It’s normal for dogs to lick their lips and swallow frequently. But excessive licking and swallowing may indicate an underlying issue. This article explores common reasons for increased licking and swallowing in dogs and what concerned owners should do.
Why Do Dogs Lick and Swallow Frequently?
There are several possible explanations for constant licking, swallowing, and lip smacking in dogs.
Nausea – Motion sickness, eating something disagreeable, infections, blockages, or other sources of nausea can stimulate swallowing. The licking triggers saliva production which helps soothe nausea.
Oral Pain – Mouth pain from dental problems, injuries, or blockages leads to frequent swallowing. The excess salivaproduced when licking helps lubricate and protect painful areas.
Esophageal Disorders – Conditions like megaesophagus or cancer create discomfort and obstruction in the esophagus. Frequent swallowing is an attempt to clear irritation.
Acid Reflux – Like humans, dogs can suffer from acid reflux. Stomach acid entering the esophagus stimulates swallowing and licking to coat the area.
Allergies – Food or environmental allergies that cause itching in the mouth and throat provoke swallowing. Saliva from licking helps temporarily numb irritation.
Taste or Smell – Unpleasant tastes or odors can lead to repetitive lip licking and swallowing. The dog is trying to eliminate or mask the stimulus.
Behavioral – Stress, anxiety, excitement, or boredom are possible behavioral triggers for increased licking and swallowing. It can become an obsessive compulsive habit.
If your dog is swallowing a lot, identifying the root cause is key to stopping the behavior.
What Should I Do if My Dog is Licking and Swallowing Excessively?
Observe closely – Note details like timing of increased licking, relation to eating/drinking, and other accompanying symptoms. Video can help capture the behavior.
Check their mouth – Look for dental issues, damage to the tongue/gums, and foreign objects lodged in the mouth or throat.
Monitor eating and drinking – Increased licking and swallowing is often tied to nausea, difficulty chewing or swallowing, or digestive issues.
Consider recent changes – Did the behavior start after a new food, stressful event, or exposure to allergens?
Make a veterinary appointment – Persistent excessive licking and swallowing almost always merits an exam by your vet. Testing may be needed to determine the cause.
Avoid punishment – Yelling at or physically disciplining dogs for this behavior will only increase anxiety and potentially worsen it.
Be patient but persistent in working with your vet to uncover why your dog is constantly licking their lips and excessively swallowing. Treatment will depend on the specific underlying trigger discovered through diagnostic testing.
When to Seek Emergency Care
In some cases, frequent swallowing indicates a serious medical issue requiring emergency veterinary care. Seek immediate help if your dog displays:
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale gums or lip smacking without licking/swallowing
- Signs of choking/coughing
- Unproductive retching or vomiting
- Bloating and enlarged abdomen
- Evidence of poisoning
- Oral bleeding or injury
- Loss of appetite/thirst
- Lethargy, weakness, or collapse
These signs suggest choke, poisoning, GDV bloat, trauma, or other conditions requiring rapid veterinary treatment. Don’t wait on getting help.
How to Reduce Excessive Licking and Swallowing
Depending on the cause, some remedies to help minimize excessive licking and swallowing include:
- Treat any underlying nausea, reflux, or oral pain.
- Switch to a bland or hydrolyzed protein diet trial for potential food allergies.
- Wipe dirt/debris from face and paws to remove allergens if environmental allergies seem likely.
- Try antacids or acid reducers under your vet’s direction for reflux.
- Apply bitter apple spray to discourage licking at hot spots or the air.
- Consider anti-anxiety medications or natural calming supplements for stress/OCD related licking.
- Provide extra stimulation through play, training, toys if behavioral.
- Use an Elizabethan collar to block licking that causes hot spots or irritation.
- Address dental disease, wounds, or foreign material in the mouth.
- Have your vet rule out esophageal issues, poisoning, and other severe causes.
Patience and a bit of trial and error are needed, but addressing the root trigger is the only way to stop problematic licking and swallowing long-term.
Is constant swallowing in dogs normal?
Occasional swallowing is normal, but excessively doing it to the point of lip smacking warrants investigation. Frequent swallowing can indicate nausea, pain, obstruction, or other issues needing veterinary attention.
Why does my dog lick the air?
Air licking or lapping is often tied to nausea. The motion stimulates saliva production which helps soothe their upset stomach. Dental pain, oral injury, and neurological issues can also cause air licking behavior.
How can I stop my dog from obsessive swallowing?
Determining the underlying cause is key. Behavioral therapy, anti-anxiety medication, addressing allergies, installing a gastro feeding tube, or dental work may be needed depending on the diagnosed trigger for obsessive swallowing.
When should I worry about excessive dog swallowing?
Contact your vet if swallowing is frequent enough to disrupt normal eating and drinking or accompanies concerning symptoms like vomiting, weight loss, lethargy or breathing issues. Persistent excessive swallowing is not normal.
What home remedies soothe a dog’s throat if swallowing a lot?
Offering frozen treats like broth ice cubes or a food puzzle with canned pumpkin or yogurt can provide cooling relief to irritated throats. Avoid forcing water if swallowing is painful.
Frequent lip licking and swallowing behavior in dogs always merits investigating the underlying cause. While it could be trivial, it may also indicate serious health issues requiring prompt veterinary attention. Don’t ignore or just scold your dog for excessive licking/swallowing. Instead, partner with your vet to get to the root of the problem. With patience and care, this disruptive behavior can be overcome.