Why Is My Dog Swallowing Continuously While Licking

Pet parents often struggle with identifying the reasons for their pets’ peculiar behaviors. We sometimes worry when our pets do something unusual or unexpected. As pet parents, we realize the health of our pets is our responsibility, so we analyze every little thing they do to ensure nothing is wrong. This worrying isn’t necessarily bad because sometimes minor signs indicate a more significant issue. Being mindful of your pet’s behaviors makes it easier to notice when something is wrong.

If your dog continuously swallows while licking, there could be many reasons for this behavior. Keep reading to learn more.

Reasons Why Your Dog Swallows Continuously While Licking


A Norwegian dog trainer and behaviorist, Turid Rugaas, gave the name “calming signals” to certain appeasement gestures that dogs make. These serve as a way to self-soothe when your pet is in distress or feeling anxious. They usually use these behaviors as a distraction from the problem at hand. If you’ve felt anxious, you’ll notice that you fidget with your hands or tap your leg as a way to release tension. Similarly, your dog will lick his lips to calm himself down. It is normal for a stressed or anxious dog to lick its lips while swallowing.

You are probably aware that some breeds are naturally anxious. If you have a watchdog prone to anxiety, it will likely lick its lips and swallow more often than other dogs.


Some dog breeds are shy, timid, and easily scared of other dogs. There are many reasons a dog could be naturally nervous, such as a hereditary disposition or improper socialization. Some timid dog breeds include Vizslas, Papillons, and Maltese dogs. These dogs will find it challenging to live in a multi-dog household and practice appeasement gestures often. Even dogs that are not timid can get scared of aggressive or large-breed dogs. When approached by another dog, a frightened dog will make eye contact and lick its lips to communicate that they don’t want a conflict.

If you have a timid dog breed, there are ways to train them to come out of their shell. You have to build confidence in your dog with effective training. If you’ve adopted your dog from a shelter, inquire about any traumatizing life events. Dogs that have undergone many stressful situations can become timid and fearful.

Dry Mouth

Some dogs suffer from a condition called Xerostomia, which involves decreased saliva production. Although this condition is rare in dogs, it can still occur and causes discomfort. Dogs with this condition will constantly lick their lips to produce saliva. They have trouble eating, chewing, and swallowing. In dogs, this condition usually occurs alongside keratoconjunctivitis or dry eye syndrome. In this case, treatment for underlying conditions is necessary first. If your dog has keratoconjunctivitis and keeps licking his lips, don’t worry; it will resolve with treatment.

Medical Conditions

A few medical conditions can cause your dog to produce too much or too little saliva. Both cause trouble and excessive licking and swallowing. Some of these medical conditions are:

Necrotizing Sialometaplasia

Necrotizing Sialometaplasia, also called Salivary gland necrosis or infarction, is a disorder that affects the tissues of the salivary gland. The condition can also result in the death of the salivary tissue. This condition is usually diagnosed in small-breed dogs such as Terriers and can occur from age three to eight. Pets affected by the disease are generally nauseous and have a poor appetite. Symptoms include retching, frequent swallowing, trouble breathing, coughing, and lip-smacking. Your veterinarian can prescribe medications that make the condition easier to manage.


In Sialadenosis, the salivary glands located just behind the jaw become inflamed. The inflammation is not painful or cancerous. When excited, your dog might retch and gulp several times daily. You’ll notice him licking his lips as well. Other symptoms that cause excessive swallowing include hypersalivation, lip-smacking, and poor appetite. Sialadenosis usually occurs in the presence of other neurological conditions. Once the dog receives treatment for the other neurological conditions, Sialadenosis is easier to manage.

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Inflammation of The Salivary Glands

It is rare for dogs to experience an inflammation of the salivary glands, but it can happen in reaction to other issues. If your dog has suffered an injury near the mouth, distemper, or mumps virus, the salivary glands can become inflamed. The infected gland can produce pus, which your dog might try to swallow. In this case, prompt treatment is necessary.

If the inflammation is mild, it might resolve itself with anti-inflammatory medications. However, more severe conditions need intensive treatment or surgery to remove the infected salivary gland.


Pytalism is a condition that causes dogs to produce excess saliva, which the dogs have trouble swallowing. As a result, they constantly drool and swallow. Pytalism can occur in reaction to any number of things, including salivary gland tumors. It can also be due to a neurological issue, like excessive excitation of the salivary nuclei in the brain. Lesions in the brain or oral cavity can also cause Pytalism. Hypersalivation can occur if your dog suffers from conditions affecting the dog’s pharynx, esophagus, or stomach.

Due to genetic predisposition and anatomy, this condition can occur in dog breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Miniature Schnauzers, and German Shepherds.


