Have you ever noticed your dog smacking their lips right before you place a tasty meal in front of them? This is often due to the hypersalivation that occurs when they see something enticing, causing them to smack their lips and drool.
While this behavior is to be expected in our canine friends, lip smacking at other times can point to underlying complications. So what does it mean when your dog is smacking their lips outside of meal time?
To help you better understand your lip smacking pup, let’s discuss the possibilities!
What Is Lip Smacking In Dogs?
So what is lip smacking anyways? Not all dog owners have witnessed this behavior in their pup, so it’s important to understand what it looks like in the first place.
Lip smacking in dogs typically refers to a dog that is drooling a bit more than usual, often opening and closing their mouth and swallowing more than usual. This behavior often causes a noticeable smacking sound, leading to the phrase ‘lip smacking’.
This behavior can look many different ways in our furry friends, but you will typically know it when you see it!
5 Main Reasons Why Dogs Smack Their Lips
Now that you know how to spot the behavior of lip smacking, let’s discuss some of the most common causes below.
1. Anxiety & Stress
There are many outward signs of anxiety and stress in dogs, with lip smacking and licking their lips being one of them. Dogs often verbalize their current emotional state with body language, and lip licking is a common soothing tactic in dogs.
Wild dogs would lick their lips to show other members of their pack that they are uncomfortable, as well as sending a message of submission. With this being an ingrained behavior in stressful situations, many pups still do it to this day.
You may see a dog smacking their lips when they get in trouble, if a new animal is present in your home, and in any other setting that could be overwhelming. Some other common signs of anxiety or stress in dogs include trembling, whining, vocalizations, panting, and drooling.
If your dog is truly smacking their lips as a result of being overwhelmed, this behavior will typically stop once they have calmed down.
2. Nausea & GI Upset
Nausea and gastrointestinal upset is another common cause of lip smacking in our canine friends. An upset stomach can cause a dog to drool more than usual, increasing the need to lick their lips and keep their saliva in their mouth.
Due to this, many dogs with GI upset will constantly smack their lips. Any type of GI upset can cause a dog to lick their lips more than usual, whether they are vomiting or experiencing motion sickness from a car ride.
If your dog is vomiting and it is not related to any motion sickness, we suggest having them seen by your vet.
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3. Dental Pain
Dental and gum disease can be incredibly painful for our furry friends. These conditions can lead to increased inflammation within the mouth, causing a dog to drool more than usual. Once this happens, a dog may smack their lips repeatedly.
Not only can dental and gum disease lead to significant inflammation, but it can also cause localized infections. These infections can be excruciating for a dog, causing them to hold their mouth in different ways and often likc their lips.
If your dog is experiencing lip smacking, drooling, bad breath, blood in their water bowl, and even facial swelling, we suggest reaching out to your vet for further guidance. Dental disease can be excruciating, so we always suggest having them seen as soon as these symptoms develop.
3. Oral Foreign Bodies
Have you ever had a piece of food stuck in your teeth, causing you to scrunch your mouth around in effort to remove the material? Dogs can get food items stuck in their mouth just like you and I can, as well as an array of other objects and materials.
Dogs do not understand that some things should not be chewed on or consumed, causing many strange items to lodge themselves in their mouth. Due to the discomfort that these oral foreign bodies cause, many dogs will smack their lips and paw at their face in effort to relieve their discomfort.
If you ever notice your dog suddenly smacking their lips and appearing distressed, we suggest checking inside their mouth for any foreign materials. If you cannot find anything, but they are still acting strange, we suggest giving your vet a call.
4. Mouth Injuries
Just as we mentioned above, any type of inflammation in the mouth can cause a dog to drool. A dog with a mouth injury may smack their lips and hold their mouth in strange positions, often a result of the discomfort the injury is causing.
Dogs with a mouth injury may experience lip smacking, pawing at the face, drooling, bloody drool, drool in their water bowl, and facial swelling. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, we suggest having them seen by your vet.
5. Neurological Issues
Neurological conditions in dogs can cause an array of strange symptoms. Neurological complications can range from seizure disorders to toxicities, leading to lip smacking and excessive drooling in some cases.
This is especially common in dogs that have seizures, as many dogs will experience hypersalivation both during and after a seizure. Other common symptoms of neurological complications in dogs include disorientation, body tremors, strange eye movements, wobbly gait, and abnormal vocalizations.
If you think your dog is experiencing any of the neurological symptoms we listed above, we suggest having them seen by your vet immediately. These complications can point to serious underlying illness, so it’s best to have them assessed quickly.
Should I See The Vet For My Dog’s Lip Smacking?
If your dog is experiencing lip smacking for any reason, you may be wondering when it is time to seek veterinary care. You don’t have to rush your pup into the vet each time they lick their lips, but it’s important to know when it could be something more.
If your dog is licking their lips when they are overwhelmed or anxious, this is likely completely normal and will resolve once they calm down. This is also true of motion sickness in dogs, as they lick their lips due to a combination of nausea and anxiety about where they are traveling to.
However, if there is not an obvious cause of their lip smacking (anxiety, motion sickness, a tasty meal), we suggest observing your dog closely in the coming hours. Watch for any other strange symptoms over the next 12-24 hours, as this will help you paint a clear picture for your vet.
If your dog is still licking or smacking their lips after 24 hours, we suggest at least giving your vet a call. If they are experiencing any other abnormal symptoms in addition to their lip smacking, we suggest speaking with a vet immediately.
Due to the fact that lip smacking in dogs can point to underlying illness, it is always best to be safe and give your vet a call in these situations. Your vet may offer you guidance on how to help your pet at home, or they may suggest that you bring them in to be examined.
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Lip smacking is a strange canine behavior with many potential causes. Now that you are educated on the potential factors behind this symptom, you can act appropriately the next time your pup begins to smack their lips!