogs’ Teeth Chattering

Dog teeth chattering can occur for a variety of causes. While some causes are not a problem, other causes of teeth chattering can suggest severe and potentially life-threatening problems. In this article, we will review the possible causes of dog teeth chattering and what you should do if you see this symptom in your dog.

Dog teeth chattering is a symptom. A symptom is a sign of a disease which can be caused by multiple different medical problems. An example of another symptom is vomiting. Vomiting can be caused by a dog getting into the trash, eating indigestible objects, viral infections such as parvovirus, bacterial infections, kidney disease, liver disease, and many other possible diseases.

First, lets look at what dog teeth chattering is.

What Dog Teeth Chattering Is

Teeth chattering can be described as the sound made when a dogs mouth opens and closes quickly in sequence causing the teeth to touch and thus creating a sound in an alert and otherwise normal dog.  Humans often have teeth chattering when they are cold and shivering.

Is Dog Teeth Chattering a sign of a Seizure or Something Else?

Dog teeth chattering can be a sign of the following possible problems:

  • Cold or Fever– Some dogs extremely cold will chatter his teeth or dogs with a fever will sometimes have chattering.
  • Anxiety – Dogs that are anxious, scared, or intimidated can exhibit teeth chattering. Some dogs will have teeth chattering when they are extremely nervous such as when coming to the veterinary clinic.
  • Excitement – Some dogs will chatter their teeth when excited such as when presented with a new toy or about the engage in playtime. This is more common in high-energy dogs.
  • Dental Disease – Dogs with dental disease and pain in their mouth can chatter their teeth. This is often a sign of oral pain.
  • Neurologic Disease – Some dogs with seizures can exhibit teeth chattering. Paralysis of facial nerves or focal seizures can cause dog teeth chattering.

Dog teeth chattering can be seen in dogs with seizures but often other signs also occur such as drooling, disorientation, foaming at the mouth, and/or vocalizing. Learn more about seizures in dogs.

What To Do Next, How to Handle Teeth Chattering

When considering teeth chattering in your dog, consider the situation that occurred when you see this symptom.  Closely observe your dog was doing before, during and after you see the teeth chattering. Observe your dog for the following:

  • Is the teeth chattering constant? Or intermittent?
  • Did the dog teeth chattering occur when your dog was excited? Nervous?
  • Does your dog have seizures? Was your dog aware during the teeth chattering? Can you distract your dog during the chattering or is it uncontrollable? Does the abnormal movement involve just the teeth or is the entire face involved?
  • Does your dog have foul smelling breath that could indicate dental disease? Dogs with teeth chattering caused by dental disease may also have excessive drooling, be reluctant to eat, stop playing with chew toys, and/or be resistant to allow you to examine his or her mouth (head shy).

The best thing to do with dog teeth chattering is to see your veterinarian to try to determine the underlying cause and if treatment is indicated.  If possible, video your dog during a teeth-chattering event so your veterinarian can see exactly what your dog is doing in the case he doesn’t do it when you take him in for an examination.

What you can expect when you visit your vet:

  • They will likely take your dog’s temperature to determine if your dog is cold or has a fever.
  • Your veterinarian will also likely perform a neurological exam to assess for signs of disease such as facial nerve paralysis. Generally, there are changes in the eye reflexes or drooping of one side of the face.
  • Your veterinarian will likely perform a good dental exam to evaluate for signs of dental disease and oral pain. Fractured teeth and exposed nerves can cause oral pain and dog teeth chattering.  They may need to sedate your dog and complete additional testing such as radiographs (x-rays) to evaluate for problems.

Additional Articles of Interest:

What are the Causes of Dog Seizures?

A seizure, also known as a fit or convulsion, can be defined as “involuntary contractions of the muscles, abnormal sensations, abnormal behaviors, or some combination of these events” that can occur in some dogs. A seizure is caused by the sudden and excessive firing of nerves in the brain.