The most common or apparent cause for your pet to continuously lick his lips and swallow could be hunger. Dogs salivate when they are hungry or expect food.

Foreign Body

If you are a pet parent, you are probably aware of how much dogs love licking. Whether it is a toy, a bug, or a grass blade, dogs need to put everything in their mouths. If something gets stuck in their mouth, they might keep licking and continuously swallowing to get rid of it. It is also possible that the object in their mouth is causing pain or discomfort. Be careful when you give your dog bones or rawhide as these can get stuck in his teeth. If you think your pet needs a bone to gnaw on, give him a large or artificial bone.

Dental Issues

Cleaning your dog’s teeth is essential for their hygiene. While eating dry food can prevent excessive tartar build-up, you still need to clean your dog’s teeth routinely. The plaque in your dog’s teeth can convert to tartar and build over your dog’s gums. Whether above or below the gum line, tartar build-up can encourage bacterial growth that is destructive to the periodontal tissue. As the dental disease worsens, you will notice your dog licking and swallowing excessively, inflamed gums, excessive tartar, and an unpleasant odor coming from your dog’s mouth.


If your dog keeps swallowing rather than licking, he could be suffering from Esophagitis. The esophagus, which passes food from the mouth to the stomach, can become inflamed due to acid reflux. Symptoms often include difficulty swallowing food and crying when swallowing. The inflammation can cause severe distress, with symptoms such as neck pain, throat soreness, low appetite, and increased saliva secretion.

Dogs with Esophagitisis tend to regurgitate food rather than vomit. While food comes up from the stomach when vomiting, Esophagitisis involves food coming up from the esophagus shortly after swallowing. Esophagitis is usually the result of acid reflux, so you must treat the reflux first. Meals rich in indigestible protein and fats can cause acid reflux. Small breeds that have smaller stomachs can experience acid reflux more often.

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If you notice your dog continuously swallowing saliva, she could be feeling nauseous. Nausea can increase saliva production in dogs, causing them to swallow repeatedly. Nauseaous dogs will often eat grass. Eating grass makes them throw up, so they feel better.

It is usually difficult to determine why your dog might be feeling nauseous. Many illnesses can cause nausea in pets, so it is best to consult your vet. Signs of nausea include licking her lips, licking the air, gulping constantly, weakness, and loss of appetite.

Oral Ulcers

Oral ulcers are painful sores on the gums, lips, tongue, or inner cheeks. Ulcers can develop for various reasons, including oral infections, dental issues, and ingestion of certain substances. Oral ulcers commonly occur due to poor dental hygiene in dogs. When the mucous membrane of the mouth comes in contact with plaque-laden teeth, it causes contact mucositis. Contact mucositis can range in severity, and severe contact mucositis is called CCUS (Canine Chronic Ulcerative Stomatitis). If your pet suffers from oral ulcers, they might constantly lick and swallow to soothe the pain.


Vomiting causes excess saliva production that your dog will struggle to swallow. Nausea, which precedes vomiting, causes symptoms such as licking the lips, licking the air, continuous swallowing, lethargy, and loss of appetite. In most cases, the licking and swallowing will resolve as soon as your dog vomits.

However, if your dog keeps trying to vomit unsuccessfully, it could be a sign of bloat. Bloat is the common name for Gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV), a condition in which a dog’s stomach twists while full of gas, liquid, or food. Bloat is always an emergency. It can occur without warning and worsens quickly.

Unusual Tastes

Anyone with a dog or puppy at home knows their knack for licking and tasting everything — some of those things might taste bad to your dog. In this situation, dogs may lick their lips or swallow continuously to eliminate the unusual taste.

If you have an overly curious dog,  keep cleaning supplies out of its reach.

Bug Bites and Stings

Active dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors can come into contact with bugs. Dogs sometimes snap at a wasp or a bee, resulting in a sting in or around its mouth and a lot of licking and swallowing.

What You Can Do

If you notice your dog licking their lips and continuously swallowing, consider the following:

Is your dog fearful or anxious? They could be licking their lips to soothe themselves. Consider the reasons your pet could be feeling fearful or anxious. Remove your pet from the situation as soon as possible. Since anxiety can cause tension in your pet’s body, play with them or take them out for a walk.

Examine your dog’s mouth, teeth, and the area around the lips for bites or foreign objects.

Ensure your pet stays hydrated. A dry mouth can cause excess saliva production.

If your pet shows symptoms of any of the above conditions accompanied by licking and continuous swallowing, consult your veterinarian. A vet’s examination can help diagnose any underlying conditions causing this behavior. Once your dog has received treatment, this behavior will resolve itself automatically.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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