Why does my dog keep smacking his lips?

We’re all familiar with how dogs constantly smack their lips after spotting a tasty treat.

But when you keep hearing this sound throughout the day, it can make us annoyed and worried about our dog’s health.

So what causes canines to over-excessively smack their lips?

Keep reading to find out!

What is the meaning of smacking lips?

Dogs can make some really weird noises and sounds. But probably the most annoying of them all is lip-smacking. To be more precise, this is the sound dogs make when they repeatedly open and shut their mouth, causing the lips to ‘smack’ against each other. 

You can generally hear it while your dog is eating or eyeballing a tasty treat. But when the smacking happens too often, it could be a sign that something is wrong with your dog. 

Dental problems, digestive upset, and nutritional deficiency are the most common culprits that cause dogs to smack their lips excessively. However, there’s also a rare chance of neurological issues or poisoning with this behavior. 

And that’s what we’re going to discover just below: 

Reasons why dogs constantly smack lips

There are many medical and behavioral explanations for why dogs smack their lips. While some require a checkup by the vet, others are harmless. Observe your dog and his habits to figure out which reason applies to him:

1. Gastric problems 

Excessive lip-smacking is a common sign that your dog is suffering from gastric issues. And in most cases, the culprit is nausea. When dogs get the feeling that they’re about to vomit, their salivary glands produce excessive saliva to protect their mouth and throat from the acidic stomach juice.

Naturally, your dog will smack their lips to gulp down this excess saliva and prevent it from dripping out. The same process occurs when excess bile or gastric acid builds up in your dog’s system after eating a lot of fatty food or drinking tons of water.

2. Mouth or gum diseases

Problems with the teeth, gums, or salivary glands can also force your dog to smack their lips frequently. Since dogs can’t tell their owners about toothache or cavities, they will try to relieve the pain by moving their mouth. Moreover, if they are suffering from swelling on the salivary glands, they will engage in the same lip-smacking behavior to prevent drooling.

3. Dehydration/Underlying diseases

Dehydration can be primary or secondary. Primary dehydration is typically caused by a lack of water intake, hot climate, or increased physical activity. Other signs like sunken eyes and lethargy will help confirm the presence of dehydration.

Secondary dehydration could be caused by chronic kidney diseases, kidney failure, or cystic kidneys. Therefore, if your dog is dehydrated with no signs of primary dehydration, it could be a kidney issue that requires immediate medical attention.

4. Licking or ingesting something poisonous

A common sign of poisoning among dogs is excessive salivation. Aside from that, they may also present signs like diarrhea, vomiting, pale gums, foaming at the mouth, lethargy, or even collapsing. 

If you suspect that your dog has ingested a poisonous plant or food, you need to immediately call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control helpline. You should thoroughly rinse their mouth to get rid of the residual poison or induce vomiting if instructed by a professional. If you live near a clinic, take your dog there as soon as possible. 

Sometimes, the signs of poisoning don’t appear right away. So if you notice excess salivation, try to look for other symptoms of poisoning and any toxic item that your dog may have left behind.

5. Indication of pain

Since dogs can’t talk, they give behavioral cues to explain how they’re feeling. In the case of lip-smacking, your dog might be trying to tell you about his injury. Thoroughly examine their body and look for swelling. If your dog yelps when touched on a specific body part, the injury is likely over there. Try to set an appointment with the vet to get them bandaged and treated with painkillers accordingly.

6. Seizures

Seizures often lead to involuntary and strange movements. And suddenly smacking lips uncontrollably can be a sign of partial seizure as they begin to drool!  Besides this, your dog might also experience twitching, stiff muscles, run in circles, or fall unconscious in the case of a full seizure. This is a medical emergency and your dog should be rushed to a vet immediately.

7. Stress or fear

On the behavioral end, lip-smacking is a common response to stress or fear among dogs. When they experience loud noises, separation from their owners, or strange faces, their stress levels can rise and cause dry mouth or excessive salivation. As a result, the dog will start to smack its lips.

