Lip licking is a common behavior observed in dogs, but have you ever wondered what it really means? When dogs lick their lips, it’s not just a random action – it’s a form of communication and body language that conveys various emotions and messages

Dogs use lip licking to express feelings of stress, discomfort, appeasement, or excitement. By understanding the meaning behind this behavior, dog owners can better communicate with their furry companions and address their needs effectively. It’s also important to note that excessive lip licking can sometimes indicate underlying health issues that may require veterinary attention.

Key Takeaways:

  • Lip licking is a form of dog communication and body language.
  • It can signify stress, discomfort, appeasement, or excitement in dogs.
  • Understanding lip licking helps in better communication with dogs.
  • Excessive lip licking can indicate underlying health issues.
  • Veterinary attention may be required to address the behavior and health concerns.

The Communication Behind Lip Licking in Dogs

Lip licking in dogs is a form of dog communication and body language. It is considered an appeasement gesture, indicating that a dog feels stressed, uncomfortable, or threatened by their surroundings. By understanding this behavior, dog owners can better respond to their dog’s needs and create a supportive environment.

Dogs may lick their lips to soothe and calm themselves or to signal to others that they are not a threat. This behavior is often observed in situations where the dog perceives aggression or when they are confused or frustrated. It’s important to pay attention to other accompanying body language cues, such as lowered body posture or a tucked tail, to fully understand the dog’s emotional state.

Recognizing and respecting a dog’s communication signals can help prevent potential conflicts and improve the overall well-being of the dog. It’s crucial not to punish or force a dog to engage in unwanted interactions when they are displaying lip licking behavior. Instead, providing a safe and positive environment and using reward-based training methods can help alleviate stress and anxiety.

Dog Body Language Cues

Understanding dog body language is essential for interpreting lip licking behavior accurately. Dogs use a combination of visual cues, vocalizations, and body postures to communicate their emotions and intentions. Some common body language cues to look for in addition to lip licking include:

  • Yawning: Dogs may yawn as a calming signal when they feel stressed or anxious.
  • Whale eye: When a dog averts their gaze and exposes the whites of their eyes, it can indicate discomfort or fear.
  • Freezing: Dogs may freeze in place when they are uncertain or feel threatened.
  • Head turning: Turning the head away or avoiding eye contact can be a sign of appeasement.

By paying attention to these cues and combining them with lip licking behavior, dog owners can better understand their dog’s emotions and respond appropriately.

Health Issues Related to Lip Licking in Dogs

Lip licking in dogs can sometimes be a signal of underlying health issues that require attention. One common cause is dental disease, which includes problems such as tartar buildup or tooth infections. These conditions can cause discomfort and pain, leading to increased lip licking in an attempt to alleviate the oral discomfort. Regular dental care, including brushing and professional cleanings, is essential in preventing dental disease-related lip licking.

Nausea and gastrointestinal problems can also contribute to lip licking in dogs. If your dog is experiencing stomach issues, they may exhibit symptoms such as vomiting, drooling, and a decreased appetite in addition to lip licking. It’s important to monitor your dog’s overall health and consult with a veterinarian if you notice these symptoms persisting or worsening.

Additionally, foreign objects stuck in a dog’s mouth can cause irritation and prompt lip licking. Dogs are curious by nature, and they may come into contact with items that can get lodged in their mouth, causing discomfort and a desire to lick their lips. If you suspect that your dog has a foreign object in their mouth, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care to remove it safely.

Health Issue Symptoms Treatment
Dental Disease Tartar buildup, tooth infections Regular dental care, professional cleanings
Nausea and Gastrointestinal Problems Vomiting, drooling, decreased appetite Veterinary consultation, symptom management
Foreign Objects in Mouth Irritation, discomfort Veterinary care for removal

In some cases, lip licking can also be associated with skin issues such as lip fold pyoderma. This condition occurs when bacteria and yeast accumulate in the folds of a dog’s lips, causing redness, swelling, and discomfort. Treatment typically involves proper cleaning and drying of the affected area, as well as prescribed medications like topical creams or antibiotics.

dog licking lips

Addressing Lip Licking in Dogs

To effectively address and manage lip licking in dogs, creating a supportive environment is crucial. This involves avoiding any aggressive or threatening behavior towards the dog and instead providing positive reinforcement during training sessions. A calm and nurturing atmosphere can help reduce stress and anxiety, which may contribute to excessive lip licking.

Regular dental care plays a significant role in preventing dental disease-related lip licking. This includes brushing your dog’s teeth regularly with a toothpaste specifically designed for canines. Additionally, scheduling routine professional dental cleanings with a veterinarian can help maintain your dog’s oral health and address any dental issues that may be causing discomfort or irritation.

If your dog’s lip licking persists or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is advisable to consult with a veterinarian. A thorough examination by a veterinary professional can help identify any underlying health issues and determine the appropriate treatment. The veterinarian may recommend further diagnostic tests, such as bloodwork or X-rays, to get a comprehensive understanding of your dog’s condition. They can also provide guidance on managing the behavior effectively and offer specific strategies tailored to your dog’s needs.


Q: Why do dogs lick their lips?

A: Dogs may lick their lips to convey various emotions and messages, such as stress, discomfort, appeasement, or excitement.

Q: What does lip licking mean in dog communication?

A: Lip licking is considered an appeasement gesture in dog communication. It is a way for dogs to indicate that they feel stressed, uncomfortable, or threatened by their surroundings.

Q: Can lip licking in dogs be a sign of health issues?

A: Yes, excessive lip licking in dogs can be indicative of underlying health issues such as dental problems, nausea, gastrointestinal problems, or skin issues.

Q: How can I address lip licking in my dog?

A: It is important to create a supportive environment that reduces stress and anxiety. Regular dental care, positive reinforcement during training, and veterinary consultation are recommended.

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