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The essentials

  • Dogs lick their noses to sharpen their senses — Regular nose licking is a sign of a healthy dog.
  • Nose licking is not normal when it’s noticeable — Too much licking will look uncomfortable and seem excessive. Keep in mind that certain breeds, like those with compressed faces, lick their noses more often. 
  • The causes of nose licking vary — Causes of nose licking in dogs can be mild, like stress, allergies, or nerves. More severe causes like stress may warrant a trip to the vet.

Nose licking, explained

Your dog’s nose is one of their vital organs. Dogs lick their noses to keep their sense of smell sharp. Nose moisture also helps cool a dog down. Nose licking is usually a sign of healthy and natural dog activity.

You may notice your dog is licking their mouth and nose persistently, rapidly, or intensely. They may lick the air or space around them and look obviously uncomfortable. Excessive licking is a sign that they are having anxiety, feel threatened, or are experiencing another health issue.

👉  Abnormal nose licking may look something like this:

Some breeds are more prone to licking

Breeds with squished faces, like pugs and American bulldogs, might appear to lick their noses more than other dogs. These dogs are considered Brachycephalic or “short-nosed.” Due to the flatness of these dogs’ faces, their noses are behind their mouths and their tongues are long. These dogs may collect more bacteria around the nose area. For Brachycephalic breeds, normal lip-licking might look like nose-licking.

When dogs tend to lick their nose

Nose licking isn’t always a sign that something is wrong with your furry friend. There are plenty of perfectly normal instances where your dog might exhibit this small, but important behavior.

  • Meal time. Dogs often lick their noses during meal times as a way to enhance their sense of taste. Their wet noses help to dissolve the smells of their food, which are then detected by their olfactory receptors , enriching their dining experience.
  • Interacting with other dogs. When dogs meet their furry friends, nose licking is a common behavior. This is their way of communicating , showing submission, or simply trying to gather information about the other dog. It’s part of their social etiquette and a reflection of their innate curiosity.
  • Exploring new environments. Dogs are natural explorers, and their noses are their primary tool for understanding the world around them. When they’re in a new environment, you’ll often see them licking their noses frequently. This action helps keep their nose moist, enhancing their ability to pick up new scents and better understand their surroundings.
  • After exercise. Dogs also tend to lick their noses after physical activity or exercise. This is because they pant to cool down, which can cause their noses to dry out. Licking helps to restore moisture and maintain their sensitive sense of smell.
  • During grooming. Dogs will often lick their noses as part of their grooming routine. This not only keeps their noses clean but also helps ensure their nasal passages are clear, allowing them to breathe more easily.

Possible causes of nose licking

It’s important to identify the reason your dog keeps licking their nose. Causes range from mild to severe.

  • Stress. You might notice that when you reprimand your dog or take them to the groomer they lick their nose. They do so out of general stress or a compulsive disorder.
  • Allergies and irritants. Irritants may be gathering in your dog’s sinuses, causing nasal discharge. Dogs lick at the discharge. Allergies might be accompanied by sneezing.
  • Dry nose. Your dog could have a dry nose. Dogs lick their noses to keep them moist and to counteract dryness and cracking.
  • Nervous tick. Just like humans bite their nails, dog licking could be a bad habit brought on by nerves.
  • Oral discomfort or dental problems. Your dog might have tooth decay. They could also have swelling of the jaw, tongue, or mouth caused by built-up fluid. In addition to nose licking, dogs might paw at their mouths and yelp or cry if they have a dental disease.

🚨 It can be hard to check inside your dog’s mouth for health warnings. If they are especially squirmish, the vet might use a sedative.

  • Nausea. The feeling of nausea makes dogs drool. Swallowing along with nose licking may mean your dog has an upset stomach. If you think they’ve eaten something toxic, head to the vet immediately.
  • Dehydration. Heat or an underlying medical problem like kidney disease causes dehydration. Dogs will lick their noses to cool themselves down. Other signs of dehydration include sticky gums, high body temperature, drooling, and loss of skin elasticity. To check if your dog is dehydrated, use the skin test. Gently pinch your dog’s skin and lift it. If it sags or slowly collapses when you release the skin, your pup is dehydrated.
  • Foxtail. Foxtails are spiky seeds of grass that when swallowed can travel to other areas of your dog’s body, including their lungs. If your dog has swallowed or inhaled a foxtail, they will look especially uncomfortable. They will lick both their nose and the ground or air around them.
  • Frogs and toads. Your dog may have licked a poisonous frog or toad. The signs of toxicity from a frog will appear within moments. In addition to nose licking, your dog will have red gums, severe drooling, vomiting, and possible foaming at the mouth. They might also paw at their mouths. Head to the vet immediately if you suspect your pup has been in contact with one of these amphibians.