Symptoms of dog seizures can vary from generalized signs affecting all parts of the body to focal manifestations that only impact part of the body. For example, a generalized seizure may manifest as a dog falls over, paddles all limbs, teeth chattering, foaming at the mouth, urinating, defecating, barking and/or other vocal behavior. A focal seizure can cause facial twitching only.

For more information on seizures, please read our full medical article on “Seizures in Dogs”.  A common question that dog owners ask is “what are the causes of dog seizures”?

Causes of Dog Seizures

Seizures are considered a symptom. A symptom can be a sign of a disease but is not actually a disease. Symptoms are a physical sign that often can have many different causes. For example, some common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, limping, and bad breath. If we look at the symptom of limping, possible causes could be anything from a thorn in the paw pad, a fractured leg, soft tissue injury, laceration, or a ligament tear.

It has been estimated that 0.5% to 2.3% of dogs may have seizures. Seizures occur in both males and females with equal frequency. Many dogs, in fact up to 80% of dogs, will have one seizure and never have another seizure.

Below we will review some possible causes of dog seizures:

  • Hypoglycemia (Low blood glucose/sugar). When the blood glucose falls below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) of blood, some dogs will become weak, lethargic, and as the blood sugar drops further …will seizure. The muscle activity created by the seizure is a way the body will release glucose from the muscle tissues to increase the blood glucose level. This is most common in small and toy breed dogs.
  • Liver disease (called “hepatic encephalopathy”). The liver normally functions to filter toxins from the blood. When this doesn’t happen normally, toxins can build up leading to lethargy, disorientation, and seizures.
  • Inflammatory or infectious diseases that affect the nervous system can cause seizures.
  • Poisons or toxins. There are many toxins and poisons that can cause seizures. Some examples are bromethalin (which is a kind of rat poison), pyrethrins or organophosphates (common ingredients in over-the-counter flea products), hexachlorophene, chlorinated hydrocarbons, metaldehydate, lead, myotoxins, and strychnine.
  • Brain tumors can cause seizures. A common sign of a brain tumor is seizures but other symptoms may develop over time such as abnormal eye reflexes, lameness or trouble walking, tremors, behavior changes, and disorientation. Brain tumors can occur in the following ways:
    • Tumors arising from brain tissue include meningioma, glioma, choroid plexus tumors, and several others.
    • Tumors can arise from tissues that live in the brain, For example, a tumor can arise from the pituitary gland (pituitary gland tumor).
    • Tumors can metastases to the brain from other organs such as lung cancer could metastases to the brain.
    • Tumors can grow into brain tissue from other areas. An example is a nasal tumor that grows in the brain.
  • Head trauma. Head trauma is a blunt or penetrating injury that occurs to the head. The most common cause of head trauma is from a dog being hit by a car or other vehicle. Other causes of head trauma can occur from blunt trauma such as being hit by a bat or a swing. Additional causes are being stepped on, being hit or crushed by a door, being crushed in a recliner, falls, gunshot wounds, and animal fights just to name a few. All of these examples of trauma can cause swelling of the brain tissues that leads to disorientation, lethargy, weakness, abnormal eye reflexes, tremors, and potentially seizures.
  • Heat stroke. Another cause of seizures can result from heat-related illness. Heat stroke is a condition arising from extremely high body temperatures (rectal temperature of 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit), which leads to nervous system abnormalities. Symptoms include lethargy, weakness, collapse, seizures, tremors, and/or coma. A common cause of heat stroke is an owner that allows a dog to remain in a car with closed windows on a hot summer day.
  • Infectious diseases. Distemper and other viral, bacterial and fungal diseases can infect the brain and cause seizures. Many times dogs will have fevers, lack of appetite, coughing, as well as other symptoms.
  • Blood vessel disorders that affect circulation or cause clots to the brain can also cause seizures.
  • Seizures can also be classified as idiopathic. This means that no underlying cause for the seizures can be determined. These dogs are often determined to have “epilepsy”.  This is common in young healthy dogs from 6 months to 5 years of age.
  • Heart disease can cause symptoms that can appear like seizures. Some dogs will “faint” which is referred to as syncope. Signs of heart disease may include coughing, exercise intolerance, and trouble breathing. Some dogs are asymptomatic and only experience the symptom of syncope when their heart goes into an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Heart disease does not cause seizures but is mentioned in this list as syncope is commonly mistaken as a seizure.

