Why Dogs Lick Excessively

Licking can be a sign of pain in dogs, but it can also indicate boredom, anxiety, or an allergy.


Dogs who lick their lips excessively may be suffering from anxiety, nausea, pain, oral disease, oral foreign body, or salivary gland disease. Or, they could just be smelling something yummy and licking their lips in anticipation (remember Pavlov’s dogs?).  Still, boredom, compulsive behavior, and infection are all reasons dogs lick excessively.


Anxious dogs express their angst in different ways. Some scratch, some yawn, some tremble and tuck their tails, some whine, and some lick their lips repeatedly. Anxious dogs may excessively lick their skin to distract themselves from whatever is freaking them out. A veterinarian may be able to prescribe a medication to help your dog and offer ways to offset the dog’s anxiety.


Nauseous dogs often drool excessively while their stomach feels off, before they eventually vomit. It’s natural for them to lick their lips when all that drool is dripping. A vomiting dog should be seen by a veterinarian if it doesn’t quickly resolve.

Bad Breath

If your dog excessively licks his lips and has bad breath, it’s time to look in his mouth. Dental disease –tartar, gingivitis, infection, periodontal disease, and loose teeth – can cause drooling and oral pain, both of which can result in excessive lip licking. Be sure to look at the roof of the mouth. When examining a dog for unusual lip licking, I have found a stick or a bone lodged across the roof of the mouth more times than I can count. The licking dog was just trying to dislodge it. If you suspect an oral problem, start with a visit to your veterinarian.


Dogs who lick their skin excessively are usually suffering from allergies. Allergies in dogs frequently cause excessive licking of the paws. All that moisture can result in secondary yeast or bacterial infection of the skin there, which makes your dog want to lick there even more. Medications or dietary changes may be recommended.

Painful Joints

Dogs with arthritic joints will often spend time licking achy joints to try to soothe the pain. Your veterinarian can help you decide the best way to ease the inflammation and pain and help your dog. Librela is a new drug that is expected to soon receive FDA approval.


Bored dogs may choose a spot to obsessively lick simply for something to do, sometimes to the point of creating a big sore called a lick granuloma.

Licking Owners

Dogs who lick their human’s skin may just be expressing affection. If you have recently applied lotion with coconut oil or shea butter, they probably just love how you taste.

If your dog is excessively licking and you can’t determine the cause or resolve it on your own, it’s time to see your veterinarian. Whether your dog is anxious, allergic, infected, nauseous or in pain, your veterinarian will help you keep your dog comfortable and living his best life