🚨 Toxicity brought on by contact with a poisonous frog or toad is uncommon, even when these amphibians are present where you live. Find out if toxic toads live in your region. Cane toads (also called bufo, giant, or marine toads) and Colorado River toads are known to be the most toxic.

  • Focal seizure. Focal seizures are also known as partial seizures. This means that your dog could be seizing while conscious. These partial seizures may be accompanied by nose licking and lip licking instead of full-body convulsions.

Time for a vet visit

Your dog should go to the vet if nose licking is not their only symptom. In addition to nose licking, look out for:

Even if your dog doesn’t seem to be exhibiting other severe symptoms, you might still be worried about your pup’s excessive nose licking. Watching your dog experience obvious discomfort can be nerve-racking.

It can be hard for dog owners to identify the underlying cause of excessive nose licking. It never hurts to go in for a vet visit regardless of the level of severity or other symptoms.

Treatment options for nose licking in dogs

For nose licking caused by something mild, your vet will recommend things you can do at home. If your dog has a cold or allergies the vet may be able to prescribe an allergy medication. Balms are great for a case of dry nose or nasal hyperkeratosis. One of our favorites is Natural Dog Company’s Snout Soother® — it helps heal dry and cracked doggie noses.

If it’s stress that’s causing the nose-licking behavior, get to know your dog’s body language. Perhaps they get nervous around a specific dog pal or while traveling. Small children or loud noises may also be stressful for your dog. Pups need to be spoken to and treated with care when showing anxiety.

In severe cases, the vet will know how to treat your dog’s excessive nose licking. They might carry out bloodwork or other tests to identify any underlying health problems. If the dog is dehydrated, they may require fluids. In cases of toxicity, the vet can properly flush the dog’s system.

How to control excessive nose licking

Understanding and managing your furry companion’s behavior is a key part of providing them with a healthy and happy life. Excessive nose licking can sometimes be a cause for concern, but with the right approach, it can be effectively managed. Let’s dive into some strategies that can help control excessive nose licking in dogs.

  • Behavior changes. Sometimes, a change in your dog’s environment or routine can help reduce excessive nose licking. Dogs’ noses are sensitive to household sprays, aerosols, topical sprays, powders, and even human cologne. Reduce exposure to these allergens, provide a quieter space if stress seems to be a factor, or change their diet if food allergies are suspected.
  • Training. Positive reinforcement training techniques can be beneficial here. If your dog is licking their nose excessively out of habit or boredom, redirecting their attention to more constructive activities and rewarding them for not licking can help break the cycle.
  • Seek professional help. If you’re unable to identify the cause of your dog’s excessive nose licking or if it’s causing distress, it’s time to consult with a professional. A vet or a certified animal behaviorist can provide valuable insights and recommend effective treatment strategies.
  • Provide plenty of water. Keeping your dog well-hydrated is crucial. A dry nose can lead to frequent licking, so make sure fresh water is always available.
  • Check for dental issues. Oral health issues can also cause excessive nose licking in dogs. Regular dental check-ups can help identify any problems early on and prevent them from escalating.

Nose licking is an instinctive behavior that’s usually a sign of a healthy dog. If your dog keeps licking their nose, chances are good that it’s a sign of stress. It only signals health problems in some cases. Dog behavior can tell us a lot. Dog owners should pay attention to their dog’s warning signals and body language so they can keep them calm and happy.

Frequently asked questions

Why does my dog lick its nose so much?

Dogs lick their noses for a variety of reasons. This behavior can be a natural response to their environment, such as trying to keep their noses moist or to enhance their sense of smell. However, excessive nose licking can sometimes indicate stress, allergies, or medical issues. It’s essential to observe your pet carefully and consult a veterinarian if you notice any significant changes in their behavior.

Is it OK for my dog to lick my nose?

While it might seem cute or affectionate when your dog gives you an occasional nose lick, it’s generally best to discourage this behavior. Dogs explore the world with their noses and mouths, which means they can easily pick up bacteria or parasites that could potentially be transferred to you during these nose-licking sessions. Instead, encourage other forms of bonding and affection that are safe for both you and your furry friend.

Can a dog’s nose licking be a sign of health problems?

In some cases, yes. While occasional nose licking is normal, excessive or obsessive nose licking could be a sign of underlying health problems. This could range from dental issues or allergies to more serious conditions like gastrointestinal disorders. If you’re concerned about your dog’s nose licking behavior, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from your vet.