What’s Next in Dogs with Seizures?

If your dog is having seizures, we recommend that you see your veterinarian to identify any potential underlying cause for the seizures and determine if your dog requires treatment.

What to Do if Your Dog Has a Skin Tag

There are many kinds of canine skin bumps, growths, lumps, tumors, and “tags”. Some skin tumors in dogs are benign (noncancerous) and some skin lumps are cancerous. A dog skin tag is a type of skin growth that can occur anywhere on the body but are common on the face, head, neck, elbows, and/or chest. Skin tags are common in humans and also commonly occur on the face, head, face and upper chest. Dog owners frequently have questions about dog skin tags wondering if they are cancerous, a problem that can turn cancerous, or no problem at all.

Below we will discuss what is a dog skin tag, how to determine if it is a dog skin tag vs wart, how to tell a skin tag from a cancer bump in dogs, and steps for dog skin tag removal. Before deciding if a skin tag is a problem or not, let’s look at exactly what is a dog skin tag.

The medical terms for a skin tag is an acrochordon or acrochorda (pleural) and is also known as fibroepithelial polyp. A skin tag is a small flap of skin with a small base often about the size of a grain of rice but can be bigger or smaller. Some dog skin tags can be the size of a grape or even larger and appear to “dangle”.

Dog skin tags most often occur around the face, head, neck, armpits, elbows, and eyelids, but can occur anywhere on the body. Some deep chested large dogs will get clusters of skin tags over the chest area.

A true skin tag is generally painless and harmless. They generally do not change over time into something cancerous.

They are often diagnosed when combing or brushing your dog. They are easier to see on dogs with dark hair coats as they are often pink, fleshy, and protrude brightly. It is common for some pet owners to mistake a skin tag for an attached tick.  Collars, leashes or grooming procedures such as combing or brushing your dog, can irritate dog skin tags.

Why Do Dogs Get Skin Tags?

You may be wondering…“Why do dogs get skin tags”?  The cause for skin tags is largely unknown although but is considered to be genetic. There are some breed predispositions such as they are more common in bulldogs, boxers, and Great Danes although they can occur in any breed. Dog skin tags appear to be more common in dogs as they get older. Dogs that get skin tags will often have more than one.

Dog skin tags are most commonly diagnosed by your veterinarian after examining the growth. The classic appearance of a dog skin tag is a small raised soft piece of skin with a small base often referred to as a pedicle. It should not be ulcerated, inflamed or bleeding unless it is being irritated by a collar or by grooming.

Skin tags in dogs are not dangerous. Dog skin tags are generally permanent and do not regress. Generally, the only way they go away is by surgical removal.

If your dog has a skin tag and it is red, inflamed, draining, pigmented, then please see your veterinarian. Either the skin tag it is infected or not an actual skin tag and a different type of tumor or cancer.

Dog Skin Tag vs. Warts — What’s the Difference?

Is it a dog skin tag vs wart? This is a common question that dog owners ask.  Dog skin tags can appear similar to warts but there are differences. Warts, like skin tags, can grow anywhere on the body and dogs that get one will generally get more.

The biggest difference between a skin tag and a wart is the appearance of the bump. Skin tags generally are small, soft, thin, flesh-colored, floppy, and have a stalk or pedicle base.  You can generally move a skin tag back and forth with your finger. Warts, on the other hand, are thicker and attached to the skin over a broader area. They are generally flatter. Warts, known by the medical term as viral papillomas, are benign, non-cancerous tumors caused by a virus in dogs and other pets. Warts are more common in young dogs and often are around the mouth commissures of the lip or are in the mouth. Learn more about Canine Viral Papillomas (Dog Warts).

Another common question pet owners ask about dog skin tag is “How do you prevent dog skin tags?” The answer is that there is nothing you can do to prevent dog skin tags.