Dogs also use lip-smacking as a peaceful gesture when they encounter a potential threat. This can be an aggressive dog or an angry owner. When they feel the tension in their environment rise, the dog will start smacking their lips to signal that they mean no harm.

8. Seeking attention

If you’ve been busy recently, your dog could be smacking their lips to seek attention. They are highly emotional and sensitive creatures that notice changes in the time you spend with them. Thus, they will engage in weird behaviors like faking injury or smacking their lips when deprived of attention.

How to stop your dog from smacking lips?

Lip-smacking can be an annoying and rather worrying situation for many dog owners. Whether it’s any disease, diet problem, or mental issue, here are the most effective ways to get rid of this habit once and for all:

1. Change his diet 

Try to feed your dog a nutritious and protein-rich diet to prevent gastric issues. Cheap dog foods usually contain filler ingredients like grains that are difficult to digest and cause the digestive system to overload. 

If your dog is older or has sensitive digestion, purchase a diet with gentle ingredients like duck meat and pumpkin to soothe their stomach. If your pup suffers from acid reflux, try to feed them a low-fat diet to reduce gastric acid production and see the lip-smacking disappear!

2. Regular medical checkup

A visit to the vet’s clinic is crucial in the case of lip-smacking. Your vet will not only be able to diagnose any hidden diseases but also accurately identify any behavioral reasons for this habit. 

For gastric, periodontal, or hydration issues, timely treatment can save your dog from further harm. And in case of poisoning or seizures, taking your dog to the vet immediately can make the difference between life or death. 

Better yet, you should make it a habit to take your dog for regular medical checkups. This way, the vet will recognize any health issue well in advance and start treatment accordingly.

3. Spend quality time

Spending time with your pet will help them relax. Find activities to do together, like going for a walk or playing fetch with him. Pet your dog often and show care and support. If you are strict and scold him often for being naughty, adopt a gentle approach to tell him off.

This will create a stronger bond between you and him. Thus, your dog will feel more loved and relaxed. You will gradually see that he will let go of his attention-seeking habits.

4. Avoid access to poisonous or toxic substances

Dogs can get poisoned by a number of items in their surroundings. In the food category, we have chocolate, xylitol (sweetener in gum), garlic, onions, coffee, macadamia nuts, avocadoes, grapes/raisins, and alcohol which can be toxic for dogs in small quantities.  

Some basic household items can also poison dogs and should be kept away as far as possible. This includes insecticides, cleaning products, detergents, fertilizers, and especially anti-freeze. If you let your dog out in the yard often, keep them away from plants like aloe vera, ivy, elephant ear, corn, bird of paradise, jade, pathos, and desert rose to name a few, as they are highly poisonous to canines.


FAQ’s

What should you feed a dog with acid reflux?

You can treat acid reflux in dogs by placing them on a low-fat, low-protein diet. Try feeding them a boiled chicken and rice meal 2 to 3 times a day at consistent timings. You can also give them antacid to temporarily relieve heartburn and increase their appetite.

How to know if your dog is dehydrated?

The spring method is a common way to test if your dog is dehydrated or not. Pinch and pull the skin over your dog’s shoulder blade and let it go. If the skin springs back into its original place, your dog is fully hydrated. But if the skin initially ripples and then settles down after a few seconds, your dog is likely dehydrated.

Why is my dog yawning and licking his lips?

When dogs yawn and lick their lips, it’s likely due to a fractured or loose tooth that’s causing them pain. Gum diseases like gingivitis can also cause the ‘yawn and lick’ behavior as your dog will try to relieve themselves of the gum pain.

Why do dogs vomit bile in the morning?

Dogs will vomit a yellow liquid called bile when they haven’t eaten something in a long time. This phenomenon is called bile reflux and is more common with senior dogs. To fix it, you need to divide your dog’s daily intake into even more meals.

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