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Why Does My Dog Lick His Lips When I Pet Him?

Has there ever been a time when you’ve rushed up to your dog to cuddle him after a long day at work, and at first, he is wagging his tail and nuzzling your hand for more cuddles? But when you pet his head, he suddenly goes rigid? 

You might be confused when you notice your dog licking his lips and trembling. Your dog is trying to tell you something. Maybe he has a sore ear or area on his head, and you’ve accidentally petted it and caused discomfort. As a result, your dog will lick his lips to show you that he’s not comfortable with your attention right now. 

If your dog is displaying discomfort, there is a chance that he might growl at you or bite you, and this is something you want to avoid. So, let’s take a closer look at what happens when your dog licks his lips while petting him and how you should handle the situation.

Why Does My Dog Lick His Lips When I Pet Him?

Dogs lick their lips for various reasons as a form of communication. If your dog licks their lips when you pet them, this can indicate that they are feeling anxious or stressed or not enjoying the attention. When dogs lick their lips, it can also mean they are hungry, thirsty, or nauseous.

Let’s take a closer look at some other reasons why dogs lick their lips: 

Stressed, Anxious, or Uncomfortable

Your doggo is unable to communicate verbally to you when something upsets them or makes them feel stressed. Instead, they rely on their body language (canine language) to show you when something is not okay. 

A clear sign that a dog is stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable is when they lick their lips. This display of emotion will usually be followed by one or two of the following signals: 

  • Wide eyes that show some whites of the eyes
  • Obvious trembling
  • Tense body
  • Hunched over or crouched down
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Pinned back ears
  • Tucked in tail

Keeping the Peace

Another reason dogs lick their lips is to try and keep the peace with other dogs or humans that are causing them to worry. For example, if you reprimand your dog for chewing on your new boots, you may notice that they begin licking their lips and looking away.

This is a normal response, and it’s your dog’s way of trying to calm you down as they have picked up on your unhappiness or disappointment. Your doggo might confuse your anger as a threat, and they want to calm you down to protect themselves. This is also known as an appeasing action. 

Your dog will display the same behavior toward other animals that seem stressed or aggressive. This is your dog’s way of showing you or the other animal that they aren’t a threat to you or them.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

If your dog is continuously licking their lips, this can indicate that they have OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). This disorder is quite difficult to treat as your dog will stop licking their lips when you reprimand them, but if you aren’t around, they will continue to do it. 

Excessive licking will not harm your dog, but if you are worried about the continuous licking, you can take your dog to a behaviorist, who will try to rectify the issue. 

Experiencing Pain

Sometimes dogs lick their lips to indicate that they are experiencing pain. If this is the case, it’s vital that you handle your dog gently, as dogs can become aggressive when they are in pain.

The best way to check if the lip licking is related to pain is to look out for other signs such as:

  • Limping or continuous scratching
  • Growling if you touch the affected area 
  • Whining
  • Barking
  • Panting
  • Loss of appetite

May Be Thirsty

If your doggo has been running around the garden, or it’s a hot day, your dog may be licking their lips to show they are thirsty. Make sure your dog has access to fresh water, and watch out for signs of dehydration:

  • Loss of skin elasticity 
  • Pale and sticky gums
  • Sunken eyes

If your dog displays any of these symptoms, provide them with water, and you may require veterinary advice.

Experiencing Nausea

When your dog is nauseous, they might begin to drool. As a result, they will start to lick their lips in an attempt to ease the nausea. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog is about to vomit, but it’s something you should keep an eye on. 

Here are a few symptoms of nausea:

  • Continuous licking
  • Drooling
  • Excessive swallowing
  • Gagging or heaving
  • Eating grass

If your dog seems lethargic and refuses to eat, you will need to take them to a vet for a check-up.

Dental Issues

Another reason your doggo licks their lips is because they may have a dental issue such as periodontal disease (inflammatory condition of the gums), which, if left untreated, can cause infection, leading to pain and tooth loss.

Your dog will lick their lips to ease the pain, or they may have an unpleasant taste in their mouth due to the infection. It’s best to take your dog to the vet if you suspect a dental issue, as dogs can also develop tumors in their mouths, leading to lip licking.

What to Do if My Dog Licks His Lips When I Pet Him?

If your dog licks their lips when you pet them, it’s crucial that you pay attention to their body language. If their body goes tense, their eyes widen (or they avoid making eye contact at all), or they crouch down and tuck their tail in, then you should stop petting your doggo and step away. Give your dog some space to relax as they are feeling stressed and anxious.

Here’s a look at what you should do if your dog licks their lips:

1. First, it’s essential to try and identify why your dog is licking their lips.

2. If your dog is showing signs of anxiety or fear, you need to stop petting your dog and back off to give them space to calm down.

3. Try to remove or change the uncomfortable situation for your dog.

4. If your dog feels threatened, they may be licking their lips to try and calm you down. It’s best to keep your distance and use a gentle and reassuring tone to show your dog that you don’t mean any harm toward them.

5. Distract your dog by ‘changing the subject.’ This can be done by asking your dog to do something, such as fetch a ball or roll over.

6. If there is no reason for their anxious behavior, and they aren’t thirsty or hungry, seek veterinary advice as your dog may be experiencing dental issues such as periodontal disease or health issues such as nausea.