Can Skin Tags Turn Into Cancer Bumps on Dogs?

Can a dog skin tag turn into a cancerous bump? The answer is no. Skin tags are considered harmless and are not considered “precancerous”.

Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

There are several types of skin tumors that develop from the skin and adnexa (the parts adjoining the skin). The most common tumor is the Lipoma, commonly referred to as a “fatty tumors” and the second most common is a tumor arising from the sebaceous glands called sebaceous adenomas.

The sebaceous glands produce an oily substance called sebum, which lubricates the skin. The ducts of the sebaceous glands empty into hair follicles. A different problem that can occur in dogs that arises also from the sebaceous gland is a Sebaceous Cyst, but is less common in dogs.

Overview of Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

The development of sebaceous cysts is thought to develop from an obstruction of the follicles, leading to abnormal accumulations of sebum.

Sebaceous adenomas are benign tumors that originate from the landular or ductal tissue. In dogs, they are common on the head, neck, back, eyelids and limbs. They are generally hairless protrusions firmly attached to the skin. They can have the appearance of cauliflower.

Sebaceous adenomas develop more often in dogs as they get older and are most common in dogs over the age of 7 to 8 years. Dogs that are prone to sebaceous adenomas tend to get more sebaceous adenomas as they age.

What to Watch For

Sebaceous adenoma can turn into sebaceous adenocarcinoma, which is a malignant tumor.  Please monitor your pet for any changes in the sebaceous adenoma that could suggest a malignancy including rapid growth, changes in color, or ulcerations.

Diagnosis of Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

The diagnosis of a sebaceous adenoma in your dog will largely be based on the history and examination of the mass. Veterinarians can often diagnose sebaceous adenomas be physically looking at it.

Dog owners often mistake a sebaceous adenoma with an Acrochordon or Fibroepithelial Polyp in Dogs (commonly referred to as a dog skin tag) or with Canine Viral Papillomas (commonly referred to as dog warts).  This article may be helpful in the section that tells you how to tell a skin tag from a wart.

Your veterinarian will ask questions about your dog’s mass that may include:

  • How long has the mass been there?
  • Is there only one mass or are there others?
  • Has it gotten larger or smaller or changes in appearance?
  • Does the mass appear to be attached to the underlying skin?
  • How fast is it is growing?
  • Have there been any recent injuries or injections?
  • Are there any changes in your pet’s behavior, such as eating less, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy?
  • Are there any other lumps, tumors, masses, or growths?

A complete physical exam will be done and your veterinarian will pay particular attention to the appearance of the mass, whether it is hot or painful, whether it is within the skin or under the skin, if it is attached to underlying tissues, if it is ulcerated, and where it is located on the body.

Additional tests may include:

  • Fine needle aspiration. A diagnosis can often be made by placing a small needle within the cyst and suctioning some cells out of it with a syringe. Microscopic evaluation of the cells will often be suggestive of a sebaceous adenoma.
  • An aspirate of the mass with a small needle may be done to collect cells for staining and examination under a microscope (cytology). This test usually requires no anesthesia and often leads to a diagnosis.
  • If the mass is ulcerated or draining fluid, a microscope slide may be touched to the fluid to make an impression for microscopic examination. This is referred to as an “impression cytology”.
  • A biopsy may be taken to send to a veterinary pathologist for examination. The biopsy may involve removing the entire mass or removing a piece of the mass.
  • A piece of tissue may be submitted for culture if infectious agents such as bacteria or fungi are suspected.

Treatment of a Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

If the growth is diagnosed as a sebaceous adenoma, no treatment is required.  However, some sebaceous adenomas break open, bleed, become infected or are irritated by leashes, collars, halters and/or grooming procedures. Some sebaceous adenomas are close to the mouth and become damaged when eating. Another common location is on the eyelid that can cause the mass to rub on the eye potentially causing corneal ulcerations. In these cases, surgical removal of the sebaceous adenoma is recommended.

Sebaceous adenoma can be removed surgically by removing the mass with a wedge of underlying skin to ensure the entire mass is removed.  Surgery can be performed under general anesthesia however some sebaceous adenomas can be removed using local anesthesia such as lidocaine.

How to Treat Diarrhea in Dogs

Diarrhea is one of the most common medical symptoms that veterinarians see in their hospitals, making “how to treat diarrhea in dogs” one of the most common dog owner questions. Before we review diarrhea treatments and various diarrhea medications, we will quickly define “what is diarrhea” and the possible causes of canine diarrhea.

Diarrhea is defined as having loose stools which are often more frequent than normal.   The consistency of diarrhea can range from watery, liquid with some form, pudding, to a formed but softer-than-normal consistency.  Some diarrhea can contain blood and/or mucous.

Diarrhea can be a standalone symptom or it can be associated with other symptoms. Some dogs will have diarrhea and otherwise be completely normal. This means they have a good appetite, no vomiting, and a good energy level. Other times diarrhea is associated with vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, and/or weakness. In these latter cases, we recommend that you see your veterinarian to help determine the underlying cause and to get your dog the diarrhea treatment that will work best.

There are many different causes of canine diarrhea that range from very mild or minor problems to severe life-threatening problems. Specifically, causes of canine diarrhea may include the following:

  • Eating inappropriate food or materials (commonly referred to as dietary indiscretion)
  • Infectious agents such as bacterial, viral, fungal, protozoal, or parasitic infections
  • Drugs (in humans there are over 700 medications that are known to cause diarrhea)
  • Toxins
  • Telescoping of the bowel on itself (Intussusception)
  • Intolerance of materials in the normal diet
  • Intestinal obstruction that can be caused by ingestion of indigestible foreign material such as toys, socks, fabric, underwear, rocks
  • Metabolic disorders, such as liver problems or kidney disease
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)

Some of the underlying causes of diarrhea are minor and can resolve quickly while other causes can be serious and life-threatening. Below we will consider how to treat diarrhea in dogs, when you should see your veterinarian, what you can feed a dog with diarrhea, types of dog diarrhea medicine, and tips for handling diarrhea in puppies.

Tips for Treating Dog Diarrhea at Home

It is important to take special care when treating dog diarrhea at home.

First of all, it is important to consider if diarrhea is the only symptom and your dog is otherwise acting normal or is he is acting sick with diarrhea? It is recommended that if your dog is acting sick and showing other symptoms, you would seek help from your veterinarian. There may be a life-threatening problem and treating dog diarrhea at home is not a good idea. Such symptoms include:

  • Not eating or drinking
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Concurrent vomiting
  • Diarrhea contains blood
  • Or your dog is showing any other signs of illness

Second, we will give you tips on dog diarrhea medication below but it is important to NOT give any medication without the recommendation of your veterinarian. Some human medications not listed below are unsafe and can cause harm to your dog.

Finally, read “what you can do at home for dogs with diarrhea”. This short article contains specific instructions on how to feed a dog with diarrhea, recipes to feed at home, and medications that are safe to give dogs.  

One last tip – the best way to avoid accidents in the house is to ensure your dog has frequent opportunities to go outside. Don’t wait for your dog to wake you up, as by then it is often too late. Offer your dog frequent opportunities to “go out”.

What You Can Feed a Dog With Diarrhea

If your dog has diarrhea but is acting otherwise normal with a good energy level, no vomiting, weakness, lethargy or other abnormal symptoms, then it is generally safe to offer some water and some food.

The recommendation for water intake is to offer free choice water if your dog is not vomiting and otherwise acting normal. If your dog is having vomiting in addition to diarrhea – please read this article on home care for dogs with vomiting and diarrhea. This article will give you specific instructions on how to introduce water and food when both vomiting and diarrhea are affecting your dog.

The diet recommendation for dogs with diarrhea is foods that are easy on the stomach. In dogs, we call it a “bland diet”.  You can purchase a bland diet from your veterinarian or make a homemade version at home. Prescription bland foods include Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d (which stands for “intestinal diet”), Iams Recovery Diet, or Waltham Low Fat Diet.